Honours List: How Sir Billy Connolly finally joined the establishment

Billy ConnollyBilly Connolly
Billy Connolly
Not much was off-limits to Billy Connolly, and certainly not his own health.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he chose to mock his symptoms on stage by playing Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On.

A generation earlier, it was his audiences that had been shaking, at the sheer outrageousness of his expletive-laden comedy. In an age when comics still dressed up to go on stage, he dressed down. He told stories, not jokes, and brought a folk music sensibility, not to mention a hard Glaswegian edge, to his humour.

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It was an act that set the scene for the generation of alternative comics that followed, and nearly all cited him as an influence. Peter Kay described seeing Connolly perform as his “comedy epiphany”, comparable to seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Connolly, who also enjoyed a late-flowering career as a movie star, had in 2010 been given the highest honour Glasgow could bestow upon him - the Freedom of the city.

He disclosed in 2013 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and prostate cancer on the same day, but has since been given the all-clear from cancer.