Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly

Date of birth: 24-11-1942

Born in a poor tenement block, Connolly was abandoned by his mother, Mamie, at the age of three and brought up by his aunt, Mona, who used to beat him, and his father, William, who sexually abused him - a background explored in his 2001 biography Billy.

As a teenager, he joined the Clyde shipyards, where he served his apprenticeship as a welder. While working there, he bought a banjo for £2 10s after seeing blues singer Pete Seger on the TV, and started performing on Scotland's folk circuit as part of a band called the Humblebums, which counted Gerry Rafferty among its members.

While performing, Connolly noticed that audiences warmed to the banter between his songs, which built up his confidence. In 1970, the band split up and he started performing solo.

Also during his time at the shipyards, he met his first wife, Iris, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

His big break was on the Parkinson show in 1975, which made him a star and led to his first UK tour: The Big Wee Tour.

He spent many years on the road, the lifestyle taking its toll, and he became a heavy drinker, until he gave up alcohol in 1986.

His reputation grew and grew, and he eventually moved to California to try to break into the US, with varying degrees of success.

In 1989, he married Pamela Stephenson, who he met while recording a sketch for Not The Nine O'Clock News.

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Who won the 2022 comedy Baftas?

Triumphs for Sophie Willan, Jamie Demetriou, Motherland and Mo Gilligan. Watch the acceptance speeches

Sophie Willan has picked up another Bafta for Alma’s Not Normal.

The comic has won the award for best female performance in a comedy programme for taking the title role, a year after winning a Bafta craft award for writing the pilot.

Willan dedicated her award to her grandmother who brought her up, and who died during filming of the forthcoming second series.

Fellow nominees were Aimee Lou Wood for Sex Education; Aisling Bea for This Way Up; Anjana Vasan for We Are Lady Parts; Natasia Demetriou for Stath Lets Flats and Rose Matafeo for Starstruck.

Jamie Demetriou won best male performance in a comedy programme for Stath Lets Flats.

He said it was ‘mad’ that he won, and congratulated his fellow nominees Joseph Gilgun (for Brassic): Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education); Samson Kayo (Bloods); Steve Coogan (This Time With Alan Partridge); Tim Renkow (Jerk).

And he got a laugh for appearing emotional and saying: ‘I promised myself I wouldn't sing…’

Motherland won best scripted comedy ahead of Alma's Not Normal, Stath Lets Flats and We Are Lady Parts.

Holly Walsh, one of the writers, thanked the cast, director, editor, crew and producer – and praised the other nominees for all featuring ‘amazing women being funny and stupid and dumb and beautiful and everything you want to see’.

Mo Gilligan won best comedy entertainment show for his Channel 4 programme The Latish Show, beating Graham Norton, Munya Chawawa’s YouTube series Race Around Britain and Romesh Ranganathan’s The Ranganathan.

In an emotional speech, Gilligan said: ‘In 2017, when I got offered this show, my mental health wasn’t in the best place. Channel 4 bought me into this massive building… and they trusted me to be myself and bring black boy joy to screens.'

Gilligan’s sometimes collaborator Big Zuu won two Baftas, for best feature and best entertainment performance for Big Zuu's Big Eats, while Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway won best entertainment show.

In a previous ceremony, Nida Manzoor won a Bafta craft award for comedy writing on We Are Lady Parts, which also won awards for casting and costume awards.

As announced in advance, Sir Billy Connolly received the Bafta fellowship award, the highest accolade the academy can hand out. He sent an acceptance speech from his Florida home saying: ‘I’m very proud to receive this.’

The show was hosted by Richard Ayoade. Here are his opening remarks:

There was also praise for Lee Mack and Chris McCausland’s double act in giving Willan her award.Comments on Twitter included:

  • ‘Lee Mack and Chris McCausland have just pulled off a pure Morecambe and Wise moment with their nominations slot sketch. Belly laughing stuff. Genius.’
  • ‘Personally I think that Lee Mack and Chris McCausland won the BAFTAs this year.’
  • ‘Lee Mack and Chris McCausland deserve a show of their own. Proper comedy!’
  • ‘Next year there should be a BAFTA for the funniest BAFTA category intro and it should go to Lee Mack and Chris McCausland

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Published: 8 May 2022

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