Big Yin, Big Yang.

It’s hard to know where to start with Billy Connolly whose birthday is today. Maybe that’s kind of fitting. His biography, Billy, opens with him about to go on stage. He confesses to his wife that he has no idea what he’s going to say and she realizes “He’s not bluffing”. He’s said in at least one interview, “I don’t know the first thing about comedy. I’m just glad to be there when it happens.” This is a guy who started out as a folk singer and one night he confessed he couldn’t remember the tune he was going to sing so instead he told the story. That got huge laughs and launched the career of one of the world’s most amazing comedians. And I’ll just mention the biography Billy again which is by his wife Pamela Stephenson and it’s not, as I expected, a fluff piece that would be more about her than him. I didn’t realize she’s a trained psychologist and author, which is at least partly why her biography is a serious study tracing Connolly’s family origins back a few generations.

Maybe I should start with when I was in college. One night a friend of mine came to my room and said, “You’ve gotta see this guy.” He popped in a tape of Connolly’s HBO special and soon we were laughing so hard people from down the hall were coming in to tell us to be quiet. Then they stayed and the laughter got louder and eventually I had three hundred people packed into my room gathered around the television and every laugh sent ripples through the room like we were a giant blob of Jell-O. Bits from that became part of our daily conversations. Being college students getting drunk and throwing up was part of our regular routine and thanks to Connolly queries about diced carrots and tomato skins became an indispensable part of that routine.

Here’s part of that show.

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  1. Ann Koplow

    I’ll start with this: I’ll be spending more time with Billy Connolly, thanks to you.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I hope you have fun with him.
      Something I didn’t need to start with but wish I’d included is that with his wife’s help he’s been clean and sober for many years after serious problems with drugs and alcohol and he’s still just as funny as he ever was. I know some performers worry that cleaning up their act, so to speak, will affect their performances. He’s shown how baseless that fear is, and getting clean has meant he’s been around longer.

  2. Sandra

    I saw Billy Connolly live about 25 years ago. I had gone with a friend, and I remember with laughed so hard, we were on the floor…literally on the dirty theatre floor trying to catch our breaths. Thank you for reminding me of this terrific memory. And I’m with Ann, I’ll be Youtubing his comedy acts, and his wife’s book sounds very interesting.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I can’t tell you how much I envy you having seen him live. That must have been quite an experience. I’ve heard him tell the story of how he once performed for a few hours then looked at a clock offstage and saw it was about 11:30pm. He asked the audience if they’d be willing to stick with him until after midnight. Of course they agreed so his performance actually spanned two days.
      And I can believe he had enough material to keep going.


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