It goes without saying that Billy Connolly is a comedy god, a man whose unique conversational style and unaffected, infectious delivery helped drag stand-up from its Seventies rut into the vibrant, personality-led scene we know today.
But, really, does that excuse him doing such ideas like ‘if black boxes are so indestructible, why don’t they make the whole plane out of the same stuff?’ on his new DVD. That line is surely as old as manned flight itself. It seems to be the sort of inane chit-chat the arch beigeophobe would normally be ranting against, rather than propagating.
This show – his first live DVD in three years – frequently gets stuck with such unimaginative material, such as the long diatribe against ‘the stupid fucking bitch’ who voices his sat nav, or a shaggy-dog pub gagthat has long done the rounds.
But he knows how to make even the most mundane stories zing. What might seem inconsequential on paper shines with his personable, passionate zest for life. And the 2010 show contains that familiar emphatic delivery, meandering style and melodic swearing that has defined his career over the years.
Once he strays off the broad observational material, a genre which he has long been surpassed, and into anecdotes he can make his own, the show springs to life. It could be because they actually happened to him – such as the daft answer he got when asking to directions – or simply because he knows how to tell a joke, making even a simple tale of a grumpy dwarf into an engaging yarn, despite the predictable payoff. There’s also a very engaging running joke between him and the audience about cheering place names, which shows him at his playful best.
Of course, he laughs at his own stories – and often brings the whole gig to a halt for what seems like an age as he bends double, hands on his knees, at the hilarity of his own material – his discovery of an ancient tribe with a rude name seems to be the main thing that triggers him off in this show. It’s either an endearing and infectious affectation, if you like the gags, or self-congratulatory indulgence if you don’t.
In reality, the show wavers between the extremes – making it an enjoyable 80-odd minutes, despite the many slower moments where you know exactly where he is heading.
Billy Connolly Live in London 2010
Recorded at: Hammersmith Apollo
Running time: 82 minutes
Released by: Universal Pictures, November 15
Price: £21.99. Or click here to buy from Amazon for £13.93