Billy Connolly hasn’t been doing a lot of interviews, so when a story came out via Michael Parkinson saying that his Connolly’s Parkinsons Disease had taken a serious turn for the worse, fans assumed the worst. But the legendary stand up comedian is now saying that those reports of his serious decline and that the disease had dulled his brain were greatly exaggerated.
He expressed sadness over the false reports of his demise, saying he doesn’t like people to feel sorry for him. “[Michael Parkinson] thought I’d lost track, mentally, but I never remember what year anything was,” Connolly said in the interview with the Radio Times. “I haven’t a clue. I’ve always been about going forward, not the past. Plus, we were doing the GQ event, I was Inspiration of the Year, and I blew everybody away. He should have remembered that …”
And he proved it with sharp commentary about political issues, including Brexit and Donald Trump whose rise he called Hitlerian lie-telling. “His rise is part of an international thing,” Connolly said. “It’s happening everywhere. I think it’s called fascism. They can call it white nationalism if they like, or alt-right, but it’s that Hitlerian lie-telling.”
So that’s the good news.
There’s bad news too, Billy says he is retiring from touring stand up comedy. So those of you who never had the privilege of watching Connolly deliver one of his trademark, hilarious, part stream of consciousness stand up shows while absolutely holding the room in the palm of his hand, you won’t get a chance. And it’s a shame because he is a masterful performer.
He told the Radio Times in an interview: “I won’t ever tour again.” He blames the “rigmarole of getting around,” for his decision. “I’ve had 50 years as a professional, that’ll do me. I kind of miss it, but I get enough chances to talk to people and be funny.”
Connolly revealed that he had been diagnosed with Parksinson’s Disease and prostate cancer in 2013. Now five years later at 76, he says his illness is manageable, and he’s even given up using medical marijuana to manage symptoms because he didn’t like feeling “bombed out” all of the time.
Now living in Florida with his wife Pamela Stephenson where he’s still performing- even if its not strictly stand up. He’s continuing to deliver his now famous travelogues with a new addition to Billy Connolly’s Ultimate World Tour. It’s a guided tour of Florida with a side dish of looking back at his many worldwide travels over the course of 25 years. It’s an less likely locale for Connolly who has seen some truly magical places, but if anyone can find the gems in the United States most maligned state, its Connolly. Touring through the state in his convertible classic car, fishing on the salt flats, tasting weird and wonderful food in the bars and restaurants, tracking crocodiles, sailing out on the Everglades and sampling the unique culture in Miami, while remembering some highlights from tours to countries including Scotland, Canada and Australia.
“It was exactly 25 years ago that I found myself taking the cameras out of the theatres and into the world. It’s a journey that’s taken me to far flung places and offered up once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I’m still discovering thrilling new stuff around every corner now I’ve pitched up in Florida.” In the trailer for the special he says he would like to die in his native Scotland by the shores of Loch Lomond.
The special is produced by Indigo for ITV, and it looks terrific, but we’re still hoping he changes his mind. Who wouldn’t want to see Connolly take the stage one more time?