Billy Connolly: Ten great routines | As the comic announces his retirement from touring

Billy Connolly: Ten great routines

As the comic announces his retirement from touring

As Sir Billy Connolly announces his retirement from touring, here are ten of his all-time greatest routines, as arbitrarily decided by us…

1. The Last Supper/Crucifixion, 1972

His first fully-fledged comedy routine started as some banter between folk songs but span out into a full 20-minute routine, based around the idea that Jesus hadn’t really been born in Galilee but in Gallowgate in Glasgow, and that the Last Supper had been a drunken night out in Connolly’s local, the Saracen’s Head.

In his most recent book, Made In Scotland, Sir Billy wrote: ‘It got me noticed. People sarted talking about it and came from miles away to see me do it. It became hugely popular and came to define me… That was the first huge break for me.’

Although Connolly was little-known outside his home town, a producer called Nat Joseph committed a couple of his gigs to vinyl, even if the recording standards were very low-fi. The second, recorded at a small venue, The Tudor Hotel in Airdrie, contained this routine, and became an instant cult… at least for those who could understand the comic’s strong accent.

2. On Parkinson in 1975

The appearance that propelled Connolly into the national consciousness. In 1975, Michael Parkinson was visiting Glasgow and the taxi driver started waxing lyrical about the local comedian, even stopping at a record shop to buy one of his albums to present to the chat show host.

When he played it, he liked it so much he invited Connolly on to his show, which drew audiences of 10million. The comic’s manager had cautioned: ‘Whatever you do, don’t tell him the joke about the dead wife!’

But his appearance was going so well he couldn’t stop himself.

As the credits rolled, Parky told his guest: ‘You did yourself some good there’… and indeed the gag took the country by storm, and the Big Yin could find himself playing some bigger venues.

3. Jojoba, 1985

His pronunciation of the shampoo ingredient – ‘in Glasgow that was the month before November’ – as well as his incredulity at the complexity of hair care products makes this a a quintessential Connolly routine. He’s performed it on TV a few times, but it got its first outing in his Wreck On Tour show, released as an LP in 1985.

4. Incontinence Pants, 1985

From the same era, Connolly’s Audience With… collected some of his greatest hits, performed in front of a star-studded audience for ITV. It’s Connolly at his prime.

5. Comic Relief, 1986

The Big Yin performed stand-up on the very first Comic Relief, at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre. He delivered a routine about his travels to Australia and Barbados – and the dangerous animals he encountered – as well as the ‘jojoba’ routine.

Connolly maintained a long association with the charity – including streaking around London's Piccadilly Circus for Red Nose Day 2001.

6. Billy and Albert, 1987

Connolly completed his first world tour in 1987, including six nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was recorded and released as the bestselling video Billy and Albert.

7. Billy Connolly Live, 1994

The 1994 recording Billy Connolly Live – recorded during his 20 nights at the Hammersmith Apollo – was the best-selling comedy VHS tape of that year.

Here he talks about the difference between men and women, showing that there may be hack subjects, but it’s what you do with them that counts:

8. Farting, 1998

As Michael Parkinson was quick to realise, Billy Connolly made the perfect chat show guest. In this episode of the Late Late Show with Tom Snyder from 1998, he speaks about the delights of breaking wind, starting with stories from the set of The Impostors, which was released that year:

9. Terrorism 2007

The terror attack on Glasgow airport – and the baggage handler who took matters into his own hands to try to thwart it – was the perfect grist for Connolly’s comic mill. A couple of years earlier, Connolly had been booed over an ill-judged sick joke he made over hostage Ken Bigley, soon before he was killed in Iraq, for which he was roasted in the press. Some commentators suggested it was the end of the comic’s career. His subsequent work proved it wasn’t…

10. Billy Connolly’s Sausage 2012

Appearing on Graham Norton’s show, the Big Yin shares one of his favourite stories.

Published: 3 Dec 2018

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