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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly: From welder to wit
Comedian Billy Connolly takes CNN's Revealed on a tour of his home town, his beloved Glasgow, Scotland.
By Hilary Whiteman

LONDON (CNN) -- For a man once accustomed to wearing banana boots, tights and a leotard -- together -- today's choice of attire is remarkably sedate. Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly is wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt and a brown jacket to give CNN's "Revealed" a tour of his beloved hometown of Glasgow. He'd almost blend into the background if it wasn't for his wild mop of grey hair, distinctive round glasses and compulsion to chat with every passer by.

"You know he just loves an audience," says his long-suffering but immensely proud and supportive wife, Pamela Stephenson, an Australian comedienne-turned-psychotherapist. "I mean it's frustrating for me because we'll be in a restaurant or we'll be on the street or something and I'm trying to get somewhere, and someone will stop him and he'll say 'Ah yes!' and he'll start telling a story, and all of a sudden they're best friends."

Billy Connolly has a lot of best friends in Glasgow. Men cross the street to shake his hand and elderly ladies stop to enquire about his health. On spying the camera, one dressed in a neat blue suit and sensible flats asks, "you doing a wee program, son?" "You want to be famous?" replies Connolly, engulfing her tiny frame in a six-foot bear hug from which she emits a muffled whoop. "Your first screen kiss," he adds, planting a smacker square on her lips. She giggles as they part. "Thanks Billy," she says, giving him the thumbs-up.

The streets of Glasgow weren't nearly as friendly 65 years ago when the young Billy Connolly arrived with a plop on the cold linoleum floor of his parents' tenement house. He was the second of two children born to a young family that was soon to fracture.

Not long after Billy's birth, his father, William Connolly, left to join the war effort in Burma. His mother, Mamie Connolly, soon tired of looking after two children on her own and walked out on both of them when Billy was barely four years old. The children were taken in by two aunts who abused them even after their father's return from the war in March 1946. Far from protecting them, he too mentally and physically abused his young son.

"The most overwhelming thing that happens to you isn't the abuse itself, the physical side," Connolly tells CNN. "It's the loss of love, there's a loss of respect happens and it's irredeemable, it can't be gotten back."

As a boy, Connolly had difficulty retaining information. He did poorly at school and left to work as an apprentice welder at the local shipyards. "It helped me greatly. You go in as a spotty boy at 16 and you come out at 21, with an Adam's apple and your voice has broken, you are a guy, a man."

By then, he'd also discovered the banjo. "When I saw Pete Seeger playing the banjo it completely changed my life," Connolly says. He discovered his comedic talents while playing a folk music gig in Paisley with his friend Jimmy Steel. Halfway through a song, Connolly forgot the lyrics so he told the audience the storyline instead. To his great surprise, they laughed and a comedian was born.

"It gave me the confidence to be funny," Connolly recalls. "I'd always enjoyed being funny but it gave me the confidence to stand up on stage and do it. Though I must say, I really wanted to be a banjo hero, a folkie with a beard and an instrument and music, and people go 'did you hear him play?' It's purely mine now -- it isn't for the public anymore, it's just for me and my other pals who play." Video Watch a rare performance of Billy on Banjo ».

In the early 1970s, Billy Connolly's anecdote-heavy, expletive-strewn stand-up shows were selling out venues in Scotland. In 1975, he hit the big time after shocking audiences with a bawdy joke on popular English talk show "Parkinson." "I told a joke about a guy parking a bicycle in a woman's bum, and it got the most phenomenal reception. Parkinson just collapsed," Connolly recalls.
Watch Billy's bum joke Video

"He literally told one joke on that show and that made him as a comedian," presenter Michael Parkinson told us. "Whenever he came on the show after that, he used to put two to three million on the viewing figures. The only two people who ever did that were Mohammad Ali and Billy Connolly."

While Billy Connolly's career was on an upward trajectory, though, his personal life was spiraling out of control in a toxic blur of drink and drugs. "I was quite suicidal at the time," he says. "The fame was getting on my nerves. I was really fed up of being famous. I found it tiresome; the drinking was a way out of it, but then it became its own problem." His first marriage was crumbling when he met wife Pamela Stephenson. "It was like a door opening and daylight streaming in," he says.

"Billy will sometimes say things like I saved him. It's just not true, he saved himself," Stephenson tells CNN. "He's very, very smart," she continues. "He saw that there was a chance for personal happiness and a chance to survive and to take care of his enormous talent and move into a far greater happiness and he made a choice to do that."

More than thirty years after his sell-out Scottish shows, he's still packing them in. His recent tour of Northern Ireland sold out in record time -- 20,000 seats in six minutes. "It's just a case of putting the name up and they come," promoter Pat Egan said.

Connolly's manager of some 24 years, Steven Brown, still struggles to comprehend his client's enduring appeal. "We haven't been to Ireland for seven years, and the demand is probably twice what it was before, which is probably twice what it was the tour before that," he said. "After forty years it shouldn't do that. It should level off to a plateau, or start dipping. The only thing I can put it down to is he doesn't do a lot of press, he doesn't do radio. I wish I could take credit for it and say it was a clever management decision that made it happen but it's not, it's just that what he does he does brilliantly and people love it and they just want to come and see more of it."

The banana boots Connolly used to wear on stage to "sex up" his image now sit in a glass cabinet at the local museum, "The People's Palace," in Glasgow. He no longer wears outlandish costumes on stage. He doesn't need to. If the reception he receives on the streets of his hometown is anything to go by, he'll have them rolling in the aisles for some time to come.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Life with Billy Connolly is actually quite dull,
reveals wife Pamela Stephenson

Sep 19 2008
Ben Spencer

BILLY Connolly's wife has revealed being married to the comedian can be BORING. Pamela Stephenson, 58, says her eccentric husband is bit of a recluse who beats the blues by playing the banjo.

Pamela, who has been married to the Big Yin for nearly 20 years, said: "People always think that being married to Billy means that I get non-stop Billy Connolly concerts. It's not nearly as exciting as that, although he's adorable. But it's boring sometimes and he would say the same. There are moments when I wish he would go and make me a cup of tea, which he does very often. Actually, Billy is quite a quiet person. He's a little reclusive and I don't think it's necessarily his personality."

Pamela also revealed Billy, 65, gets the blues after performing. But rather than turn to the demon drink, he copes by playing his beloved banjo. She said: "With the highs he experiences on stage, he needs to be very quiet when he's not. Most performers struggle with the let-down after a show and Billy's no exception. It's tough because it takes time for adrenalin to leave the system.

"That's actually one reason why a lot of comedians turn to alcohol, because it's a depressant and takes you down. Now that Billy doesn't drink, he's found another way - he goes back to his hotel and stays quiet. Sometimes, he likes to eat after the show but not very often. He will just want to veg out, watch TV. Playing his banjo is a great way for him to relax."

New Zealander Pamela, a comic turned clinical psychotherapist, and Billy met when they appeared together in Not The Nine O'Clock News in 1979. They had three children together, eventually marrying in Fiji in 1989 and Pamela wrote her husband's life story, Billy, in 2002. However, Pamela also revealed her husband would sometimes rather be alone.

She said: "He doesn't like me being around when he's touring because he just likes to do his thing. I want to have some food or go and do something. He becomes a bit of a hermit - and that's appropriate for someone who expends that amount of energy and brainpower on stage."

When the couple met, Billy was an alcoholic. But rather than insist he quit booze, Pamela was going to walk away. She said: "By the time I met him, he was on a very self-destructive path. At first, that was appealing to me, but later I realised I can't be with somebody like that because I don't want to watch him destroy himself. I didn't tell him, 'You've gotta clean up your act,' I just said, 'I can't deal with this.' I discovered you can't make anyone stop drinking or taking drugs. You have to just protect yourself and if they want to jump on the good train, they will. Fortunately it worked."

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly opens heart on tortured childhood to wife Pamela Stephenson
Dec 14 2008
By Charles Lavery
Sunday Mail

BIG Yin Billy Connolly has told of his secret heartbreaking reunion with the mother who dumped him at the age of four. But, in his most personal interview ever, Connolly, 66, reveals they never met again. The comic opened his heart on last night's More4show Shrink Rap, hosted by his clinical psychologist wife, Pamela.

His mum fled the family home in Partick, Glasgow, to be with a lover. Connolly said: "I feel really sad about my mother. She left when I was four with another fellow. We met again when I was 26 at a gig. I thought she was a fan wanting an autograph. She came up and told me she was my mother and I went to her house and stayed the night."

"Peter MacDougall, the Scottish playwright, had in one of his plays that you never forget your mother's smell. I remember so distinctly that when I cuddled her I could smell her and a bell went off in my head - I knew she wasn't lying and this was my mother. I have never felt abandoned by her. She was a teenager with two kids in a slum, a guy comes along and says 'I love you, come with me'. Given the choice, I think I would have gone with him.

"I remember one of the saddest things I heard my mother say. "She lived in Dunoon and told me, 'I saw your sister Florence once. She was on a holiday in Dunoon with her husband and two children.' "I said, 'Did you speak to her?' She said, 'No, I didn't like to.' "I thought, 'OhmyGod, it's like being a ghost while you're still alive, walking behind your own child, having a look. I couldn't bear that.' "

Connolly also speaks about being sexually abused by his father, William. He said: "Like most victims of that, I felt like an accomplice but I have dealt with it a lot better than I imagined. I'm glad I didn't confront him on it because it's only now that I don't feel like an accomplice. If I had confronted him then it would have been a lie. It would have been born of rage. The church is also to blame."

Connolly was raised as a Catholic but has severed all ties with the church. He said: "I find it primitive and frightening, and I find the whole child molestation on an international scale a disgrace that should be a United Nations cause. I have a deep distrust and dislike of the Catholic church and any other organisation that brainwashes people."

Connolly also admits how he won his battle with the bottle. He said: "You started saying to me, 'You'll have to make a choice - it's Nancy Whisky or me.' "I made the choice and I'm delighted. And if you go away, I'm on my own - I've got nothing, nobody."

Connolly confessed he has no idea how to buy a house or a car and only recently got a mobile phone. He said: "Now you're always on tap, you are always gettable. The world as it is now doesn't seem to suit me."

BILLY'S wide-ranging interview exposes his fight to beat the legacy of a fractured relationship with his parents and his church and a battle with the bottle.

SHE is a nice enough woman and we both tried to like each other but I don't think she liked me very much. She tried and I tried but it didn't kind of happen. I don't regret it but I am sad about it. I wish I had liked her, I wish she had liked me.

I HAVE come to realise as I have got older that my father loved me and I loved him, and he did a stupid bad thing. It bothered me terribly for a number of years until after my father's death. You (Pamela) were the first person I told, just after his death, and the guilt that I hadn't confronted him.

THEY should have let him (dad) divorce instead of wandering around all frustrated like that, sexually frustrated. I think he was hounded in his head by Catholicism. I don't want to sound prudish and say I don't approve of it, but I don't. I find it primitive and frightening.

I DIDN'T use alcohol to get up on stage, I just liked it. It was delicious because I was a drunk welder, too, not just a drunk comedian. I don't miss drinking but I miss the craic, the joy of it all, the head-banging stupidity and loveliness and craziness of it. I was there, it was very funny, it was wonderful.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly's Journey to the Edge of the World
This brand new series sees comedian Billy Connolly turn explorer, as he embarks on a rare and remote journey – attempted and failed by hundreds before him – through the treacherous Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
16 February 2009

In Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World, Billy negotiates the much coveted passage inside the Arctic Circle which is choked with impenetrable ice for most of the year. The fabled passage through the Arctic Ocean was sought after for five centuries as a commercial sea route and claimed hundreds of lives of those trying to discover a navigable way through, but now global warming means that for a few weeks in the summer the ice melts and gives Billy a chance to make an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Motivated by a desire to live out his boyhood dreams before he gets too old – and to have a laugh – Billy spends 10 weeks making the 10,000 mile trip from Nova Scotia to the Pacific by, by sea, road and air, acting as a tour guide for viewers in his own unique way.

Throughout his epic adventure, he shares his thoughts, his unexpected encounters and his memorable experiences, from his constant fear of coming face to face with a bear to taking part in a gruelling First Nations sweat lodge ritual and from spotting whales in Newfoundland to panning for gold in the Yukon.

Along the way Billy also vividly tells stories of men who pioneered sections of his journey, which owes much of its legendary status to their successes and failures. But Billy’s voyage is as much about life today in some of the most remote and unforgiving territories on earth. The cameras follow him as he discovers that although the ice may be melting away, an incredible range of communities and characters remain amid the awesome scenery on his path across the top of the world.

He says: “I’m heading into the great unknown – where the going gets tougher. I’m going to show you places that are bleak and weird. I’ll introduce you to a culture that I just love. I’m following in the footsteps of the great explorers; and I’m going to have a laugh – on my Journey to the Edge of the World.

“I have a personal liking for the Arctic. I love the silence. And there is a breadth and a height to the Arctic that just has to be seen, felt and heard to be believed. It is the most extraordinary corner of the world, it’s every bit as dramatic as going deep into water. It’s every bit as foreign as that when you find yourself confronted with enormous space and a silence that you think you can hear. I like the people who live there and I like the world. I like the positive side of the world, I like to see the world chugging along the way it should be chugging along.”


This starts on Thursday - check the streaming tv section...
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy's on top of the world
Ian Wylie
February 19, 2009
Manchester Evening News

BILLY Connolly’s zest for life takes him on an epic adventure in his new TV series. “It’s a wonderful thing to show the world, that there is space, there is room,” says the Scottish comedian turned explorer. “People think we’re all living shoulder to shoulder and there’s no room and we’re eating all the food – it just simply isn’t the truth. The world is actually a rather beautiful place.”

Billy Connolly: Journey To The Edge Of The World (ITV1, tonight, 9pm) sees him travelling through the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He spent 10 weeks making the 10,000 mile trip from Nova Scotia by sea, road and air, also acting as our guide along the way. “I have a personal liking for the Arctic. I love the silence. And there is a breadth and height that just has to be seen, felt and heard to be believed. It is the most extraordinary corner of the world. It’s every bit as dramatic as going deep into water,” he explains.

The first of four films finds Billy in the Titanic graveyard. “There’s Jack Dawson in the movie. And there is a J. Dawson grave, but it’s actually Joseph Dawson, a stoker, coal shoveller. Now there is something wonderful about Joseph Dawson in death, becoming a hero. People visiting his grave, this completely forgotten man, because he’s become Leonardo DiCaprio and he has become a sort of dead sex symbol.” Billy was surprised to see tourists from cruise ships on tours of the graves. “You would think that was the last place on Earth you would take people on a cruise. It’s just bizarre in the extreme.”

He’s enjoyed travelling since he was a young boy. “I remember my first sojourn into England. It was the longest thing I’d ever done – Glasgow to Blackpool. I thought I was on the dark side of the moon. “As I got older, then I was in the Territorial Army and we went to Cyprus and Malta and Libya and I really got to like the look of the world. I travelled a lot during my hitchhiking, younger days and now, for a living, I’ve travelled all over the place and I do love it. I like the world itself, I like being in it.”

What about encountering bad weather on his journey? “My old fishing pal Jimmy Kemp said there is no such thing as bad weather. It’s only the wrong clothes. Bad weather, as it’s popularly known, can be spectacularly beautiful, it can do great things to your head, and your hair and your clothes and your voice. I wish the British weather forecasters would stop calling it bad weather because I am sure it has a profound psychological effect on the people.”

One of the highlights for Billy was flying a plane when iceberg spotting in Newfoundland. “I’ve sat with pilots before in aeroplanes and I’ve been in a glider with a guy but I’ve never flown an aeroplane before. I thought maybe he was working it with his feet, like a dual control car or something, but he took his feet away. He told me to give it a wee try at first, and give a wee left and a wee right. You may be familiar with George Simeon – the Belgian novelist. He used an expression that I use a lot. He used it in a love letter. He wrote, ‘I received your letter yesterday and I had a little party in my heart.’ And every now and again I have a wee party in my heart and that was in the plane. I wish I’d learned to fly when I was younger.”

He also enjoyed meeting many of the characters en route, including fishermen Bobby and Ralph. “They’re not made of leather and they don’t go around in yellow oil skins all day. They were men with big strong hands and they have great warmth and they are big softies. They take the big wooly pullover off when they come home and they are just another grandad. It’s just lovely finding the most ordinary of things, because I think within ordinariness there is beauty. Things don’t need to be extraordinary to be beautiful, there is a deep beauty within ordinariness and plainess and a lack of desire for rich and sparkliness."

“There is a great beauty that lies in peoples’ eyes and lies in their hearts and souls and it’s lovely to be part of it.”
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly: I’m addicted to shoes!
Mark Jefferies

Billy Connolly is so obsessed with shoes that he pines for them when he is on holiday. The Big Yin, 66, has revealed he owns more than 100 pairs of footwear. And he confessed: “I miss my shoes when I’m away because shoes are one of those things you don’t take many away with you. They’re cumbersome and heavy, so maybe you’ll take two pairs of shoes and sneakers and some sandals. But when I’m away I think, ‘I’ve got lots of shoes. I’ve got maybe 100 pairs or something like that in various places’.”

Billy is so hooked on footwear he even gets misty-eyed over one pair – despite losing them two decades ago. He said: “They were patent leather brogues with a leopard skin bit and were to die for. The leather was an oily, sort of change-colour thing, it was fabric and fur and regarded as pretty bad taste by most people. I adored them but someone stole them from my house when there was a party. That must have been 20 years ago and I still think about them.”

Billy – speaking as he filmed his ITV1 travel show – went on: “I still wonder where they are. I’ve never seen an equivalent pair. God, them shoes… there will be somebody walking about in my shoes.”

Tellingly, one of the comedian’s most famous jokes centres around footwear: “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that, who cares? He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!”


Shoes to die for? He's been in Hollywood too long!
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moir’ s Big Yin routine is one big yawn
There’s nothing funny about aping Billy Connolly
8th March 2009

There are 370 shows at the forthcoming Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival. At 369 of them, the performers will be following the two unwritten laws of comedy: find your own voice and write your own material. At one of them, a man in a black Spandex one-piece and “banana-fied” Ugg boots will perform a set “inspired by Billy Connolly’s classics”.

Gary Moir, a former winner of Stars in Their Eyes, makes much of the fact that he, like Connolly, is a failed welder from the Glasgow shipyards. Normally, this would qualify him for delivering Chinese meals or restocking the freezers in Asda, but not Moir. He had wearied, so his legend goes, of people telling him he was as funny as Billy Connolly. So shipbuilding’s loss would be comedy’s gain. But instead of becoming Gary Moir, hilarious individual performer who wears normal clothes and relies on his own imagination, he became the Big Yin, a Connolly tribute act.

He is not alone. There are a host of banjo-strumming, glottal-stopping faux Billys out there, appearing in the sticky-carpet clubs that Connolly played in at the start of his career. (They are also available for weddings, parties and corporate events, for people who imagine their big day would be improved by a singalong version of D-I-V-O-R-C-E.) Moir’s show has been a Glasgow Comedy Festival sell-out for the past three years; this time around, he is expected to fill the Barrowlands.

When Connolly started out, the Barrowlands was a dance hall. He played folk clubs and function rooms: his career-starting Billy Connolly Live! was recorded in the Tudor Hotel, Airdrie. Back then, Connolly was a fresh voice, an accent never heard before on Michael Parkinson’s BBC chat show.

He cheekily mixed up scatology and social observation with spoof songs. Among the mother-in-law gags of the 1970s, reimagining the Last Supper as a bar room rammy was bold and original. He swore like he was still working in the shipyard and made jokes about subjects — masturbation, flatulence, piles — that many of his audience would blush to discuss with their GP.

It was sensational and shocking, while being accessible in a way that the alternative comedians of the next decade never quite pulled off. But it is a product of its time and place: Connolly’s stand-up is a period piece, tied to a time when buses were orange, green and operated by the corporation. Neither Moir nor the other tribute acts on the circuit have adopted the purple beard or flowery shirts favoured by the latter-day Connolly. He has not sung In the Brownies, or worn the big banana boots that Moir copies in his stage costume for 30-odd years. The originals are where they belong — in a museum.

Unpleasant illnesses, evil families, problem drinking . . . the material that took Connolly’s audiences into wild, uncharted territory is now available back-to-back on television. The fabulous Glesca patter has been cleaned up and repackaged for telly, radio and in the acts of plenty of comedians who can stand up on stage without hiding behind somebody else’s hairstyle.

Connolly himself has run into difficulty dealing with contemporary events — there was a huge uproar in 2004 when, at the Hammersmith Apollo, he made a joke about the hostage Kenneth Bigley, who was soon to be beheaded in Iraq.

So the tribute acts such as Moir stay on safe comedy territory. He even borrows other comedians’ lines and puts them into his phoney Connolly mouth. Does his bum, he asks the audience, look big in his catsuit? It was Arabella Weir, not Connolly, who originally posed that question. He ploughs on regardless, with a charmless discussion of the size of other parts of his anatomy. It is about as daring as Kate Middleton’s dress sense and as challenging as an episode of Fireman Sam.

Of course, the audience that goes to see the Big Yin does not want to be taunted or challenged or made to feel uncomfortable. If they did, they would stay in and watch a Sarah Silverman DVD. They are going for nostalgia, for the values of the1970s wrapped up in a fancy-dress outfit. It’s not grown-up and it’s not very funny.


What a snide article from this harpie in London.

I'd not heard of Gary Moir before, but if he's expected to fill the Barrowlands then he must be very popular. It can hold a good 2000 or more. Anyway, the only time when comedians attack others is when they seem to have stolen material without giving credit - Connolly himself regularly told Chic Murray jokes as part of his sets.

The silly laaaahndan twat!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the wild frontier
Billy Connolly discovers there's moose loose aboot hid makeshift hoose in the Yukon
This is an edited extract from Journey To The Edge Of The World, by Billy Connolly, published by Headline

ONCE I had left the bumpy, gravelled Dempster Highway and was on a tarmac road called the Klondike Highway, I swapped the bouncing seat of a Mack truck for the leather recliner of a Harley-Davidson and cruised towards Whitehorse through the most incredible scenery, exploding with late-summer colour.

Some 23,000 of the 30,000 people who live in the Yukon live in and around the capital, Whitehorse. The rest of that Canadian territory (which is twice the size of Britain) is virtually empty, but for mountains, trees and loneliness - described so beautifully by Jack London in his book White Fang, which I read as a boy. Robert Service wrote well of this area, too. His parents were from Glasgow, which makes him Scottish - or at least he can play for Scotland, which is the main thing. God know, somebody should.

In one of his poems, Service used the line "a few of the lads chewing the fat", and I wonder if he was referring to the blubber the Inuit eat, because I've eaten some myself and can honestly say that I have chewed the fat. I'll give you a bit of advice about blubber: if you're going to eat some, have a really good mouthful and get into it; don't have little tiny bits because you'll think about it too much while you're doing it. Get a good mouthful and go for it. It's really nice but I can't see it catching on. I can't see British people saying to their children: "Come on now, stop complaining and eat your blubber. There are Eskimos starving in Greenland."

I felt pretty cool driving across part of the Yukon territory on my Harley, until I met a bunch of bikers riding all the way from Fairfax, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago right at the tip of South America near Cape Horn. They'll be a bit stiff in the arse when they get there. They'll be walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I, meanwhile, was dressed in my Kevlar "insurance trousers" in case I felt off and hurt myself.

If I was to say, "Hand me my leathers, chaps, I'm going out on my Harley", that would be quite romantic, but the phrase "insurance trousers" yearns for the word "nurse" before it, as in: "Nurse, My insurance trousers. Quickly, I feel an accident coming on!"

Making my way deeper into the wilderness, I met up with Shawn Ryan, a modern-day claim-staker who is taking advantage of the fact that a huge percentage of the Yukon is still unclaimed for mineral prospecting. Camping overnight with him and his fellow claim-stakers, I learned exactly how today's prospectors hunt for gold, copper, zinc, silver and whatever else they can find.

We sat around the campfire that night like gold prospectors from the old times. That was where the romance of it ended for me, though. My hands and feet were freezing, my shins were hot from the fire, I was stiff from being on the motorbike and all those men could talk about were bears and bear attacks.

When I eventually crawled to my tent, I had the worst imaginable night. I was convinced there was a bear somewhere nearby, so I never slept a bloody wink. I had my cayenne pepper aerosol spray beside me in case a 300lb grizzly came crashing in, but I knew that would be like throwing meringues at a brick wall.

When somebody started snoring in a nearby tent, I really thought it was a bloody bear. I actually considered going to sleep in one of the vehicles because, I thought, bears can't open car doors. Then I remembered something I'd seen on YouTube where a bear made a pretty damn good job of it. After that, I lay shaking in my sleeping bag, worried that I couldn't get out of it quickly enough if a bear came, or that if I didn't, the bear would think I was a giant caterpillar.

Shawn showed me his bear-banger the next morning, which he said kids love to set off like Chinese crackers. It was great fun, loading this thing that looked like a ballpoint pen with a cartridge, and flicking the end with my thumb.

It made this great cracking noise and then shot into the air for 30 feet before exploding with a bang like a gunshot. The trouble is, it only really works if the bear is 30 or 40 feet away and not bothering you. If the bear was intent on getting you, it wouldn't be any good at all, unless it accidentally got up his nose or something. I wondered if there was a city version for thugs and muggers.

At a place called Ice Lakes, I went moose hunting with the unlikely sounding Romeo le Duke, complete with Stetson, and Carolee Bateson-Koch, who was dressed in full camouflage gear. Carolee and Romeo? They sounded to me less like hunters than lovers or the subject of a Bob Dylan song. I could write it myself. Whenever they kill a moose or caribou, it is sliced up and taken back to Whitehorse and divided among their friends, just like the Inuit do. That is so much better than the way some others kill things and just leave them, or can't even remember what happened to them.

We trailed up through the vibrant heather, ferns and brush into the hills above Ice Lakes carrying a decoy moose which is known as the "blind". Nothing more than a photograph of a moose stamped onto a flapping piece of canvas fixed to a lighweight wooden frame, the decoy, apparently, looked like a cow (a female) moose. It was mating season and we were hoping to attract a bull. Romeo told me that a moose will never be more than half a mile from water, so we stayed close to the lake. Carolee told me to spray some scent on the rear of the decoy - its rear, not mine, she stressed. I think it was Eau de Female on Heat. Ah, moose scent. I thought about spraying a little behind my ears when I next went out of an evening in Dawson. It could give me that special allure. Then I prayed I didn't actually get any on me or a moose might come crashing through the undergrowth and give me one. I wasn't prepared for that kind of action. My mother didn't raise no moose.

Romeo also had his rifle with him in case of wolves or grizzly bears. He told me a bear will sneak up to a moose and with just one swipe of its huge paw can break its neck. He personally knew five people who'd been mauled by grizzlies, including one who should have died because his skull was caved in.

At that point, I wanted to go home. Carolee had brought a crossbow with sights to shoot at a moose. Peering down the sights of her crossbow, she told me that unless she aims for the heart or the lungs of a target, an injured animal can run for miles, making it almost impossible to catch. "If you hit him good, he'll run about 20 yards. He won't go very far and collapse - usually within 30 seconds." With the decoy in place and Carolee in a purpose-build canvas hide, Romeo began his special moose call - not with a horn but using his voice. It was a kind of low mooing. Indian food can bring out the same noises in me.

Twice, we thought we heard an answer but there was no action. I told him I didn't think his call was sexy enough. Whether is was that, or the fact of me being there, I don't know, but we never attracted a single moose - something I was secretly delighted about, although I would have loved to see one up close and personal. As consolation, Romeo showed me a beaver house, beautifully made and insulated with sticks and moss. I'd never seen one of those before and it was brilliant, especially the fact that the beaver changes the world around him, damming the river to enable him to survive the winter.

Romeo also showed me the bleached remains of a caribou that a wolf had eaten. We spotted some moose tracks, but that was the closest we got, so we had fried eggs instead and, eventually, went off into the sunset.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jobbies, willies and bums
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The comments are worth checking - 'that's it, my ticket's going on ebay!'. Glasgow, Europe's most intolerant city!
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can Billy Connolly still stand up and be counted?
As the Big Yin gears up for a sell-out tour of Scotland, Barry Didcock asks five comedians if his homecoming will be a triumph or a tragedy.
14 Sep 2009

Billy Connolly won’t be on a Hollywood film set next weekend. He won’t be on a US chat show or an aeroplane or on the VIP list for some starry showbiz do. Instead, he’ll be on a Scottish stage holding a microphone, with only his reputation and his still-nimble comedy brain for protection. A sell-out tour starts on Saturday at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and goes to Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth before arriving in Glasgow for a 10-night run at the Clyde Auditorium in October. It will be Connolly’s longest stretch of gigs in his hometown since a 12-night stand at the Glasgow Apollo in the mid-1970s.

In this so-called year of Homecoming, the 66-year-old’s return should be a triumph. But Scottish stages can be creaky, draughty, unpredictable places even for those who know them well. The former welder from Anderston’s audience will be made up mostly of fans and friends, but there will be a fair few sceptics, too. Can he still cut it in front of his ain folk? Has he got too big for his banana boots? Is he still our king of comedy? All this they will ask, and more.

For broadcaster and humourist Tam Cowan, the answer is simple: Connolly rules not just the land beyond the Tweed, but the entire world. “I’m firmly of the belief that he’s the ­funniest man on the planet,” he says. “He was the first comedian who really made us laugh in Scottish, and the best. He was certainly the first comedian who spoke directly to me and my pals, the first one who laughed at the same things we would laugh at but could never be as funny about.”

The way Cowan tells it, discovering Connolly was an epiphany. “I was sitting in front of an electric fire with my mum and dad in 1985 watching An Audience With Billy Connolly. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. In fact, I watched it again the other night on DVD and it was still very funny.” It was, he adds, “a defining moment”.

That film – shot at the Albert Hall for London Weekend Television and subsequently released as a video – also gave Still Game star Sanjeev Kohli his entry into the world of the Big Yin. Until then it was his father, a first-generation Sikh immigrant, who had been the Connolly fan. “We had one of his albums in the house but I remember always being quite scared of it,” Kohli laughs. But seeing Connolly in action changed all that. And what struck him most forcefully, apart from the fact the man was liver-achingly funny, was the ability of his humour to appeal to Scots of all colours and backgrounds. In Kohli’s future career, Connolly became a yardstick of sorts. It’s no surprise that he’s paid well over the odds for a ticket to see the man himself in October. “I used to write for the sitcom Goodness Gracious Me and I remember writing something and wondering if it was really funny or whether it was just an Asian thing,” Kohli says. “Then I’d think ‘Billy Connolly wouldn’t care. If he found it funny he’d just say it’.”

But it’s in the stand-up clubs and on the theatre stages where comedy is performed that Connolly’s influence and legacy should be most palpable. Connolly knows it, too. Everyone agrees that he doesn’t need the money so the only reason for the tour can be some other impulse: the need to prove himself in the only crucible that really counts.

Any Scottish stand-up, wherever they are in the world, is judged against him, and if they’re from Glasgow that scrutiny is even greater. The upside is that Connolly’s reputation means being Scottish gives comedians a head start. It’s as if the world thinks humour is in our DNA.

At 22, Glaswegian comic Kevin Bridges wasn’t even born when Kohli and Cowan first sat down to watch An Audience With Billy Connolly. But he’s as much a child of the Big Yin as they are and, like Kohli, he’ll be in the audience when Connolly rolls into town. Last month, Bridges was nominated in the Best Newcomer category at the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Awards, the modern incarnation of what used to be the Perrier Awards. This month he’s working with Jack Dee on a sitcom pilot for ITV. In short, he’s a Scottish comedian who’s going places.

That’s true in more ways than one. Bridges travels widely on the stand-up circuit but wherever he is, Glasgow’s never far from his act – and Connolly’s never far from him. As a child, his family would spend Christmas night crowded round watching old videos of Connolly performances. Bridges didn’t get all the jokes – the rhythm method is just another way of making a din to an eight-year-old – but he found the swearing funny. Today, he has Connolly’s famously controversial skit The Crucifixion on his iPod and still listens to it regularly.

“In my opinion, he basically invented stand-up,” he says. “He blazed the trail for everybody else so I’m definitely grateful to him for that. I don’t think anyone will ever live up to him. He’s done so much.” Like Cowan, Bridges thinks Connolly’s influence goes way beyond the country of his birth – and not just because he played Billy Bones in Muppet Treasure Island. “Actually I think pigeon-holing him as a Scottish comedian cheapens him because so many other comedians have been influenced by him. There’s people all over the world whose first exposure to stand-up was Billy Connolly, though obviously we’ve got that personal connection to him as well because he’s Scottish.”

So no Billy Connolly, no Kevin Bridges perhaps. And, quite possibly, no Stand Comedy Club either according to the legendary Glasgow venue’s founder and director, Tommy Shepherd. “It was through Connolly that I developed an interest in comedy,” he says. “I went to London in the early 1980s and got involved in the alternative comedy scene there. So if he hadn’t been there, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up here.”

For Shepherd, a young man growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in the 1970s, Connolly’s humour was taboo-breaking and risque. “I remember the gag about the Glasgow guys in Rome who ask the barman what the Pope drinks,” he says, recalling a favourite Connolly routine. (Set-up: the men are told the Holy Father likes a crème de menthe from time to time so they order a pint each. Punchline: “Christ, nae wonder they carry him aboot in a chair”.) “What Connolly was doing was actually making irreverence legitimate,” says Shepherd. “Obviously people told those sorts of gags in the pub, but to actually get it into mainstream broadcasting and the mass media was something altogether new. He was a trendsetter.”

Shepherd thinks you can either view Connolly as the original alternative comic – the precursor to punk-era Comedy Store names like Rik Mayal and Ben Elton – or the bridge between them and the gag men of the cabaret circuit who wore suits and told mother-in-law jokes. Either way, British comedy can be split into the pre-Billy and post-Billy periods. With a reputation like that, it’s no surprise Connolly has sold every seat on his Scottish tour.

But how will the shows go down with audiences and what will be in them? Will it be new material or a riff on the greatest hits? After all, topicality hasn’t always been kind to Connolly. He was booed in October 2004 during a show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London when he made an off-colour joke about Iraq hostage Ken Bigley. The bad press got worse when Bigley was murdered by his captors just a few days later.

Of course saying the unsayable is the job of the comic, so if the Bigley debacle proves anything it’s that Connolly isn’t quite the establishment figure he’s sometimes taken for – the man who hangs out with royals, who turns up to Highland Games at his Aberdeenshire home looking like some latter-day laird, who churns out mainstream TV series for the BBC.

It’s delicious, then, to think we might soon be hearing him pronounce on the MPs expenses scandal, the Megrahi case or – a new spin on another old favourite – the return of football violence. Shepherd, for one, thinks Connolly can do all that and still cut it on the stage. He could probably even handle the “intimate” atmosphere of the Stand, he thinks.

“It’s been a while since he had to do the close-up interaction which is one of the greatest skills a stand-up needs in a small room. You have to be able to play off people and you lose that in a big theatre. But he’s got enough about him and his style is such that he would be absolutely at home in the Stand Comedy Club. And if he were ever to want to play here we would be delighted to welcome him.”

But Scotland’s Connolly love-in isn’t without its dissenting voices. There are those who knock him – “I can never quite fathom that,” says Cowan. “I think we should be grateful the funniest man on the planet was produced here” – and others who question both his legacy to Scottish comedy and his place in the pantheon of comedy greats.

Among them is AL Kennedy who, as well as being an award-winning novelist, is a stand-up of some note. She is both practitioner of comedy and student of it. She’s seen Connolly live twice – one great gig, one bad one due mostly to an audience of “bastards”, as she puts it – but though she admires him hugely she can’t bring herself to count him one of the godheads of comedy.

“He’s not going to be an international comedy icon because he’s not black or working class in that really destitute sort of way,” she says. “If you want that, Richard Pryor always wins. And if you want the crucified man who always speaks the truth, Lenny Bruce always wins, or Bill Hicks always wins.”

Connolly certainly put Scotland on the comedy map, though, and Kennedy sees his emergence in the early 1970s as coming against a background of growing cultural confidence in the country.

The painter and playwright John Byrne, Connolly’s friend and the man who designed the famous banana boots, was about to embark on his Slab Boys dramas. Theatre company 7:84 Scotland was mounting seminal productions like The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil.

Meanwhile, film-makers like Bill Douglas (My Childhood, 1972, My Ain Folk, 1973, and My Way Home, 1978) were returning home to turn their cameras inwards. Connolly fed into that movement but for Kennedy he will always be a tributary, never the source.

“People who are into comedy are very comedy literate and, to be truthful, what he was doing in the 1970s wasn’t remarkable,” she says. “What was unique was that he was Scottish and he was being allowed to do it across Britain. But his material and what he was doing with it wasn’t.”

As for his legacy, even that has its problems. Connolly showed there was great comedy beyond the Cambridge Footlights. He showed that you could be funny in a Scottish accent, even if BBC producers found it hard to follow and didn’t always get the jokes. But in breaking one mould, it seems, he inadvertently fashioned another.

“The hangover [from Connolly’s success] is that only working class men can be funny, which is not something he ever said and it’s not something he ever implied,” says Kennedy. “But that’s the default setting now and that’s not great for Scottish comedy. Perhaps it’s because the audiences are mostly made up of working class men – or men who used to be working class and who now feel a bit uncomfortable about wearing a suit.”

That is changing, she says, but only slowly. Whether a sell-out tour by Glasgow’s returning hero will speed up the pace of that change or slow it down is anyone’s guess. And while there will be one or two among Connolly’s audience who fancy themselves his heir apparent, the king will be desperate to return home with his crown still in place. As they say, it’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy.

Billy Connolly Live is at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh (September 19-September 23, not September 21), Aberdeen Music Hall (September 25), Dundee Caird Hall (September 26), Perth Concert Hall (September 2Cool and opens a 10-night run at Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium on October 1 (until October 12)
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly claims British comedy is 'too censored'
27th January 2010

Billy Connolly has spoken out against censorship, complaining that comedians who swear on stage are unfairly branded "vulgarian and foul mouthed". The star, who is currently performing a string of stand-up dates at London's Hammersmith Apollo, said comedy was not about causing offence to people.

"I don't offend, that's not my job. My job is to make people laugh," he said. The 67-year-old added: "There's a lot of deep and desperate unfairness been going on."

The BBC was recently criticised over several jokes on the comedy news quiz Mock the Week and Jonathan Ross was accused of homophobia after joking, on his Radio 2 show, that parents should put sons who ask for a Hannah Montana MP3 player up for adoption. Connolly himself is no stranger to controversy, after he was criticised in 2004 for making a joke about British hostage Kenneth Bigley - prior to his murder in Iraq - on stage. He has always maintained he was misquoted over the content of the joke.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live from Tuesday's South Bank Awards, he said: "I think it was (US comedian) George Carlin who said, 'the job of a comedian is to know where the line is and to step over it. We will dictate where that line is and where it should be. If you swear in a book, you're some kind of clever guy, if you swear in a poem, oh how dangerous he is, you swear in a song - oh my God, what a groundbreaker! You swear as a comedian, and you're a vulgarian and foul mouthed. When did this happen? Who's doing the judging?"
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Talking to the Big Yin: An Interview with Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly has been bringing laughter to audiences on stage and on film since the 1960s - the Scottish comedian got his start as a musician and quickly found that his knack for on-stage banter suited him better for comedy than for music. He's been touring, recording comedy, and acting since then. Many people in the United States are familiar with him from his role as "Il Duce" in Boondock Saints and Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day or his turn as a pedophile Catholic priest in the The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Connolly's known as the "The Big Yin" in Scotland. He's one of Britain's favorite comics — during a 2009 tour of Scotland, the ticket demand broke the theater's computer system. Loved by critics and audiences, and hailed as an influence by comics like Eddie Izzard, Connolly is one of the funniest comics to come across the Atlantic. We spoke to Connolly in advance of his appearance at the Bagley Wright Theatre March 12 and 13.

So you're coming off a four-week set in London directly to Seattle?
Yeah, it's my first gig.

It seems like, among younger people in the US especially, there are two groups of Billy Connolly fans -- diehard fans of your comedy, and people who are more familiar with your film career. Do you find that Americans respond to your comedy different than British audiences?
No, they don't. They respond exactly the same. Except, as you say, a lot of them don't know that I'm a comedian -- they think I'm an actor first, which is kind of a problem. And there's another section of society that thinks I'm John Cleese, which is very weird. I've never seen anyone less like John Cleese in my life!

When you started touring the US, were you ever worried about being "too Scottish" for American audiences?
No, I don't care about that. It doesn't matter where you come from. You could come from the bayou of Louisiana, and after five minutes, you'd get the comedy. The ear tunes in. And if the audience isn't getting it, you an explain it to them. That's another great aspect of being different: You can explain things, describe things to the audience, and that becomes funny in itself - the process of explaining what you're talking about.

Are there any comedians working today whom you look at and think "Wow. He's got it, he's got an energy I admire."
I don't think I've ever seen a comedian I didn't like. I like them as a breed. They're a good breed of people, comedians you know? I don't think of "good" and "bad" comedians. Some comedians have bad nights, but I don't believe there's such a thing as a bad comedian. I have favorites: I love Robin Williams. I think he's just amazing. I don't know all the names! I've seen loads of them. There's an Irishman called Tommy Tiernan, do you know him? He's very good. And I like Eddie Izzard.

He's expressed a lot of admiration for you as well.
It's very pleasant when he does that. Nothing nicer than adoration, actually. (Laughs). Nothing nicer than praise from your pears. It's the only thing that matters. The rest is kind of bullshit. Although a fan phoned up in London with a tattoo of me on his stomach, which to me was the ultimate adulation. He got me to sign it, and he was going the following day to have that tattooed.

Was it your face?
It was my face! It was an album sleeve I had done about 20,30 years ago for an album called The Pick of Billy Connolly, where i had my finger up my nose. He had it tattooed on the left side of his stomach just above his waist. I thought "holy shit"! Because of my roles in Boondock Saints, there's a lot of Boondock tattoos, but they're mostly of the two boys.

You really seem to be having fun on stage. Some performers you get the idea that what they're doing is just a job, that it's work. It's work they enjoy, but it's still mainly a job. You actually laugh at your own jokes. How do you keep it fresh for yourself after multiple decades of tours?
By trying to remember it all!

Do you prepare material, or is it all off the cuff?
It's off the cuff. I have a skeleton. You can't do it all off the cuff, because some nights, there's nothing there, and you have to have something. I have a skeleton of show that I embroider around, that's how I've always done it.

Is there a mindset you have to put yourself into in order to do things off the cuff? How do you prepare for a show?
It happens in the dressing room, when I change into my clothes.

And what's the mental process you go through to get to the energy you want to bring to the crowd?
I would describe it as cold panic, even now. It's one of those cosmic little things that everyone has and always will have.

You started off playing the banjo - could you talk about how you went from being a musician to being a comedian?
Yeah, I played a banjo in a band. Then I joined up with a guy called Jerry Rafferty, and we formed a band called the Humblebums. He was a very good songwriter, and I was the banjo player. We would go on stage, and I was funny, and over time I got funnier and funnier, and eventually it become very obvious what my calling was, so I went on to do comedy without him or my banjo. And because of that start, I've never performed in a comedy club in my life.

Do you remember what it was like your first night on the stage without a banjo in front of you?
Yes, I was sort of weak in the knees.

How has your comedy evolved since then? Do you find that audience's sensibilities and sophistication has changed? Are there things you used to do that aren't as shocking or surprising as they once were?
Absolutely. As the years go by, less and less becomes shocking, and the world becomes healthier and healthier. It's not that you won't do the same thing anymore, it's that you do it more casually.

When I started out in comedy, comedians seemed very racist. I wasn't, but every comedian out there was. All these guys in blue mohair suits were really racist, and they were shocked and horrified at me for talking about masturbation!
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are quite a few official newspaper articles about Billy appearing in Boston, but this blog was the only one with an actual interview. Well done to them...
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy Connolly sculpture commissioned for Glasgow flats
28 June 2010

A sculpture of Glasgow comedian Billy Connolly is to take pride of place at a new housing development in the city. The steel structure, expected to cost up to £50,000, will be suspended 40ft in the air at the gable end of a block of flats in the Anderston area.

Housing charity, Sanctuary Scotland, has commissioned artist Andy Scott to deliver the sculpture in spring 2011. His other notable public artworks include the M8 Heavy Horse and Falkirk Helix Water Kelpies.

Sanctuary Scotland chose to commission the sculpture of Billy Connolly as he was a former resident in the Anderston area. The comedian has agreed to let his image be used subject to seeing the final design.

The finished sculpture, showing Connolly with his banjo, will be used in phase one of the five-phase development which will see the creation of 430 new homes in the area. When it is hoisted in to place, it will overlook the Clydeside Expressway - close to the shipyards where the comedian once worked as a welder.

Director Gordon Laurie said: "Sanctuary Scotland believes regeneration involves more than just homes and this public art of such a popular local figure is an exciting feature of our Anderston development. In consultation with local residents, we will be developing further proposals for public art during later phases of the project. We are looking forward to seeing our visions turned into reality."


This is just down the road from me, so I'll keep my eye out and get some photos.
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