Billy Connolly bounces back into town with a show on Saturday night. Russell Blackstock profiles Scotland’s funniest man.
The last time Billy Connolly bounced into Queenstown he couldn’t resist baring all with a nude jump from the Nevis Highwire bungy.
Fans the world over have enjoyed the madcap moment, captured for posterity on his hit World Tour of New Zealand TV series.
But it looks like the Scottish funnyman will keep his kit on during his first visit to the resort since 2004.
Connolly has a sold-out gig at the Events Centre on Saturday.
And he insists his streaking days are over – unless the money’s right.
He said on British TV: “I’m famous for my bottom dances but you’ll only see my bum and willy if you raise a million pounds within an hour.”
You’d think at the age of 66 it might be time for the motor-mouthed comedian to take his foot off the gas.
Not a bit.
As well as throwing himself into his 19-date standup tour of NZ, he’s still a hot ticket in Hollywood and on TV.
Glasgow-born Connolly means serious business in a new Pulp Fiction-style movie action thriller due for release later this year.
The Big Yin plays a one-man army in Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day, a bloodletting black comedy follow-up to the 1999 cult hit.
And there’s nothing funny about his portrayal of a tortured Catholic priest alongside David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in recent box-office smash The X-Files: I Want To Believe.
Connolly also recently spent two months travelling by boat, plane, truck and train along the North Canadian coast for the upcoming UK small-screen series Connolly: Journey To The Edge of the World.
Producers hired a native tribeswoman to protect the former shipbuilder as he followed the summer trails used by polar bears and huge Arctic wolves.
When not working, Connolly flits between luxury homes in New York, Aberdeenshire and the tiny Mediterranean island of Gozo.
He has three daughters, Daisy, 24, Amy, 22, and Scarlett, 19, with his New Zealand-born clinical psychologist wife Pamela Stephenson, whom he wed in 1989. He also has two older children from his first marriage.
“I’m a great family guy, I love them all,” he told the British press recently. “I spend all my money so I have to work.
“But I have a good balance – I go fishing, go out on my motorcycle, I read a lot and watch telly.”
He also admitted it was having a strong Kiwi missus that helped him win his battle with the bottle. Reformed boozer Connolly has been teetotal for more than 20 years.
“Marriage to Pam didn’t change me, it saved me,” he said. “I was going to die.
“I was on a downwards spiral and enjoying every second of it.
“Not only was I dying, I was looking forward to it.
“Pam helped me make positive changes in my life. I was a bit of a drunk and she put me right on a few things.”
Yet despite having all the trappings of wealth and fame, Connolly confesses he has no idea how to actually buy a house or a car and only recently got a mobile phone – which he’s not all that happy about.
“Now you are always on tap. You are always gettable.”
But perhaps it’s those down-to-earth qualities that have helped endear him to audiences across the globe for some 35 years.
“My life is great because people are always happy to see me, so my image of the world is happy. Some people think the world is a terrible place but I think they have got it wrong. I’m very, very optimistic.”
Citizen of the world: Billy-isms you’ll remember
- “I worry about ridiculous things, you know, how does a guy who drives a snowplough get to work in the morning? That can keep me awake for days.”
- “What always staggers me is that when people blow their noses, they always look into their hankies to see what came out. What do they expect to find?”
- “When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to the pet department and tell me it was a zoo.”
- “Marriage is a wonderful invention. Then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.”
- “I’m now a doctor of letters. Most of them Fs and Bs.”
- “My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.”
- “Never trust a man who, when left alone with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.”
- “The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.”
- “I think my securities far outweigh my insecurities.
- I’m not nearly as afraid of myself and my imagination as I used to be.”