Billy Connolly – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Billy Connolly – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2001

Review by Steve Bennett

He may have come a long way from the shipyards of the Clyde, but Billy Connolly's biggest trick is that he can convince an audience that he's still 'one of us'.

Although his patter, effortless as only 30 years of performance can make it, occasionally contains such ludicrous gems as "I've got this loch at my house" and references to pals like Sean Connery, the Big Yin still makes it all seem like he's normal bloke who got lucky.

Truth is, though his life may have changed over the decades, his stand-up, thankfully, hasn't.

He still talks of embarrassingly fumbled sexual encounters, teenage dalliances with drugs and nights of drunken excess as if it were yesterday.

But, hard as it may be to take in, this is a 58-year-old grandfather talking, and - based on his material, at least - he hasn't grown up in the slightest.

This could, of course, be seen as a weakness.

For Connolly was one of the first British comics to simply talk wittily about his life and experiences - foreshadowing the modern 'alternative' scene by a decade or so. Yet he's still tackling the same topics, when his own life has changed immeasurably. Shouldn't the subject matter change accordingly?

But it's hard to see how it could without seeming like a string of wanky showbiz anecdotes - and the well-established scatological Connolly formula is so tried and tested that it's guaranteed not to disappoint.

It's not quite all the poo, wee and vomit gags we know and love, though.

In the incredible stretch of a three-hour no-interval show, a hearty range of less personal topics is attacked - from the situation in Afghanistan (which he tackles straight out) to libertarian lefty politics (despite that personal lake and Hollywood Hills mansion) and the likes of aromatherapy and astrology.

Given the sheer number of comics who've been inspired by him, this kind of stuff is almost generic nowadays, and, at face value, could have been written by any number of people.

Connolly's genius, though, is in the delivery. It's always been his biggest asset - in the past enabling him to get away with what, at the time, was questionable material, thanks to sheer cheek and exuberance.

Now as the number of pretenders to his comedy crown is ever increasing, this instantly recognisable persona is a bigger asset than ever.

The man delivers his stuff with such passion, such fundamental likeability, that he never for a moment loses his audience's attention, despite the mammoth length of his set.

There's also still an air of spontaneity about the whole show, as he leaps between trains of thought, becoming distracted into comic asides that have their own asides, until he has to unfurl all the conversational parentheses to get back on track. It is, of course, all part of the charm.

After all these years, there's always the chance that familiarity with Connolly's style will breed contempt. And, to be brutal, the routines don't quite seem as brilliant as they once did now that the rest of the comedy world has caught up with him.

But it's a unfailingly funny show nonetheless, performed with enviable skill and clearly demonstrating the natural talents that made him a comedy god to so many.

Whatever it is, he's still got it.

Review date: 16 Oct 2001
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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