Billy Connolly: Hammersmith Apollo January 2010

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Billy Connolly has been British comedy’s elder statesman since before the newest of stand-ups were born, so it’s inevitable to ask whether, at 67, he’s ‘still go it’.

The answer is a certain ‘yes’ – with only a very few qualifications.

Age does appear to have affected his short-term memory, with Connolly losing his thread in pretty much every story. But after cursing to himself, he always manages to pick up the train of thought… as well as the occasional story from earlier in the show you’d long assumed he’d abandoned.

It’s all part of his effortless charm, of course. Connolly pioneered the naturalistic form of conversational comedy that still rules today, and the more white he gets in his scraggly mane, the more he fits the persona of the lively, opinionated bar-room ‘character’ dispensing anecdotes and good company.

‘We’re just having a wee conversation,’ he tells the Hammersmith Apollo crowd. ‘But you don’t get to say anything. It’s like talking to your mother…’

Until he hits his stride, the early part of the show is pretty much angry invective, but not much wit, as he rails against his chosen hate-figures with little more than his welder’s vocabulary. It’s all very well calling people ‘wankers’ but it doesn’t take that much skill.

Swearing, though, remains his forte… with only fellow Glaswegian Peter Capaldi’s Thick Of It spin doctor outdoing him in the four-letter stakes. The undoubted highlight of this show is a brilliant routine on the etiquette of dropping the C-bomb, with Connolly finding special delight in its most casual deployment – while berating the Americans for getting it all wrong.

For whatever his chronological age and the trappings of stardom, the Big Yin remains a cheeky 12-year-old at heart, delighting in saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He’s the sort of man who likes to surreptitiously get his willy out at a twee civic buffet, as he describes in another hilarious routine, while staying playful rather than crude. That seems to be his credo.

Though he’s long sworn off the booze, saloon-bar yarns are never far from the agenda. He has a great running gag about the jelly-legged drunks of Edinburgh’s pub-lined Rose Street, but every story, you feel, should be regaled from a bar stool. True to that spirit, there are a couple of ‘pub gags’ in here, often attributed, accurately or not, to other larger-than life characters such as Jimmy Nail and Frank Carsons.

The use of such second-hand material – as well as the likes of T-shirt slogans – might be frowned upon by purists, but it all forms part of his patchwork of patter. And if you want a tall tale to be told well, get Connolly to tell it – you couldn’t ask for anyone more instinctively funny and irresistibly personable. Even his habit of doubling over in laughter at his own impending hilarity, though initially irritating, is soon forgiven.

And when the ‘grumpy old man’ fury returns for a second attack on politicians – especially David Cameron – he’s found some barbed comments to match the passion, properly skewering the smarmy old Etonian.

At two interval-free hours, this was shorter that some of Connolly earlier bladder-troubling shows – and is all the better for the brevity. It proves that even when distracted, the godfather of modern comedy is a raconteur of considerable standing.

Review date: 6 Jan 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Eventim Apollo

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.