Billy Connolly said he has learned to hypnotise his hand to stop shaking due to Parkinson’s disease, but lamented not being able to write by hand due to the condition that has forced him to retire from live standup comedy.
Speaking during an interview with the Radio Times, Connolly said he treated his illness the way he used to deal with hecklers at his comedy shows. When he starts to shake, he stops what he’s doing and faces it down.
“I’ve learned to hypnotise my hand,” he says. “I glare at it and it kinda quivers.”
The 79-year-old comedian added that it reminded him of his old schoolteachers who could quell any situation by simply pointing at him. “I just stare at it, and eventually it stops. It’s quite a good trick. We love it.”
Connolly rose to fame in the 1970s, spurred on by a now infamous appearance on Michael Parkinson’s flagship chatshow on the BBC. He was a prolific actor, starring in 40 movies, including a Bafta-nominated performance in Mrs Brown.
In 2013, he revealed he was being treated for the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. He lives in Florida with his wife, the writer Pamela Stephenson Connolly.
During the interview, he said he never tried to cover up his illness but was “pissed off with it”. He said it had stolen many of the things he loved doing. “I loved writing letters, but now my writing is illegible. My collection of fountain pens and ink is redundant. It’s a pain in the bum.”
He said the high points of his life had been around bringing up his children, a son and a daughter by his first marriage, and three daughters with Stephenson.
Connolly has previously said that his condition was “getting worse” but that he still enjoyed filming television programmes.
When he picked up a lifetime achievement award at the Edinburgh TV festival, the comedian said he was approaching the condition in the same way he had always approached filming: “I hardly prepare. I turn up unprepared and everything’s a new challenge.
“The challenges lately have been medical. They’re getting worse,” he said. “You’ll notice I’ve been holding my left hand – it’s starting to jump around. I have to weigh it up and see how bad it gets.”
Connolly made light of the condition in a recorded interview with his wife: “On the last tour I used to say to the audience: ‘Good evening, symptom spotters’.”