End of the road coming for Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly, the Scottish actor and comedian, has announced that he’s near the end. His life is “slipping away.” He has Parkinson’s.

“My life is slipping away and I can feel it, and I should, I’m 75,” he says in an upcoming BBC documentary. “I’m near the end but it doesn’t frighten me. It’s an adventure, and it’s quite interesting to see myself slipping away. Bits slip off and leave me. Talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have; I don’t have the energy I used to have; I can’t hear the way I used to hear; I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember.”

“I can’t work my left hand on the banjo. It’s as if I’m being prepared for something, some other adventure which is over the hill. I’ve got all this stuff to lose first, and then I’ll be on the shadowy side of the hill, doing the next episode in the spirit world.”

He also acknowledges that “it’s going to get worse,” but not without embracing a bit of hope. “There’s still time to go yet,” he adds. “There’s still places to go, new friends to make, maybe new songs to write and sing and jokes to tell,” he says.

Our soft spot for Connolly comes primarily from this fact: he’s one of the world’s great storytellers. In 2011, he got on a trike and rode the old Route 66 across four fabulous episodes, stopping along the way, of course, to reveal that once you peel away the politics-fueled nonsense, we’re a pretty absurd people.

His favorite spots along the way, he said, were the towns with nobody in them.

“I was driving along and there was a truck on my left and a train on my right and we were all going along at the same time and it was smashing,” he said back then. “It was such an American moment, you know. I loved that. That was all I really wanted to show – that America of your dreams and the absurdity of it.”

“I love to show people at their best,” he said. “Just give them plenty of rope and let them speak for themselves. Like the man with the bottles in his garden. I thought he was a beautiful man. And I wish you could have seen all of that because he had made his own kitchen which was like a real Barnes Wallis nightmare. There were all kinds of taps that you had to turn to get hot water. It’s very difficult to describe to you, but it was a real plumber’s nightmare. And his wife was so tolerant. You could see her longing for a patio.”

Here. Enjoy the absurd.

  • MikeB

    Argh, that’s tough news about Billy Connolly. Love his perspective on his final journey. I remember the Route 66 show, turned it on after seeing you mention it on Twitter. A trip to emulate indeed.

  • MrE85

    I still haven’t seen episode 1 of his “Tracks Across America” show, but he reportedly goes to the MN State Fair. I saw the later episodes and they were great.

    • Joseph

      He does! It’s wonderful 🙂

  • MrE85

    Anyone remember Billy’s short-lived American TV series? No, me either.

    • Barton

      I do!! but I’ve been a fan for a very long time. Of course, my strongest memory of that show was having to translate what he said for my boyfriend at the time (and it wasn’t even Billy speaking with his “natural” dialect – it was totally understandable).

  • Joseph

    Why does Parkinson’s have to hit the good guys? I’m going to miss his humor and his wonderful travel specials on PBS.

  • Trevor Henry

    I am supposed to be getting ready. I am watching this when I get home from work. This is great. Sad about the Parkinson’s. Happy to learn about the show. Will watch this weekend. Thanks so much.

    • tarry_on

      Ditto.

  • Barton

    If you ever get the opportunity, please watch the BBC special Billy Connolly, Portrait of a Life (not available legally in the US). It really is quite wonderful. I also adored his special Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland. Love listening to the Big Yin tell stories about his life and what made him who he was.

    I was lucky enough to see him on stage about 25 years ago. I was way too young for most of his comedy (still blushed when people said the “f” word), but I did so love listening to him tell stories.

  • Angry Jonny

    Parkinson’s hit my mother like a ton of bricks. A strong woman who could run a sub 6:30 mile in her 50s, it crept up on her in the form of a slight tremor in her right hand. Soon, when I called her, I could hear how much it was affecting her by hearing her pinkie tapping against the phone receiver as she shook. Now her vision is beginning to double. Her cognition is slipping; forms and documents that she would complete without issue are now complicated. She knows it, too. It sucks.