Billy Connolly on his Parkinson's diagnosis and what he would do as PM
PUBLISHED: 15:24 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:00 20 August 2019
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Louisa Baldwin spoke to acclaimed comic Billy Connolly ahead of the release of a new film documenting his final tour coming to cinemas.
Billy Connolly: The Sex Life of Bandages will be shown on October 10 at select cinemas across the UK for one night only and features a show from the Australian leg of his last ever stand-up tour in 2015.
The film will also feature an interview with the Scotsman, previously voted the best stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, as he talks about his life and legacy in a deeply personal interview.
Billy, who was born in Glasgow, had an unconventional start to his comedy career as he noticed the reaction he got for his jokes whilst on stage in folk band The Humblebums.
He then began to make a name for himself performing at venues across Scotland, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and after he appeared on Parkinson in 1975 his life was changed forever.
He has also had a successful film career in films such as Mrs Brown, alongside Judi Dench, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Indecent Proposal and was made a CBE for services to entertainment in 2003.
Life took a turn for Billy in 2013 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease but, although he is no longer able to tour, he still finds plenty of reasons to laugh.
Ahead of the film release, Billy Connolly talks about the buzz of performing on stage, dealing with his Parkinson's diagnosis and what he would do as prime minister.
What can audiences expect from The Sex Life of Bandages?
It is the recording of my last stand-up tour and I tell stories and have a laugh.
What is the secret to such a long career in comedy and what does it feel like for you going on stage?
There is no secret it is just about having no other ideas of what to do and it is what I like.
It is nerve-wracking as I step up to the microphone but the nerves go away as soon as I start - the audience has nothing to be nervous about and they want you to be good and funny.
There is a constant stream of change in my performance and you won't see me the same.
Where do you take inspiration for your comedy?
All over the place, newspapers, TV, radio and the things people say - it all becomes ammunition.
Your new film features an interview about your life and legacy - how would you want to be remembered?
Nothing more, nothing less than good fun.
Was it a shock when you first got your diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease in 2013 - how did you come to terms with it?
It was bewildering. I was in a hotel lobby in LA and there was an Australian doctor who was staying there too that was there with a dance troupe and knew who I was and he called me aside one night and said he had been watching the way I walked and suspected I had Parkinson's Disease.
I went to see a doctor who confirmed it and it was strange getting the diagnosis, it was like being told you have cancer as you don't know what to do and it is such a big statement.
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You need to get used to it and realise it is forever and it has definitely affected my movement on stage as I have to stay in one position instead of moving around.
Despite you're diagnosis, you refuse to let it beat you - how do you manage to keep a positive attitude?
It is quite difficult and I had to work at it to see the good side of things but my life was like that before Parkinson's Disease.
You recently head to the US to film Billy Connolly's Great American Trail following the route Scottish immigrants took in the 18th century - what was that like?
I'm doing the voiceovers at the moment and the experience was brilliant and it was really nice travelling around places I've never been before such as Virginia.
I met interesting people along the way and my favourite interview was with a witch in Massachusetts.
You started out as a folk singer but how did you get your big break in comedy?
When I would do comedy at my music shows it would always get a great reaction which was better than my songs.
I built up my comedy career slowly then the Michael Parkinson show launched me and it changed overnight and I have sold out every show since.
How did you then make the transition into film - what has been your favourite role to play and why?
My first role was in Absolution with Richard Burton and I was asked to do it by the director - I don't know what he saw in me.
My favourite film to do was Mrs Brown with Judi Dench as to act with her was extraordinary and it was lovely as I had the chance to act properly.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been so many highlights so it is difficult to say but I did the London Palladium once and it was extraordinary as they had to lower the fire curtain as they thought the audience would fill the stage.
Throughout your career you've been vocal with your political opinions, if you were prime minister what would be the first thing you would do?
Hold another referendum on Brexit as people were conned by the first one, that is all and then I would retire.
Finally, why should people book tickets to see the film?
Because it is excellent good fun and will cheer you up and take your mind off Brexit.
Billy Connolly: The Sex Life of Bandages will be shown on Thursday, October 10 at Empire Ipswich, Cineworld Ipswich, Norwich Cinema City, Vue Norwich and Odeon Norwich and you can purchase tickets at billyincinemas.com