Billy Connolly doesn't 'think sharply' anymore due to his Parkinson's

‘Quitting is the right thing’: Sir Billy Connolly reveals he doesn’t ‘think as sharply’ as he needs to for stand-up due to his Parkinson’s as he says goodbye to his career on stage

  •  Billy Connolly has opened up about his battle with Parkinson’s disease, revealing that he now doesn’t ‘think as sharply’ as he needs for stand-up
  • The Scottish comedian, 78, said he believes ‘quitting’ his 50-year stand-up career is ‘the right thing to do’, adding that he doesn’t miss it 
  • Billy explained he has ‘no regrets’ or complaints about his career, saying that he has been ‘damn lucky’ in everything that he has achieved
  • The Big Yin said his Parkinson’s has given him life-affirming lessons about people, as strangers are always quick to offer him help 
  • Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and revealed he was retiring from stand-up earlier this year because of the degenerative disease
  • He is set to say goodbye to his stand-up career in an ITV documentary, Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, which will air on December 28

He is set to bid farewell to his legendary stand-up career in an ‘uplifting and emotional’ special on ITV, which will air on Monday.

And Billy Connolly has opened up about his battle with Parkinson’s disease ahead of the show, revealing that he now doesn’t ‘think as sharply’ as he needs for stand-up.

The Scottish comedian, 78, said that he believes ‘quitting’ his 50-year stand-up career is ‘the right thing to do’, admitting that he doesn’t even miss it anymore.

Farewell: Billy Connolly has revealed that he doesn’t ‘think as sharply’ as he needs for stand-up due to his Parkinson’s as he bids farewell to his career on stage (pictured in January 2016)

He told The Mirror: ‘Since the Parkinson’s I’m still the same in many ways, but I don’t think as sharply as I need to to be a stand-up, I’ve done 50 years and that’s plenty. Quitting is the right thing to do.’

Billy went on to explain that he has ‘no regrets’ or complaints about his incredible career, saying that he has been ‘damn lucky’ in everything that he has achieved.

He continued: ‘I achieved everything I wanted, played everywhere I wanted to… I did it all.’ 

The Big Yin also said his Parkinson’s has given him life-affirming lessons about people, as strangers are always quick to offer him help if he needs it.

Legend: The Scottish comedian, 78, said he believes ‘quitting’ his 50-year stand-up career is ‘the right thing to do’, admitting that he doesn’t miss it anymore (pictured in January 2016)

Reflecting back on his career, he admitted he ‘won’t miss the panic’ he got before heading on stage for a live performance, comparing it to ‘walking the plank’.

He said that his nerves became worse in recent years, leading him to meditate for around 20 minutes before taking to the stage.

But Billy was quick to add that his nerves always disappeared as soon as he greeted the audience, revealing that he prefers live performances to appearing on TV.

And he also spoke about his renowned status as one of the first stand-up rockstars, something that he is ‘delighted’ by.

Billy, who is currently writing a memoir, said he has no idea how he was given the accolade but is flattered by it, as he would have loved to be a rockstar in another life.

The actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and revealed he was retiring from stand-up comedy earlier this year because of the degenerative disease.

‘I did it all’: Billy went on to explain that he has ‘no regrets’ or complaints from his legendary career, saying that he has been ‘damn lucky’ in what he has achieved

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.

Billy previously told Sky News: ‘I’m finished with stand-up – it was lovely and it was lovely being good at it. It was the first thing I was ever good at.’

And he is set to say goodbye to his stand-up career in an ITV documentary, Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, which is set to air on December 28.

The show will feature the comedian’s ‘greatest stand-up moments, unseen performance footage and exclusive chats with some of Billy’s biggest famous fans’.

Appearing from his home in Florida, he will be joined by guests including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Lenny Henry, Dustin Hoffman and Russell Brand.

Nerves: The Big Yin said that he ‘won’t miss the panic’ he got before walking on stage for a live performance, hilariously comparing it to being like ‘walking the plank’ (pictured in April 2005)

Whoopi Goldberg, Aisling Bea and Sheridan Smith are also set to appear in the documentary to reminisce about Billy’s legendary career on stage. 

ITV producers said: ‘Sir Billy Connolly recently announced that he was officially stepping back from live stand-up performance. 

‘To mark this major moment in comedy history, this star-studded one-hour special celebrates Billy’s anarchic genius and life-affirming brand of humour. 

‘There are also unique new insights from the woman who knows Billy best – his wife and soulmate, Pamela Stephenson.’ 

‘His A-list fans will share their memories of Billy, send him personal messages and pick their all-time highlights from his glorious comedy catalogue. The man himself will react to their choices and reveal his own favourites.’ 

Retiring: Billy will say goodbye to his stand-up career in an ITV documentary, Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, which is set to air on December 28 (pictured in September 2014)

‘Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure is a definitive celebration of an all-time great. An uplifting, emotional and hilarious hour in the company of the legendary Big Yin at his entertaining best. It will make you laugh. It may even make you cry. A fitting send-off for a stand-up megastar.’

The What We Did On Our Holiday actor previously admitted that he is invited to events with other Parkinson’s sufferers, but turns a lot down because he doesn’t think it would be ‘particularly good’ to let the disease ‘define’ him.

He told Sky News: ‘I’m always being asked to go to Parkinson’s things and spend time with Parkinson’s people, having lunch or something like that. And I don’t approve of it.

‘I don’t think you should let Parkinson’s define you and all your pals be Parkinson’s people. I don’t think it’s particularly good for you. So I don’t do it.’

Billy said he does get ‘upset’ over his diagnosis, and admitted it means he walks ‘like a drunk man’ at times, and limits him from doing some things, such as putting change in his wallet. 

Talented: Billy poses with his wife Pamela Stephenson, after being knighted by the Duke of Cambridge during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 31, 2017

He added: ‘Certain things go wrong, your brain goes adrift and affects your body, and so you walk differently, you walk like a drunk man sometimes. And you’re frightened you’ll be judged on it. And you shake sometimes.’

In the early 1970s, Connolly made the transition from folk singer with a comedic persona to fully fledged comedian, for which he is now well-loved for. 

In 1972, he made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Connolly’s Glasgow Flourish. He also played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

Known for his idiosyncratic and often off-the-cuff observational comedy, which frequently includes the use of profanity, in 2007, Connolly was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and again in the updated 2010 poll. 

Throwback: In 1972, Billy made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Connolly’s Glasgow Flourish (pictured in 1979)

After his diagnosis, Billy continued to tour with his stand-up shows until 2017, but said his Parkinson’s made him get ‘rooted to the spot and afraid to move’.  

The actor then moved to Florida with his wife Pamela Stephenson to fight the degenerative disorder.

But the multi-talented legend has taken up a new lucrative career as an artist – and his artwork is selling for thousands of pounds.

Billy said: ‘It’s just not the kind of thing that people like me do.’

Last year, Billy admitted his ‘hearing [was] going’ and he can no longer think ‘at speed’.

New project: The multi-talented legend, who is currently writing a memoir, has taken up a new lucrative career as an artist – and his artwork is selling for thousands of pounds 

He said: ‘I may perform at some other point but I have no plans to. And I’m quite happy taking my medicine and getting along with it. 

‘I’ve started to drool which is a new one on me. This disease, it gives you a new thing every now and again that you have to deal with and drooling is my latest.

‘I walk unsteadily and my hearing is going and it’s bizarre that bits of me are falling off but it’s interesting.’ 

The funnyman has two children – Cara, 45, and Jamie, 49, from his first marriage to Iris Pressagh.

Billy and Pamela have three children together – Scarlett, 30, Amy, 32, and Daisy, 34. 

Parkinson’s: The actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and revealed he was quitting stand-up earlier this year because of the degenerative disease (pictured in November 2015)

WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE? 

Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.

Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.

It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.

It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.  

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