Billy Connolly says challenges of Parkinson’s are getting worse

Billy Connolly has said the Parkinson’s disease that forced him to retire from live standup comedy is “getting worse” but he is still enjoying filming television programmes.

Speaking as he picked up a lifetime achievement award at the Edinburgh TV festival, Connolly 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. 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, the Guardian columnist Pamela Stephenson Connolly: “On the last tour I used to say to the audience: ‘Good evening, symptom spotters.’”

The 78-year-old recently filmed a five-part series for UK Gold called Billy Connolly Does … that reflects different aspects of his career and life.

However, he said he had concerns about accepting a lifetime achievement award: “I feel like I should be dead. These ‘lifetime’ things – I feel like they know something I don’t.”

He recalled his instant popularity when he returned to Glasgow after appearing as a guest on Michael Parkinson’s television chatshow in 1975 and how it was rare to hear a working-class Scottish accent on television in that era. He said: “It’s a thing the Scots have got about accents. You can be as popular as you like but if you don’t have a Scottish accent when you’re doing it, it’s different. They loved the fact I went on with my Scottish accent and got famous. They took it personally and they all applauded and it was lovely.”

However, he said that despite his pride for his home country he struggled with one aspect of Scottish clothing: “It eats me alive, the kilt. My legs get purple. My willy gets purple.”

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