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Sir Billy Connolly is a megastar in stand-up, an all-time great. He informs Georgia Humphreys about his decision to withdraw from live shows.
Right behind Sir Billy Connolly’s Florida home, a river is flowing, and he likes to fish in his slippers.
The 78-year-old Scot has Pamela, his 30-plus-year-old wife, and his dogs for company. Two of their daughters live with their friends on the same lane, so they sometimes have barbecues together.
And he likes his neighbors—he made friends with the man next door, the driver of the taxi.
This is what today’s life of the legendary comedian looks like – and he is “settled and happy.”
The star recently revealed, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, that he was formally retiring from live performances.
ITV is presenting Billy Connolly in celebration of his great career: It’s Been A Pleasure, a star-studded, one-off special showcasing his funniest moments.
Unseen performance video, exclusive interviews with popular fans (Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Lenny Henry, Dustin Hoffman, Russell Brand, Whoopi Goldberg, Sheridan Smith and Aisling Bea) and clips of Sir Billy himself shot at home by Pamela are included in the emotional program.
“It’s weird to talk about the end of my career…. It’s weird to talk about it being a thing of the past,” the comedian mentions as we talk on the phone.
“It’s nice to come to the conclusion myself that I should stop. It’s a nice, healthy feeling.”
He adds that it was a “obvious” decision, a progressive neurological disorder due to Parkinson’s disease.
Involuntary shaking of some parts of the body, sluggish movements and rigid and inflexible muscles are signs.
“I don’t want to be on stage with Parkinson’s, and that’s the end of it,” says the father of five (he has Jamie and Cara from his first marriage to Iris Pressagh, and Scarlett, Amy and Daisy with psychologist Pamela).
“And it’s a natural ending, because I’m totally happy in my skin. I’ve had a nice career, I’ve done pretty well, and I’ve been knighted, and this is kind of the ending.”
“Pretty well done” may be the century’s understatement.
When he set his sights on a career as a folk singer, the guitarist, actor and comedian Big Yin was employed as a welder in a Glasgow shipyard.
He soon became a national star when he turned to comedy in the ’70s, conquering the U.S. in 1989 thanks to an HBO special with Whoopi Goldberg.
He moved to Hollywood and had roles in many major movies, including the Last Samurai action drama, the Brave animated film, and The Hobbit: The War Of The Five Armies fantasy adventure.
But when it comes to his career, what is Sir Billy most proud of?
I’m proud that it did not go down. With popularity, there was no point where it went down.
“It just went up and up until I said, ‘This is the end, thank you very much and good night.'”
He is “proud of the people who managed me.” too.
“I didn’t go on TV and do skits and melt it down a little bit,”I didn’t go on TV and do skits and melt it down a bit,”I just stayed where I was and kept going – I stayed good.”I just stayed where I was and kept going – I stayed good.
Sir Billy is renowned for his candor, and when talking about his attitude towards Parkinson’s, he’s also very transparent.
He states that he does not feel any need to be a “ambassador” for the illness.
I don’t go to Parkinson’s meetings with other people and chat about it. I’m simply dealing with it.
“I’m invited all the time to come to these Parkinson’s societies for lunch on Wednesdays to chat about Parkinson’s — I can’t think of anything more frightening.
“I went one day with my son and we had lunch and it wasn’t that great…”
“Talking about Parkinson’s is depressing,” he continues. “It’s just a fact of life, it’s in me and I deal with it.
“And then sometimes it’s a little embarrassing. When you’re in a restaurant, sometimes you have to ask the waiter to help you out of your chair, and at first it’s kind of embarrassing, but after a while you realize that people are brilliant. They love to help you.
“So you just keep doing the good things, and the bad things take care of themselves.”
As we talk, it’s November, and he confides in me that lately his “energy has disappeared. In the last month, I haven’t been doing so well.”
But so far, the star has found relief through his art – and also through his humor.