Billy Connolly opened up about his television successes, his Parkinson’s diagnosis and how his regional accent played a big part in shaping his prolific career in Scotland at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Monday.
Speaking from a distance from his home in Florida during a session hosted by his wife, Pamela Stephenson Connolly, the Scottish comedian and actor was in high spirits despite his “worsening” condition.
The festival praised Connolly with his Lifetime Achievement Award while the four-day event was underway and, in typical Connolly fashion, he opened the conversation by joking, “I feel like I should be dead – those things” at life “, I feel like they know something that I don’t know.
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In the intimate and rare conversation between husband and wife, Connolly was asked if filming in the TV business poses any new challenges for him right now and he replied, “Not really, but the way I think everything is a new challenge. I’m barely preparing so I don’t arrive prepared and everything is a new challenge. It keeps my eyes open – it’s a lot of fun.
He added: “The challenges lately have been medical and they are getting worse. Did you notice that I held my left hand as we walked forward, it starts to jump. So I’m going to have to weigh in and see how bad it goes, I don’t know, we’re going to play it by ear. It happens when I least expect it. I’m going to talk to you and I think, ‘ah my hand is shaking’ and I’m going to grab it. But that’s not really a problem.
Connolly, who is 78, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013. He retired from stand-up comedy in 2018 after a 50-year career, but hasn’t stopped working altogether while he writes and records a new book.
Speaking on her iconic first appearance on a UK talk show Parkinson’s in 1975, Connolly said his Scottish accent made the appearance all the more meaningful to his Scottish fans.
“It’s something the Scots have about accents,” he said. “You can be as popular as you want, but if you don’t have a Scottish accent it’s different. They like the fact that I carried on [Parkinson] with my Scottish accent and I became famous. They took it personally. It was lovely. “
When asked if it was important for the television comedy to feature working class and regional voices, Connolly said it was “wonderful” for the company.
“A lot of people have complained that the Monty Python’s always make working class accents for weird people but I think [regional accents are] wonderful, ”he said.
Connolly received the BAFTA and BAFTA Scotland awards for his outstanding achievement and was awarded the Freedom of the City of Glasgow prior to his title of knight for services to entertainment and charity. He is also an actor renowned for roles in films such as The Hobbit and 1997 Mrs. Brown, the latter for which he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role.