Billy Connolly bits and pieces
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Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 12:54 pm    Post subject: Billy Connolly bits and pieces Reply with quote

Fool with your life:
Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Apollo
14 May 1994

Being friends with the Duchess of York can seriously damage your cred. Certainly, it's just one of a number of 'sell-outs' that Billy Connolly has been accused of over the years. Others include: moving to England, moving to LA, moving to Ad-land, moving to beardlessness, moving to teetotalism. Such carping ignores one key fact: Connolly is still an extremely funny comedian.

His style just doesn't date. Surreal musings on sausage-meat and retro-gags about Slade and The A-Team will be here today and gone tomorrow. But Connolly - like David Attenborough's safari suits - just carries on regardless of the prevailing winds in fashion. He makes no attempt to be PC, blithely laughing about 'taboo' subjects such as Stephen Milligan, Fred West, Alzheimer's and the handicapped. At the Hammersmith Apollo, this was his considered assessment of the difference between the sexes: 'Women can hold in a fart and men can't' He even made a joke of his sometimes Neanderthal attitudes, saying that although he's never slept with a man, 'I fully intend to. Never let it be said I'm not politically correct' (to loud applause).

It's not that he tells great gags (although some of his one-liners - a scrotum is like 'the last chicken in Sainsbury's' - would not be kicked out of bed by lesser stand-ups). Rather, he inundates you with this great big, swamping personality, wave upon wave of Connolly lapping you into laughter. The experience leaves you happily drained, like a Cross Channel swimmer sprawled on the beach at Calais.

He has a keen eye for detail - reflecting on the beige colour of strawberry jam melting into a crumpet - and uses language of rare vividity; coitus interruptus is like someone saying to you: 'Here, have a box of Quality Street, eat all the papers, and give me all the sweeties back.' A psychiatrist could have a field-day with the free associations that drive the show. In one dazzlingly illogical sequence, he digressed from Catholicism to Calvinism to Switzerland to Toblerone to scones to lame ship-workers (don't ask me how).

Connolly enjoys a wonderful relationship with the audience - except for those ill-advised souls requiring a pit-stop (he raged at one unfortunate trying to sneak out at the climactic point of a routine, 'I'm talking about coming and you're going'). At one stage, audience laughter made him corpse, and he adopted mock-schoolmasterly tones to tick them off: 'I can see some homework being given out.' So let's forget about the Fergie factor. What other contemporary stand-up could keep a packed Hammersmith Apollo gripped for more than two and a half hours without a break?

No mercy for the Big Man
Billy Connolly, the comedian Scotland can't forgive
6th August 1994

'IF YOU LEAVE Scotland,' said a friend of Billy Connolly, 'then get successful and come back, it's Who do you think you are? If you don't make it and come back, they say, I could have told you you needn't have bothered.' The trouble with Billy Connolly is that his native Scotland can't decide which category he's in.

There shouldn't be much doubt: the boy from the respectable, if broken, home in the working-class Glasgow district of Partick is rich and famous, commutes between California and, implausibly, Maidenhead. He lunches with Elton John and parties with the Duchess of York. It looks like a clear case of Who do you think you are? But so venomous is the relationship between Scotland's most famous comedian and that other self-appointed custodian of Scottish working-class mythology, the Scottish popular press, that it can scarcely be accommodated within the habitual accusations of treasonable behaviour. For the Scottish tabloids, Billy Connolly has not just sold out, abandoned his wife, his roots and his mother: he has failed as well.

Where has he failed? He has manifestly failed to fulfil the destiny his stage character demands: he is neither an alcoholic nor a disappointed man; he does not appear lonely or embittered. There is no tragedy waiting around the next corner. If he had just gone away, shaken the dust of Scotland off his feet and lived a life of sybaritic exile in Gomorrafornia, it would have been better. A complete absence would allow a free hand in the creation of a myth of long-distance misery. But the man keeps coming back, popping up looking fit and cheerful and popular.

Connolly has failed to act out that most beloved of Scottish prophecies: get above yourself and a jealous God will destroy you. He is not crushed by guilt at his success. For that sin there is no forgiveness. Billy Connolly knows about Scottish sins. He was brought up with the jealous God and informing angels of Glasgow Catholicism. His mother abandoned the family when he was five and two aunts - resentfully, by his account - were propelled into the breach. A version of what it was like has been acted out on stage for more than 20 years: the men drank, the women railed, the kids dreamt of taking ship on any of the liners that crowded the Clyde when it was still a combination of factory and highway to the world. Connolly crossed it on the ferry every day to school, listening to the sound of the shipyards and watching the ships that came in from places with wonderful names.

Now the great river has been heritaged and that Glasgow has gone, but in it Connolly developed the survival strategy that provided his own ticket out: being funny. In a city where one bus conductor in two is a comedian, it's not that easy to stand out. For a while Connolly seemed bound to the escalator that took boys from the streets to the shipyards. School was no great success and he was apprenticed as a welder in the Govan shipyards. 'There were a lot of people like him in Glasgow,' said a friend. 'I knew them in the shipyards myself. When Billy began to make it they'd say That's my joke the bastard's telling. And maybe it was, but he was the one who had the bottle to stand up on a stage and tell it.' Other apprentice boys made it in other ways: Gus Macdonald went into journalism and is now managing director of Scottish Television. When Connolly talks today about the drive to perform, he describes the child inside, compensating for other miseries. As a young man, it was the straightforward desire for fame that drive him. Hamish Imlach, the folk singer, tells a story about Connolly and a girl walking through Glasgow. The girl pointed out a man dressed in cowboy boots and hat, with a leather jacket and tailored jeans. 'That's Alex Campbell, the folk singer,' she said. And Connolly thought: 'Nobody ever says there's Billy Connolly, the welder.' As insights go, it may not be profound, but part of Billy Connolly's appeal is the nave frankness of his ambitions. Fame? Money? Grand hotels? You bet he wanted them.

Not that they were immediately on offer when he left the shipyards in 1966 to be a singer. He worked with three groups before making a reputation with Gerry Rafferty's group, the Humblebums. He and Rafferty fell out: Rafferty was a singer who hated the chat; Connolly's chat got longer and longer. Connolly then tried to make it in Europe as a folk singer and was such a resounding failure that 1970 saw him in a cold-water flat in north London with his friends buying him pints. He took his banjo back to the folk circuit in Scotland and the introductions to the songs continued to grow. From there it was steadily up, through the Great Northern Welly Boot Show on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the release of the first albums that became huge sellers and a triumphant Sunday night at the London Palladium, booked for a one-off and packed by expatriate Scots who thronged to see the man who had turned patter into an art form and become a hero.

He became a kind of shrine: politicians jostled to be photographed with him and Glasgow's Sunday Mail started a Big Yin cartoon strip. Willie Ormond, the manager of the Scottish football team, flew him over to Munich to administer an emergency dose of humour when the lads were getting depressed in the 1974 World Cup finals and Pastor Jack Glass, Glasgow's Ian Paisley, led demonstrations against Connolly's blasphemy. In London, Michael Parkinson took him up and set the metropolitan seal of approval on his success.

In the first moments of fame, being available was part of it. To walk into a chip shop in Aberdeen and cause delirium behind the counter kept telling him he was getting somewhere. But it soon began to be a problem, being a hero among the people. Bobby Campbell, another former apprentice boy turned folk singer, now associate editor of the Scotsman, recalled: 'He had a flat in Glasgow and these jokers would come out of the pub at two in the morning and think Let's go and see Billy, so they'd ring the bell with a crate of Irn Bru, wanting to tell him jokes about nuns.' So the Glasgow flat was exchanged for a country manor in Drymen, on the outskirts, with his wife, Iris and two small children.

The real trouble began in the late Seventies when the marriage began to break up and the popular press thought it was Christmas. When Connolly came home to find a Sunday People reporter doorstepping his wife, he hit him. When they began to camp outside the flat of Pamela Stephenson, the comedy star he married after his messy divorce from Iris, he swore at them. They have been swearing back ever since.

Connolly's estranged mother, who had come backstage at the Ashfield Club in Glasgow in 1972 and asked 'Which one of you is Billy Connolly. I think I'm your mother,' told the story of her disappointment in her son to the Sunday Mail. Connolly left Scotland and has never lived there since.

The years that followed, in the view of the Connolly cognoscenti, were not the best. For a while the scatological vein, which in vintage Connolly is like the spice that points up the flavour, took over and the sharpness was lost. Connolly and Stephenson moved to California, had three children and tried to recreate the celebrity there with mixed success: a comedy series, Billy, was axed after 13 shows. Various excursions into celluloid have died ignominious deaths.

But it requires the eye of malice to regard this as obscurity. Malice there is in plenty, fed by the couple's much decried friendship in the Eighties with the Yorks and the Waleses and Connolly's refusal to apologise for that or anything else. If America has disappointed him professionally, he doesn't seem to feel it: he has a show on cable, still hopes to make it as a serious actor and has regularly returned to Scotland to see old friends and to work up new material on tour.

The current TV series is a curious business. It confirms that his elemental genius as a performer is more than intact, but poses more questions than it answers about Connolly's relationship with Scotland. The offstage sequences, which take up much of the time, are a celebration of the Scotland of the tourist brochure: the helicopter shots of luscious landscape and romantic castles, of quaint locals produced like stage props for a whisky advertisement. It is the Scotland of the man who has moved out of the city.

Connolly's old friends say he is the man they remember, only richer and a touch more guarded. He is loyal to his friends, but the bruising of the early years has left him thin-skinned and prone to take offence. 'There is always,' said one old friend, 'a percentage of the eye movement that's ready for trouble. Who's that over there? Who are you looking at? I think there is also, in every working-class boy who made it, a feeling that never quite leaves you. It's just not the others asking, What right do you have to be there? There's a bit of you that asks it, too.'

1997-01-24 - The Independent
2001-02-21 - The Guardian
2001-07-11 - BBC
2001-09-24 - Daily Telegraph

Billy Connolly Delivers Comedic Rants in a Melodious Brogue
May 12, 2006

In a billowy white shirt that matches his Buffalo Bill facial hair, the aggressively funny Scottish comedian Billy Connolly strides onstage like the superstar he is, dropping names, mocking the press and spinning personal tales with the confidence and self-involvement of a seasoned celebrity. And yet: Who is he again? In this country Mr. Connolly is known, if at all, for a few film roles and for replacing Howard Hesseman on the sitcom "Head of the Class": not exactly a r?sum? that will lead to an interview by Barbara Walters on Oscar night. But he's huge in Europe. No joke. In fact, he's so popular that when he first sees the packed Off Broadway house for this show, the disappointment on his wide, rubbery face is palpable.

"Look at the thousands of people," he says sarcastically.

Still, he manages to plow forward with a wandering set of enjoyable riffs on bread-and-butter comedy themes like the differences between men and women, and other have-you-ever-noticed Seinfeldian observations. He's most entertaining on the attack, as when he zeroes in on the suicide bomber's hope of finding virgins in the afterlife. "Virgins! I'd take two fire-breathing whores."

Mr. Connolly speaks in a beautifully musical Scottish brogue, and his local references are often delightful. You don't need to totally understand "There's more fun at a Glasgow funeral than at an Edinburgh wedding" to find it funny.

Mr. Connolly, whose two-hour show includes very few slow patches, has been called the Robin Williams of Scotland, but that's not really accurate. He doesn't do impressions (save one excellent Einstein), and he's much more caustic and willing to offend than the star of "Patch Adams" and other feel-good comedies. He's more of a Scottish George Carlin, with a bit of Eddie Izzard mixed in.

this feature is from HERE

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly, comic in residence
No one-night stands for him - it's 15 shows in Brentwood
By Evan Henerson, Theater Writer

03/05/2007 03:20:13 PM PST

Put Billy Connolly on a stage in front of an audience, and you never know what will pour forth. The 64-year-old Glasgow-born actor/comedian has been refining his free-form, topical and often raunchy act for some 40 years. And he's not about to start scripting it now. "It grows as I grow, develops as I do and gets old with me," says Connolly, who brings "Billy Connolly Live" to the Brentwood Theatre beginning Wednesday. "Whatever's on TV, from finding Jesus' grave, religion or politics, there's always something to riff on. I become a completely different guy," he adds. "I think, because of the adrenalin, being on stage in that position and with people in front of me listening, I've said things up there that I've never thought in my life, and I think, `My God, where did that come from?' "

For this reason, Connolly says, he gets what disgraced former "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards was attempting when the latter uttered a racial epithet at an L.A. comedy club. "He was trying to do this Lenny Bruce kind of approach of total outrage, where you hope to get outrage back, and you can both live in the outrage," says Connolly, adding that the word Richards used is not one that Connolly himself uses in performance. "But it went one way, and nobody responded, and he was kind of left fumbling around. I felt so sad for him because there are a lot of guys who talk about improvising and being courageous who should have been sticking up for him."

Laughter on the edge

Connolly's own humor has been known to ruffle feathers, from his 2004 remarks about British hostage Kenneth Bigley to the dust-up in the 1970s over Connolly's riff on the crucifixion that stirred a lifetime's worth of protests and outrage from fundamentalist pastor John Glass. " `Connolly! Blasphemer! Blasphemer! Blasphemer!' He had three nails, and he'd hit me with 30 pieces of silver, for years and years," the comedian recalls of Glass who died in 2004. "That's the chance you take. The ferryman must be paid. I'm perfectly happy to live with the consequences of these things."

Sitting at Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood Village, Connolly looks something like a genetic hybrid of Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. The hair is more gray than blond, stylishly unruly. The eyes twinkle behind a pair of O-shaped glasses. The mustache, Connolly explains, is exceeding its usual length. He was set to play a German doctor in a film, but funding fell through. A little wax, and he could play Salvador Dali. The look, like his act, is in a constant state of evolution. And throughout the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, the free-wheeling and often foul-mouthed Connolly draws them by the thousands. In America, however, his fame comes from a different medium.

"Billy has sold more tickets, more DVDs, more albums, more videotapes than any comedian in the English-speaking world, except in America," says Arnold Engelman, the producer with WestBeth Entertainment that has also promoted edgy British comedian Eddie Izzard. "Here he's mostly known for his acting." Connolly began his career as "a funny folk singer" and expert banjo player, working the Scotland equivalent of the coffeehouse circuit. Journeying to America in the early 1970s, he opened for British rockers such as Elton John and Elvis Costello, and gradually saw his own stock rise in the U.K. Films and TV roles followed. He was the reptile-loving Uncle Monty in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," a scheming nobleman in the "Garfield" sequel, an American Civil War veteran who goes to Japan in the Tom Cruise film "The Last Samurai" and - perhaps most notably - the grounded stable man suspected of being paramour to Judi Dench's Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown," for which he received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. Next up: a turn as a 6-foot pet zombie in the film "Fido."

"It's especially odd for me that, after all these years as a live entertainer, people don't really know me," says Connolly. "Some people are bigger than me, but that's always going to be the case. I just get along with it and try to remain good and original because I have an extraordinary name among comedy. And that does me lovely."

You might say. Anytime Connolly stops for a quick-hit three-performance set at a major house, frothing fans snap up all available tickets minutes after they go on sale. The intent this time around, says Engelman, is to play the smaller Brentwood for an extended period of time (he performs 15 shows through March 24), and thereby build audiences through word of mouth. The same strategy was employed in New York, where Connolly - who recently bought an apartment in the city - played six weeks at the 500-seat 37 Arts Theatre. Nearly four years ago, Connolly performed a few gigs at the Wilshire Ebell. He also lived in L.A. for several years in the mid- to late-1980s while filming the TV series "Head of the Class."

"I find myself always defending America, which is kind of peculiar because I'm not American," says Connolly. "A lot of people have a very bizarre idea of what America and Americans are like. My America has Robin Williams in it and Hank Williams and Chuck Berry and Earl Scruggs," he continues. "America gave the world optimism, and people should (expletive) try to remember that from time to time, because there's so little of it."

Billy Connolly's conquering of America, meanwhile, continues one comedy gig at a time. He was recently delighted to learn that his grandson, Wally, had opened up his Carl's Jr. kids meal and discovered a toy of McSquizzy, the combat-happy squirrel Connolly voiced in the film "Open Season." "I used to be jealous. Bobcat Goldthwait was in a Happy Meal. Robin Williams was in a Happy Meal. I said, `Someday, you bastard, I'm going to get into a Happy Meal.' And I've done it!"

Connolly Laughs Out Loud
March 10, 2007
by James Sims

Do not let the thick Scottish accent fool you, comedian Billy Connolly acts about American as possible, at least as far as his skeptical outlook on all things hippy dippy about the country that gave him many interesting years roaming about the entertainment business. Taking the now familiar path of stand up comedy by way of theatrical houses, Billy Connolly Live! has set up shop at the Brentwood Theatre for a short while, which works to Connolly's benefit as the 500 seat intimate venue allows for a unique experience.

With a waft of accessible humor far superior to the hillbilly viewpoint spewing from those blue-collar yanks, Connolly is an everyman's comic, proving hilarious with each quip on everything from bicycle-framed fashion models to political demon Ann Coulter. Connolly, a self-described grumpy old man, wrapped up his opening night performance with a side-splitting diatribe on the daft folks sheepishly following nearly all forms of religion, including those all too easy to knock Mormons.

At 64 years old, Connolly is no stranger to Los Angeles, having served his time in Hollywood with a starring role in the sitcom "Head of the Class," so it is no wonder that he spends a lot of time defending this drastically eccentric city. Where else could you possibly see Jesus randomly wandering the Valley's streets before popping into a local YMCA? Just don't ask Connolly to put up with the palm readers and incense burning characters roaming the local neighborhoods.

Quite a fan of the F-word, the feisty natured Connolly could best be described as a gray haired brash father time. After all, being in your early sixties must certainly mean there is already one foot in the grave. But Connolly is "too old to die young," or so the phrase plastered across the grey-bricked backdrop at the Brentwood Theatre claims.

It is unfortunate Connolly did not break onto the scene earlier in life, though despite predictions of his own demise, there are sure to be many years ahead of this welcome comic import. Some of his jokes reek of dated material, as the low carb diets he slashes at have been known to actually work for some. And it is staggering how often Connolly doubles back on himself picking up half-started stories, yet he certainly knows how to work a crowd into a fit of laughter, including himself.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fast Chat: Billy Connolly
June 10, 2007

Billy Connolly was once a welder in the Glasgow shipyards - and eventually became one of the biggest comic stars in the British Isles. Though the 64-year old Scotsman has starred in a number of films, two U.S. TV series and had his own HBO special, he's probably best known in the States for his role in the 1997 film "Mrs. Brown," in which he played a servant who befriends Queen Victoria. Funny, down-to-earth and extremely outgoing, Connolly, who looks at least 10 years younger than his age, next stars as a love-struck zombie in "Fido," opening Friday. Lewis Beale caught up with him in a coffee shop near Union Square.

Are there any tips you can give for playing a zombie?
You have to play the guy as disabled. That's the only thing open to you. All I did was communicate with my eyes. My body doesn't work very well, and my voice is nonexistent. The dynamic with other actors is very weird; they kinda start treating you as if you're disabled. Because all you've got is your eyes.

Doing research for this interview, I discovered you're in "Debrett's Peerage" . Did you know that? And how do you think your old welding buddies feel about it?
I'm a CBE . Does that get you into Debrett's? That's the last place I ever expected to find a trace of me. But that's the reason for most of the things I do, to blow them away. I went to bed with Sharon Stone in a movie, and when everybody asked me about it, I said "Yes, those welders must've been so -- happy. Yes! One of the boys!"

You lived in L.A. for 15 years, but recently moved to New York. Anything in particular you miss?
I've never lived in an apartment before, not since I was a boy. I've lived in big houses, and I've always had a place to hide, and a big garden. Now I have no garden, and no place to hide. And I'd forgotten how noisy New York is. I get all the traffic and sirens . I also didn't know so many people go in the middle of the night. What the -- is that?

Any particular reason why you think your comedy has never really hit big here?
It hasn't had the TV exposure. I've got a big following, and my humor works here, but I haven't had the media coverage that other guys have had.

A lot of your comedy is based on your horrible early life - the parents who abandoned you, the aunts who raised you and beat you. Do you think a lot of comics are tortured souls?
I think in a lot of cases the torture is what makes them become comedians. I don't think being a comedian makes you tortured. The desire to be funny comes from a rather dark place, and it saves a lot of people's lives. It saves them from the hospital.

Do you see any significant difference between British and U.S. comedy?
There used to be more of a difference than there is now. In the last 20 years, with satellites and such, there's a generic thing happening everywhere. The same thing is happening with accents and slang. Everybody is using the same slang. Although I must say, the really original minds, Ricky Gervais and people like that, seem to be coming out of Britain.

Scottish nationalists recently did well in the voting for Scotland's parliament. What do you think of the idea of Scottish independence?
I don't like it. I don't like chauvinism, I don't like nationalism. I think history proves it to be an incredibly dangerous things. I think it's time in the world for getting together, not separating.

What did "Mrs. Brown" do for your career here in the States and in Britain?

Everything. There, here, everywhere. Here in America my profile was from [the TV show] "Head of the Class," and the fans I had from my live stuff. Every single movie I've done since then was in some way or another related to "Mrs. Brown." Someone had seen me in it, and that was the key, or someone had said "Billy who?" "Oh, that was the guy in ..." "Oh, him."

What kind of offers do you get these days?

Recently I've been getting a lot of animated stuff. I just got one from Disney the other day; they're doing a Loch Ness monster thing. You can show up naked and on fire for those gigs and nobody cares. The other great thing about animated is it takes so little time to do. And the money's very nice.

You were once a very heavy drinker, notorious for downing 13 bottles of Chablis in one evening. So what was the moment when you decided to stop drinking?
This was 24 years ago. I was stuck in a phone booth, drunk, and couldn't figure out how to get out. I went cold turkey. It wasn't difficult; I don't know why. My wife helped. I smoked and drank heavily, and I didn't have a problem with that - well, sometimes I did - but she said, "You smoke and you drink, and that's OK, but the thing I don't understand is, you smoke and drink such crap. If I was as successful as you, I would drink five-star cognac and smoke Sullivan's hand-rolled cigarettes. But you smoke -- and you drink slop." And it just dawned on me, the way those things do.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comedian is stunned by Pam's callers
By Robert Mcaulay

BILLY Connolly has revealed his wife keeps bringing sexual oddballs home. But former comedian Pamela's bizarre guests are all strictly business. The 53-year-old, formally known as Professor Connolly, is a psychologist specialising in sex therapy. Dad-of-five Billy, 65, joked: "She's an expert, especially in cross-gender, so we've had a few interesting people in the house. Slaves and masters, too. What a delightful bunch they were."

Referring to another strange, solo sex act, Billy continued: "That appeals to me. And you don't have to look your best." Billy also revealed he doesn't feel under pressure when he makes love to his sex expert wife. He added: "Not really. I thought, 'Oh, God, I'm going to seem so boring now.' But knowledge about sex doesn't raise her expectancy, and certainly doesn't raise my ability."

Billy and Pamela, who have a mansion at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, and a home in Gozo, near Malta, have recently bought an apartment in New York. And Billy, who spent many years living in Los Angeles, says he loves walking the streets of the Big Apple just like his comedy hero Woody Allen. But despite his love of New York and being thousands of miles from where he was born, Billy said he feels more Scottish than ever.

He added: "It's the most extraordinary thing. As I grow older, I seem to be becoming more Scottish. I look at Sean Connery. He's not Sean Connery any more. He's an old Scottish guy." In the past, Billy has defied his age by piercing his nipples and painting his toenails black. His new film Fido, in which he plays a zombie, has become an unexpected hit in cinemas across the US and in the UK.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Connolly new Celts charity patron

Celtic have announced that Scottish comedian Billy Connolly is to become a patron of the Celtic Foundation, the club's community projects arm. The 64-year-old Glaswegian is a lifelong Celtic fan, and chief executive Peter Lawwell has welcomed his support for the charity.

Lawwell said: "We're delighted that someone of the stature of Billy has agreed to become patron. His profile will be useful in raising awareness of our social dimension." And Lawwell added: "His involvement will be crucial in motivating those people we are assisting and those who we would like to get involved in our work."
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Irvine Welsh set to direct Billy Connolly film

TRAINSPOTTING author Irvine Welsh is set to direct a new film starring Billy Connolly. But instead of using one of his own novels, he will reportedly be adapting a book by fellow Scottish writer Alan Warner. 'The Man Who Walks' will feature Connolly as a madman with a glass eye and a fondness for whisky.

Welsh, who was in Edinburgh last week for the Film Festival, recently made a short film called Nuts about a man with testicular cancer. The dark comedy, which was made for just £7000, was shown last Thursday. He is best-known for his Capital-based book Trainspotting. Warner told audiences at the Edinburgh Book Festival he was thrilled that Welsh and Connolly had just agreed to be involved.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Dominic Maxwell
The Times

He is forever being voted the nation’s favourite comedian – most recently in the 100 Greatest Stand-ups list on Channel 4. But can Billy Connolly – his goatee beard and shaggy locks faded to grey, most of the past two decades spent living in America – really still claim to be the best we’ve got?

Yeah, pretty much. With this show, Too Old to Die Young, he’s bringing his familiar Glaswegian effusiveness to bear on the questions of death and decrepitude that will most dog a man of 64. He’s too spry to be raging against the dying of the light quite yet. But he is having the same furious fun with strokes and Songs of Praise that he once had with sex and folk singing.

Which isn’t to say that everything is tickety-boo with this, his first British show in three years. The endless chortling digressions that let him cram such a bounty of material into his two-hours-plus (no interval) can sap his energy. He is so comfortable on stage that he will even interrupt the end of a very strong — but very long – anecdote about visiting his father in a stroke ward to tell a slew of old Chick Murray jokes that have just sprung to mind. He suggests that this is a show about getting old and losing the plot, yet the show itself loses the plot too often to add up to a coherent statement.

Then again, who cares? When you’re as funny as this, you can leave the coherent statements to your accountant and get on with making people howl with laughter. Nobody else makes a big gig feel so intimate. He prowls the stage, in his black drainpipes and leather waistcoat, as if he were holding court in his kitchen. Every anecdote can call on a crack squad of rhythm, timbre, gesture, poise and infectious enjoyment to get it over. He is the complete comedian. So ordinary material becomes extraordinary; strong material simply soars. His nuking of New Age nonsense – “ fengshui is the flow of bullshit through a room” – is ten years past its sell-by date. Yet it comes embroidered with such delightful details that it scores anyway. He is both scoffer and cap-doffer: “It’s fucking great!” he cackles with wonder as he passes on some outlandishly simple martial-arts tricks he learnt in New York.

He is, more than anything, enthused: it’s what keeps him the right side of grumpy-old-millionaire territory as he harrumphs at shoddy shopworkers, crystal enthusiasts (“Fuck off! Get a job!”) and “allnight dancearamas” that clog up his world.

“I’ve given you too fucking much for your own good,” he says at the end, and he’s right – he can’t quite keep all his plates spinning fast enough to sustain our rapture throughout. But, blimey, he comes close. He is 65 on November 24. And there is still no greater teller of a funny story working today than Billy Connolly.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly: Happy return of Scotland's biggest kid
Dominic Cavendish reviews Billy Connolly at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The last time Billy Connolly toured Britain, he got into terrible trouble for shooting his mouth off about the Iraq hostage Ken Bigley. "Aren't you the same as me - don't you wish they would just get on with it?" he is reported to have said, just days before the poor man was beheaded. Some asked if Connolly, so rich and famous for so long, should call it a day. Three years on, he's back on the road - itself a pretty defiant statement that, even though he hits 65 in November, the Big Yin is in it for the long haul. And, on the evidence of his opening night in Birmingham, there's little in his set to get quite so steamed up about this time round.

In two solid hours of entertaining jaw-jaw, there's no mention of the war. Yes, there's an anecdote at the expense of a hoity-toity dwarf and material about his encounters with stroke victims, including his father, that takes rather heartless relish in humiliating detail. The expletives fly like sparks from a welder's torch. But there's nothing to have you shaking your head in disbelief.

The evening is really a chance to behold one of the enduring wonders of the comedy world doing what he does best: talk about nothing in particular with a winning mixture of spot-on timing, physical bravado and leonine charm. Connolly's hair, falling about his face in wizardy abundance, is now all grey. He's getting prone to losing the thread when digressing - and mocks his approaching dementia as he does so - but is still powered up through it all by the kind of energy you'd usually see in a young buck just starting out.

Simply the way he demonstrates, with unbridled delight, how he's been taught to clear unwanted members of the public out of the way with a gently guiding hand is a joy (" 'Wait here!' They do!"). Springing on the spot, he conjures the glorious image of castle-owning rich kids playing on a "bouncy tenement". And he makes you see, as though you were with him in the Glasgow slums, the dog that used to follow him around while somehow keeping a few paces ahead.

Some observations - particularly about loopy LA new-age types - would sound tired aired by anyone else. Thanks to his sprightly delivery, though, nothing needs pensioning off just yet. There's a moment halfway in when you wonder whether, in belated maturity, Scotland's biggest kid has left his ribald, scatological jokes on the shelf. Then he suddenly launches into a routine with the line: "Did you hear the story about the black testicles? You've GOT to hear this!"

Same old Billy, you think, and give quiet thanks for his loud, incorrigible existence.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2007 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok, so I watched his latest DVD last night and really wasn't impressed - his comments about Moslem women looking like postboxes if they wore the veil turned me off from an early start. Not because it's not necessarily funny, but because it's a joke that was observed by many old-men's-pub performers years ago...

Being old doesn't mean you can be an arse.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Connolly in car crash

Billy Connolly has been involved in a car smash in rural Scotland – but it’s thought he escaped unhurt. His Land Rover crashed on the A939 near Ballater, about 20 miles west of Aberdeen, on Sunday afternoon. Connolly, 65, has a home at nearby Candacraig. No other vehicles were involved in the accident. Grampian Police dealt with 8 incidents over the weekend as a result of icy conditions in the region, including one death.


Sounds like he was lucky...
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When Billy Connolly's brain talks, he listens
By Pat Craig

Billy Connolly, pleasantly unkempt in black, his face framed by anarchic ringlets, relaxes in the window of a hotel dining room, slowly decompressing from a stint of filming in Seattle. The Scotsman had come to San Francisco earlier in the day after finishing work on his part in the upcoming "X-Files" film. He seemed pleased to be returning to comedy from the confinement of acting.

"I love doing it, but I don't think it compares in any way to comedy, which is another discipline altogether," says Connolly, who opens Tuesday at San Francisco's Post Street Theatre for a series of stand-up concerts through April 12. "With the acting like I just did in 'X-Files,' I have to put away the anarchy because others are depending on you. So it's the exact opposite of what I do (in comedy). When I do comedy, I don't care about the rules of society; if you tell me I shouldn't say such-and-such, it'll be in my first sentence."

Comedy, you see, is something Connolly has wanted to do since he was a "wee boy," who liked being funny growing up in Glasgow. These days, he's considered by many to be the reigning champion of British comedy, although he's perhaps better known to most Americans as the star of the '80s sitcom, "Head of the Class."

Like many a wee boy who grew up funny, Connolly didn't know exactly how to make a living at comedy, like one of his early favorites, the legendary Scottish comedian Chic Murray, and the yanks, Morrie Amsterdam on the "Dick Van Dyke Show," Bob Newhart, Shecky Greene and the others he saw on TV. "We were lucky because we still had vaudeville in Scotland; still do, as a matter of fact," he said, "so I got to see a lot of the Scottish comics."

But his life didn't lead to the comedy big room. Connolly's early day job was being a welder, and he still remembers the trade, and how hard he had to work to earn the money to see the comedians and musicians he idolized. Even his first ventures into show business weren't exactly comedic. Connolly was a banjo player, who joined a group called the Skillet Lickers, and then formed a group, the Humblebums, which eventually became a partnership between Connolly and Jerry Rafferty (Stealers Wheel and "Baker Street"). The band had a moderately successful recording career in the 1970s.

But as the group evolved, Rafferty became more interested in music, and Connolly involved with his comedy. After the duo parted, Connolly had a solo banjo act that quickly moved from music to comedy. But Connolly's interest in music continues, and he proudly sports a tattoo of a banjo on the edge of his hand. With a career in stand-up that stretches more than 20 years, Connolly has delivered plenty of jokes over time, and, since much of it has been recorded, many of his fans have favorites, which they would enjoy hearing from him.

"But, you know, I get bored and let things go," he says. "So, there are a lot of fans who know things I've forgotten. I don't have golden hits or anything like this. It's not like having a song you can go back to time and again and sing well. With the old bits, everybody knows how they end, so how can you do that? Most of what I do is improvised, more or less."

Besides, with some remarkable exceptions, most of Connolly's material reflects things that are going on in the world around him. "I listen to some of my old stuff, which was hair-rasingly funny at the time and got huge laughs, but it doesn't have a shelf life," he says. "I think you need to put yourself in places you need to find your way out of onstage; it keeps you alive. Sometimes it's good to jiggle your mind a bit. Suppose you wanted to start your show with something about San Francisco and lead to a story about Scotland. Sometimes, it's a good idea to just turn them around and see your mind come up with something funny. And it will, because your brain likes being funny, or, at least mine does."

It's simply a matter of listening, really listening, to what your brain is telling you, Connolly says. "You should always be listening to the primary thought; if you don't, and listen to the secondary one, it'll say, 'well, maybe this is a mistake, maybe you should get a trade or something to fall back on,'" he says. "Your primary voice never says anything like that."

The secondary thought will continue intruding, maybe telling you would have been better off if you'd remained a welder. "Because, when you go out onstage, like it or not, you've just made the statement that you're the best in the room; you're the funniest man in the room," he says. "Well, something like that can give you a huge second thought. But if you didn't do it, you would never know, would you?"

On the other hand, Connolly's work as a welder has given him a sense of responsibility about his comedic career. "I think it has helped my temperament because I didn't go straight from school to show business and most of my friends in rock 'n' roll had," he says. "Going from school to Joe Welder hasn't made me any more humble than anybody else, but I think it's given me a respect for the guy who buys the tickets, because I've been that guy. I know what it's like to buy a ticket that leaves you short of money. And knowing that guy, every time I've gone out and stated I'm the funniest man in the room, I want to give him value for his money. So the most important thing is to be really good at what I do and make him feel like it was a good idea to come out and see the show."

For Connolly, performers who give him his money's worth would include comedians like Robin Williams and musicians like Eric Clapton. But the list also includes musical performers "you've probably never heard of; guys that play to maybe 30 other people in the room." "I'm loyal to the people I like," he says. "If I'm somewhere and see they're playing, I'll be there."

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scottish comic Billy Connolly comes to S.F.
Edward Guthmann
March 30, 2008

Billy Connolly had to stop drinking and smoking weed before he realized something important. "I'd been blessed by the fact that I was born high," the Scottish comic and film actor says. "I always wondered why dope had such a profound effect on me. It was because I was high when I started."

Connolly, who opens a two-week run of "Billy Connolly Live!" Tuesday at the Post Street Theatre, says he started drinking in his teens and quit 24 years ago, at 41. He was a marathon drinker and, at his worst, downed 11 bottles of Chablis in one night. There were blackouts, rages - the whole mess. "One of the most outstanding symptoms of it is you're horrible to people who love you and wonderful to people you don't know," Connolly says in a private dining room above the Post Street Theatre. "It's really quite bizarre. You'll stand in a bar for hours on end talking to some boring fart about a certain division football team. And then you'll go home and be f- horrible to the person who loves you."

His reasons for drinking are simple. Born in 1942, Connolly was abandoned by his mother when he was 4 and raised by his father's sisters - the "demon aunties," he calls them - who resented his presence and regularly beat him. His dad was a slacker who stumbled through life and shared a bed with his son, molesting Billy from age 10 to 15. A lot of people's lives are ruined by childhoods less traumatic than that: The wounds fester and never leave, and the abused repeats the abuse. Connolly, once he got sober, avoided the corroding power of his experience by turning his memories into jokes, by mocking them on stages in Scotland and England, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

"You have to say, 'That was then and this is now,' " Connolly says. "These things never go away. It's like grieving: The death of a friend never leaves you, but you learn to put it where it belongs, so that you can access it when you want to. It's in here, in your filing system. I know that when people say, 'This, too, will pass,' they're speaking the truth. It's just a temporary aberration, a blip on the screen. Don't give up, you know?"

In the British Isles, Connolly is monstrously popular, on the scale of Elvis. He sells out big arenas and is so well known that he prefers living in the United States, where he's recognized less often. American audiences may remember him from the ABC sitcom "Head of the Class" or from the 1997 drama "Mrs. Brown," in which he co-starred with Judi Dench as the 19th century horseman who was favored by Queen Victoria. Describing the pain and recklessness in his past, Connolly is loose and self-deprecating. He's sober and domesticated these days, but hardly proper, and still wears his gray hair long and shaggy. You can't not like him. He has the friskiness of a much younger person and, at 65, looks trim and vital in a black jacket, shirt and jeans.

Connolly could pass for an art-school instructor - the cool one who parties with his students but never loses their respect or his zest for creativity. On Connolly's left hand is a large tattoo of a banjo, the instrument he played as a folk artist with the Humblebums and other bands in the late 1960s and '70s. A bracelet on his right wrist is made from stringed beads shaped like skulls, and his wedding ring, a variation of an Irish claddagh, is the talisman of his lucky second marriage to clinical psychologist and former actress Pamela Stephenson. The couple, married 19 years, have three daughters; Connolly has another daughter and a son from his first marriage.

Onstage, Connolly tends to riff with no holds barred. Critic John Lahr called him "an instinctive disturber of the peace." Michael Caine called his humor "almost barbaric." Connelly just finished two months of shooting the new "X Files" movie in Vancouver, British Columbia, so the San Francisco gig will be Connolly's first stage appearances in 2008. "I haven't got a clue," he says when asked what kind of material he'll cover when he steps onstage this week. "I've got a notebook that I carry around and write down ideas: 'army' or 'Hillary.' But I've never written a word of it in my life. It just vomits out. And I have no idea why it does." Conversation with Connolly takes a casual, circuitous route. Like a hyperactive child, he needs to be lassoed to keep him on track. But who would want to? It's so much fun to let him riff. He calls himself "the ultimate attention-deficit disorder poster child."

A Connolly sampler:

On America's presidential campaign: "It's like watching magicians or a convention of bunko artists. ... I've traveled the world quite extensively now, and it's the same everywhere. The people are in brilliant shape, but they're controlled by wankers. The desire for power is as bad as any perversion I've ever seen."

On Dench, who remains a friend: "She's extremely funny. She has the dirtiest laugh you'll ever hear - a wonderful, vulgar laugh, which pleases me. I almost think I can fly when she does it. I love her."

On parenting: "I treat them as equals and have since day one. The other day my oldest girl said, 'You said the best thing to me once. There was some problem I was having at school, and you said, "It's only school. Don't worry about it. Life starts later." I've never heard of a father saying that ever to anybody.' "

The interview wraps and Connolly is escorted out of the private dining room for his next interview. When he stands up, I notice his pointed black cowboy boots. They're handmade by Rios of Mercedes, a Texas bootmaker. "Dwight Yoakam turned me on to them," he says. And with that, Connolly takes another tangent, describing the joyous musicality of Hank Williams and marveling that the musician could have written so many great songs before his death at age 29. And so it goes with Connolly: The current shifts, the water rises and the master of giddy, spontaneous thought catches another wave.

Billy Connolly Live!: 8 p.m. Tues.-April 12. Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. $40-$55. (415) 771-6900,

To watch clips of Billy Connolly performing, CLICK HERE
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First pictures of Billy Connolly in new X-Files movie
12th May 2008

Comedian Billy Connolly gets in touch with his serious side to play a priest in the new X-Files movie. The Big Yin, 65, plays a priest of "dubious character" who appears to know "the truth" in the upcoming film The X-Files: I Want To Believe.

Connolly's role in the film is being kept under wraps by producers, but his repeated appearance in the film's trailer suggests he has a pivotal role. The trailer shows Connolly's character leading a team of FBI agents to find something in the snow, declaring, "I know she's out there".

While producers of the film are keeping the plot line secret, they have promised audiences the film will be scary and will address Mulder's internal struggle with his faith. Duchovny said: "It's very dark and frightening. We forgot, as we grew older and the show became so big, that it got so popular because it was that scary. This movie goes back to the original impetus of The X-Files, which is to scare the pants off people."

Producers have also teased X-Files fans by releasing images of Mulder and Scully seemingly about to embrace, stirring up the old will-they-won't-they storyline. Duchovny has further confused X-Files fans by suggesting the intimate photo of the characters about to kiss was taken "as a joke". When asked if the agents finally move their relationship from professional to personal, director Chris Carter mused: "I would never say it was just a joke. The relationship does evolve. I know there was a planting of misinformation by producers. Therefore, it makes everything suspect, and I think that's a good thing."

The film also stars Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip actress Amanda Peet as Dakota Whitney and Pimp My Ride host and rapper Xzibit as an FBI agent. The X-Files: I Want To Believe will hit British cinema screens on August 1st.
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big Yin at special launch
By Claire Amber Young
Greenock Telegraph

THE Big Yin turned into the RIG Yin yesterday when Billy Connolly visited Inverkip Marina to officially name a yacht in honour of a sailing charity. Comic Connolly sailed into Inverclyde to name a Bavaria 46 on behalf of the boating organisation, able2sail.

He told the Tele: “I’m absolutely delighted to be involved. Getting children involved in sailing is a great idea. It always amazes me how much disabled people can do — something like this just proves what kids are capable of. I’ve been involved with other projects where disabled kids get into riding — it’s really nice to see them develop and see how it helps them. There are great advances to be made with kids in this area. It’s a very good idea.”

The yacht arrived in Inverkip Harbour on 7 March this year. Volunteers have been undertaking training sessions onboard in preparation for taking disabled children out on voyages in June. The comic is getting ready to embark on a Irish tour and will be heading off to Limerick tomorrow before travelling to Cork.

But, before he jetted off, he took time to talk about his Inverclyde connections. He said: “I’m very fond of Greenock — I’ve always felt very close to it. I worked with Peter MacDougall on Just Another Saturday and have great memories of filming here. I met lots of guys from Greenock when I worked on the Clyde.”

Gerry Campbell, chairperson of able2sail, said: “This has been a great day. The level of involvement from everyone in the community has been wonderful. Everyone has helped make it a great success. It’s been wonderful having Billy here — we’re delighted he could make it.” Invited guests were treated to a lavish champagne reception in the Chartroom after the ceremony and witnessed an amazing flyover by HMS Gannett.


A flyover by a ship?! Now that would be amazing...
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scots bring Billy Connolly back down to earth after X Files movie
Jul 20 2008
Mickey McMonagle
Sunday Mail

BILLY CONNOLLY is about to become a proper Hollywood A-Lister thanks to his lead role in the new X Files movie. But Scotland's funniest man is in no danger of letting his success go to his head - because his fellow Scots continually put him in his place. Despite the global stardom, he reckons his twice-yearly trips home keep his feet firmly on the ground because he just isn't seen the same way as "proper" famous people.

Billy said: "There was a Scottish girl on the plane when I was flying to London on the way to Vancouver from Scotland. She said, 'I've seen you in films and on TV' and I said, 'Well, that's nice'. "Then she said, 'How do you feel when you meet famous people?' I thought, 'What do you think I am myself?' She obviously thought I am Scottish first and then a famous guy.

"We have a saying in Scotland, 'I ken his faither', which is a put-down. The TV show Nationwide once did a programme on me in Glasgow. At one point I was in the street where I grew up and a girl was asking me for my autograph. A little crowd gathered and two little old ladies were watching. One of them looked over at me and said, 'And his father was such a nice man'.

"Some of being famous is great. You know to begin with, you get a following and they love you then they start seeing you in the street and pointing you out and that's nice. Then shortly after that you get this other degree of fame through television and films and you're known to everybody. Sometimes I don't like it because some people feel they're entitled to say that they don't like you. They say you are rubbish and they say it to your face: 'I don't like your stuff' and I think, 'Who asked you?' They don't seem to care if they are deeply insulting you."

It seems obvious that Billy's poverty-stricken upbringing in a Glasgow tenement has had a huge influence on his comedy - but the star disagrees. In fact he reckons background has little impact on anyone, positive or otherwise. As he points out, Paris Hilton has all the money in the world but she has not exactly had an easy ride through life in recent years.

He said: "Your background has little to do with anything. I think comedy comes from darkness, from inabilities. All the great comedians have been unable to do things, or they do things badly. Look at Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Most comedy is about inability. For example, with sex what's funny is how baffling it is, not how great you are at it. It's how complicated the whole thing is. It never ends. Great comedy is all about telling real things, the truth in a light way, so the audience goes 'God, that's right - I felt that' and they burst out laughing.

"There's a lot of truth involved that makes people identify with comedy. All backgrounds are difficult. Paris Hilton's background is difficult. You might say it's easy because she's got lots of money but life isn't any easier for her than it is on a housing estate. It could be softer and more comfy but she's been in jail and in trouble and that couldn't have been comfortable and dealing with all that paparazzi is a nightmare. I think your background textures what you're going to do. It doesn't dictate what you're going to do. I don't see myself as a victim of poverty."

While Scots may not fawn over Billy like the Americans do, he still loves his trips home - especially when his celebrity pals tag along. And thanks to Billy, one Hollywood star has been taking a little bit of Scotland around the world with him. He said: "I come back to Scotland in August and always at Christmas with the family. It's great.

"Robin Williams loves to visit. He runs the hill race at the Highland Games - he does the race with all the other guys, he's a head case. He's brilliant and I love him. So does Aidan Quinn and he doesn't even put shorts on. Robin at least puts shorts on. I gave Robin a kilt for his birthday and he wears it a lot. He wore it at an awards ceremony recently."

Billy now lives in New York with wife Pamela Stephenson, 58, the actress-turned-psychologist, after spending many years in LA. But he refuses to slate La-La Land, insisting he only moved to be closer to his daughters Daisy, Amy and Scarlett - so they can borrow money more easily.

"I'm a great family guy. I love them all. I love my work too but I have to work because this is my job and I always spend all my money. I do have balance though. I go fishing, go out on my motorcycle, I read and I watch telly. I do have a lovely place in Scotland but my children were raised in America, first Los Angeles and now we live in New York. But I won't hear a word against Los Angeles. I love it. I'm not one of those LA knockers. We moved to New York because my girls go to college on the East Coast and it means we get to see them. If I lived in LA I would hardly see them at all. How would they borrow money from a big distance? It's so much easier when I'm nearby. I should change my name to ATM because there's a sound that is so familiar - 'Daaaaaaddd' - when they want money. I am effectively an ATM: 'Would you like that in tens or twenties?'."

Billy's role in The X Files: I Want To Believe is the most challenging of his career - not only is it a lead role in a major Hollywood blockbuster but the character of the dark, disturbed Catholic priest was written specially for him by X Files director Chris Carter. His character bleeds from the eyes in scenes that grab the attention of paranormal investigators Mulder and Scully.

Billy said: "That was an extraordinary compliment. Chris called and said he wanted to see me about The X Files movie and I had no idea why. But I was keen to meet him. I knew there would be more to him than just a film guy because of the material he'd written. So I went along and he told me he had written this part, Father Joe, a disturbed Catholic priest, with me in mind. I said, 'Oh really?' Then he told me more about the guy and I said, 'Even better'.

"Chris wanted to work with me. He told me his brother had met me wandering around in the middle of the night in a little street in Mexico. I used to go down to Mexico for stretches and fish in the sea. I had a purple beard at the time and I had been down in Baja kicking around. So that was a coincidence. I have some knowledge of priests obviously because I was brought up as a Catholic. I have several relatives who are Catholic priests and I had pals at school who became priests. I also have a cousin who is a nun and a cousin who is a missionary priest in Pakistan - and I am an atheist."

Billy admits the experience of headlining a major movie was a big thrill - although he loves acting anyway as it is an escape from life as a touring comedian. He said: "It is very enjoyable because I spend my whole life kidding on that I'm telling the truth. Sometimes it isn't the truth; sometimes it's absolute nonsense. It's for effect but I'll tell it to you, to the audience, as if I'm telling the truth. I have to do that or it wouldn't work.

"For example, the time I said that cannibalism was a good idea and that if there are too many people in the world and not enough food, the answer is obvious to me - we should eat each other and if we eat one person each, the problem would be halved overnight. I said, 'eat the unemployed'. It has to sound real for it to work. I've spent a lot of my life doing that, which on the one hand helps me to act because I can actually say things quite sincerely that I don't believe in.

"The most worrying thing is that the darker the character, the easier I find it. If he's a really nice, intelligent man I find it awfully difficult to play him. I like acting because it amuses me greatly to try to be someone I'm not. I like acting very much and I like the way it divides up my life between comedy and drama. Usually, for some reason, known best to someone else, I get a film offer after I've been on the road for a length of time doing the funny stuff and I think, 'That will be great, let's do that', so then the movie takes me away from the road, from the concert roles. The two are quite different."

The X Files: I Want To Believe is in cinemas from August 1.

Why Billy Connolly's latest role is no laughing matter
The comedian explains why playing a tortured Catholic priest in the next X-Files movie won't make us laugh
Interview by Elaine Lipworth
Monday, 21 July 2008

He is a famous comedian, but there is nothing funny about Billy Connolly's latest role: he plays a tortured Catholic priest in The X-Files: I Want To Believe. "There are no laughs at all, which is brilliant," says Connolly gleefully. "Father Joe is very disturbed, very dark. Doing a drama like this is a joy; you get to use your body in a different way, you get to use your eyes. I love playing dark characters, the darker the better, the more disturbed he is, the happier I get." He fixes me with menacing eyes. "The most worrying thing is that the darker the character, the easier I find it. If he's a really nice, intelligent man, I find it awfully difficult."

Connolly has tackled drama before, notably in the film Mrs Brown, with Dame Judi Dench, but he's never portrayed anyone like Father Joe, who is psychic and possibly deranged. "I was brought up as a Catholic," Connolly says. "I have several relatives and pals at school who became Catholic priests – aye – I have a cousin who is a nun and another cousin who is a missionary priest in Pakistan." He pauses and smiles. "And I am an atheist."

We're meeting for tea, close to the X-Files set. Connolly is dressed in black for the part, his hair white and wild, his beard long and shaggy. "I'm sure everywhere I go people think I look like a wino and go, 'Look at him, is he OK?'" he says. It seems to bother him. "I have to go around like this all the time and it's kind of weird and unpleasant. But this guy is great, completely crazy," he says. "I love playing people who are spiritually adrift. If the characters are sociopathic or psychopathic, that's fantastic. I love playing people who are capable of anything. If I go to the lengths of filming in Vancouver for three months, away from my family, I should have a good reason; I can't imagine anything worse than being in a big summer comedy about food fights in college and stuff like that."

The X-Files film is the polar opposite of a lightweight, sunny blockbuster. Six years after the popular sci-fi show ended, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are back as the FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigating the apparently inexplicable abduction of a woman in the mountains of Virginia. Conditions are treacherous, temperatures sub-zero.

The director, Chris Carter, who created the series, promises a chilling and grimly terrifying story. All he will reveal is that there is some kind of paranormal story line, but no alien abductions – and he has banned his stars from giving away plot details. "I think the secrecy's great," says Connolly. "But there's also something I quite admire about the anarchic side of getting hold of a secret and exploding it." He laughs. "If the secret gets out it won't be through me, though."

Carter wrote the part of Father Joe especially for Connolly. "I would say I was only mildly interested in the TV show," Connolly says. "But my daughter Amy is one of the X-philes; she can't believe I actually get to talk to Mulder and Scully. I couldn't tell her anything about the film, though. I told Pamela [Stephenson], but she's an exceptional case, she's a shrink." He's referring to his wife of 19 years, the former Not the Nine O'Clock News star, who is now a clinical psychologist and writer.

Connolly is always cracking up, which adds to his charm. The chemistry of his expletive-laden, expressive language, combined with his physical presence, is compelling. He's like a hyperactive child, full of boundless energy. While many comedians can be quiet, even morose, he seems happy to talk about himself and his work.

His co-star Duchovny tells me that Connolly keeps cast and crew entertained between takes. Not a method actor, then? "No," Connolly says in mock horror. "I don't stay in character and I don't like people who do. I think it's pretentious and self-indulgent. I think if you need to stay in character for the whole movie, you should consider what you're doing for a living. I know people who do it and they're awfully good, but it's not my cup of tea."

Now 65, he's appeared in many films, from The Last Samurai to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many have been commercial flops, but he doesn't seem to mind. "I think they've all been great, whether it was Fido, The Man Who Sued God, The Debt Collector or The Boondock Saints. Some were small films that didn't make it, for whatever reasons that are beyond me, but I'm immensely proud of them. Of course it's nice when a lot of people see them – they will see this one, obviously – but I don't have a problem with films being overlooked, either. If you look at my film record, right back to Absolution with Richard Burton, they stand up."

Mrs Brown is his favourite. "I loved that one. It was on last Christmas and I watched it right through. People were shaking my hand on the street even though it's been out for years. Then I was on Michael Parkinson's last show and they showed a clip from the film of me and Judi shouting at each other. I was so moved, my lips started to quiver. It was amazing."

Which part of his career does he prefer? "I like dividing my life between comedy and drama," he says. "Usually, for some reason known best to someone else, I'll get a film offer after I've been on the road doing the funny stuff. I love the discipline of being in a film. Another set of rules apply, where I have to say exact words at a certain time so another person can say the next thing – that's not required of me when I'm doing my comedy; I can say it differently every night.

"In films you have to think of other people, whereas in my comedy life I only think of me, no one else, I'm up there completely alone on the stage and what I say goes. It's liberating, it's exhilarating, but it can entrap you. You can become a Hitler, because thousands of people every night are telling you how great you are and you can get carried away sometimes. Usually you don't notice it until you come off the road and start shouting at your wife – 'Where's my tea?' It can be quite distressing. Doing films makes me more human, because if I stay out there on the road, I become such an unbearable bore, shouting and getting my own way. You slip into these things. I'm not saying I'm a bully or anything, but I'm very used to getting my own way."

Clearly, Stephenson does not tolerate her husband's dictatorial demands. "With Pam, I discovered that you could not get away with anything. When I married her I thought, 'Oh God,' because I had to own up to everything, which no one had ever asked me to do before. I learnt to be honest with myself, which was great.

"And she helped me make positive changes in my life. I was a bit of a drunk and she put me right on a few things. Self-medicating – that's usually the working-class answer to everything, throw a few stiff ones down you and that should sort it out, the problem will go away."

With the help of his wife – and therapy – he has been sober for decades. Connolly and Stephenson have three daughters, Daisy, 24, Amy, 22, and Scarlett, 19. (He has two older children, Jamie and Cara, from his first marriage.) They live in Manhattan and have a house in Aberdeenshire. "I'm a great family guy, I love them all," he beams. "I spend all my money, so I have to work. But I have a good balance – I go fishing, go out on my motorcycle, I read a lot and watch telly. I love spending time with my girls. They were raised in Los Angeles but we moved to New York because they go to college on the East Coast and if I lived in LA I would hardly see them."

Connolly's own upbringing was tough. He grew up poor, in a Glasgow tenement; his mother Mamie abandoned the family (he has an older sister, Florence), and they were raised by his abusive father, William, and aunts Mona and Margaret, who beat him. Yet he doesn't believe his comedic talent was the result of poverty and suffering.

"Your background has little to do with anything. It doesn't dictate what you're going to do and I don't see myself as a victim of poverty, or anything like that. I think comedy comes from darkness, from inabilities. All the great comedians have been unable to do things – or they do things badly. Look at Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. There were comics like Dean Martin, who were good at doing things, but they're few and far between. Great comedy is all about telling real things, the truth, in a light way, so the audience goes, 'God, that's right, I felt that,' and they burst out laughing. There's a lot of truth involved that makes people identify with you."

What strikes me about Connolly – beyond the jokes – is his sheer enthusiasm for life, which is infectious and quite different from the stereotype of the angst-ridden comedian. "My life is great," he says, "because people are always happy to see me, so my image of the world is happy. Some people think the world is a terrible place, but I think they have got it wrong. I'm very, very optimistic."

Clearly contented, the man who started out as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before forming his own folk group, The Humblebums, confesses that there is another challenge he would like to pursue. "I don't play music for a living any more, but I still play banjo with my pals – Steve Martin, guys like that. I found a wee pub in New York where they have old-time banjo and fiddle on Wednesday nights, so I've been along, but I'm kind of nervous. I want to play with them, but they're a bit better than me. I have had to ask myself, 'Why am I doing this when some other guy can tear his ass off better then me?' It is sometimes good to do something just because it's difficult. So I might have a go."

The Big Yin on screen

The Big Man (1990)

The Big Yin starred opposite Liam Neeson's bare-knuckle boxer in David Leland's hard-nosed drama. Although there is a comic element to his scheming Frankie, this was an early example of many roles in which the comedian has displayed his talent for portraying unsympathetic characters.

Mrs Brown (1997)

The ex-welder's stand-out film role has been the maverick Highlander John Brown in John Madden's tasteful period drama. Connolly was nominated for a Bafta for this finely judged and passionate performance as Queen Victoria's blunt and loyal confidant.

Still Crazy (1998)

One of Connolly's most enjoyable roles was as the lead roadie Hughie in Brian Gibson's very silly but agreeable British comedy, by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, about a Seventies rock band, Strange Fruit, making their weary comeback. However, Connolly is overshadowed by a sensationally odd turn from Bill Nighy as the lead singer.

The Debt Collector (1999)

Connolly is convincing as a formerly murderous debt collector Nickie, who, after being released from prison, becomes a notable sculptor and a bestselling author. His success goes down badly with the policeman (Ken Stott) who nailed him, and he hounds Nickie, hoping to goad him back to his villainous ways. A competent, murky thriller.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Until The X-Files: I Want To Believe, this was Connolly's most high-profile role, playing the kindly but rather daft herpetologist Uncle Monty Montgomery in this family-friendly 2004 blockbuster about the "unfortunate" Baudelaire orphans.
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