Sir Billy Connolly: ‘I’ll never give up live performance’

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Sir Billy Connolly has said he will “never give up live performance” despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The Scottish comedian, 80, received the diagnosis 10 years ago on the same day he found out he had prostate cancer.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he admitted he still missed the feeling of sharing his stories with an audience.

“[It has] the ability to cheer myself up, and I love it,” he said.

Sir Billy, who has received the all clear on cancer, says he has given up touring but “may at some future time” be talked into appearing on stage again.

The star announced his retirement from comedy in 2018 and has focused on establishing himself as an artist in the years since.

He described how Parkinson’s has “radically” changed his life.

The disease causes unintended or uncontrollable movements such as shaking and can cause difficulty co-ordination, and Sir Billy has had a “couple of serious falls” as his balance deteriorates.

“I walk with a stick and at airports I have to get the wheelchair,” he said. “I hate being dependent to that degree and I feel sorry for other people who are in wheelchairs and who have it worse than me.”

‘I’m fed up with it’

The comedian said he relies on his wife, Pamela Stephenson, to put his clothes on in the morning.

“I’m clumsy and I lose my balance. I’m out of balance a lot and I fall. I’m fed up with it.

“I think I have a good attitude to it. I say to the disease ‘I’ll give you a break if you give me a break’.

“We’re nice to each other,” he added.


Image caption,

Sir Billy Connolly pictured with his art earlier this year

Sir Billy. who last year received the Bafta Fellowship for lifetime achievement, is currently promoting his new book, Rambling Man: My Life on the Road.

He said he now struggles with memory loss and had sometimes forgotten “the name of one of my dogs” while out for a walk.

“It’s really awkward when you’re shouting,” he explained. “You have to say, ‘Hey doggy doggy’, which is terrible.

“I felt embarrassed for the dog. You could tell it knew.”

One of his favourite pastimes is drawing, and he tries not to let hid condition “spoil it”.

“I shake a bit. I don’t shake every day, all the time. But for about an hour or two I’ll shake.

“Then I conquered it. I draw with shakes in it and it works,” he said.