Billy Connolly: I mock symptoms of my Parkinson's disease during performances
He said he carries on in spite of it.
Billy Connolly has said he doesn’t pay much attention to his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease while he is performing, and chooses to mock his symptoms by playing Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On.
The Scottish comedian was diagnosed with the degenerative disease three years ago but said he continues to do his shows in spite of it.
In an ITV documentary celebrating his career, he said: “The doctor said to me ‘You realise this isn’t curable?’ and I thought ‘What a rotten thing to say to somebody’.
“I always thought he should have said ‘You realise we are yet to find a cure?’, to put a little light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
He added: “When I’m in front of people performing I don’t give it much attention, I perform in spite of it. That’s why I put on Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, just to do that (swearing) to it.”
In the programme Billy Connolly And Me: A Celebration, Billy’s famous fans – including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Elton John, Peter Kay and Sir Andy Murray paid tribute to him.
The Thick Of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci thanked Billy for introducing him to “establishment hypocrisy” after the Catholic primary school they both went to welcomed Billy back with open arms once he became famous after initially saying it was “mortal sin” to listen to his comedy albums.
Armando recalled: “I was there when he came back and the headmistress got all the teachers round and they all loved him. He was very funny.
“I remember thinking ‘hang on a minute, a month ago you told us it was sinful’. Thank you Billy for introducing me to establishment hypocrisy for the very first time.”
Billy, 74, recalled: “They had taken me out of the register, I was a non-person, I was purged from the records. That was a school where the first thing you would see was a crucifix with Jesus hanging on it, God’s dead and it’s your fault.”
Peter described seeing Billy perform as his “comedy epiphany” comparable to musicians seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
He said: “We were all sat in the front room and we were just in hysterics laughing and my dad crawling around on his hands and knees laughing. It was a huge moment for me.
“I don’t think there isn’t a comedian in the world that hasn’t learned something from him.”
Dame Judi, who starred opposite Billy in Mrs Brown, said his jokes would stop her from getting enough sleep while they were making the movie.
She told the show: “I just remember glancing at my watch, thinking ‘I’ve got a call at 5:30/6 in the morning, can I really do this with eight hours sleep? Six hours sleep? Four hours sleep?”
Other stars who shared their memories included Eric Idle, David Tennant and Connolly’s wife Pamela Stephenson, while fans from Scotland to Qatar told of how he changed their lives.
One fan revealed she delivered her second child to his comedy recordings, while another said he made him proud of his disability and others said his travelogues encouraged them to explore the world.
Fans watching the documentary at home were quick to lavish praise on Billy.
However, some said the programme felt a little premature: