For a while now I’ve been thinking about other parts of my life, other than books and music, that I could bring to my blog on a regular basis. It occurred to me after some pondering that comedy is an enormous part of my life, perhaps unusually so (but definitely not unhealthily so – I think comedy is one of the healthiest things in which one can indulge).
And so I’ve decided that on a fairly regular basis I am going to blog about some of my favourite comedians. They will be from all realms of comedy – stand up comedians, comic actors, comedy writers, even comedy musical acts. I’m specifically going to choose the comedians who have made the biggest impact on me, the ones who are already sitting somewhere in my DVD, book or music collections (in some cases, such as this first one, all three). In each case I’ll try and include a few clips of them performing (where applicable). As a warning though, sometimes these clips may include offensive language and such, so if you’re likely to be offended, or have children nearby, you might want to reconsider watching them. But they are funny, I promise.
It makes sense for me to start this series of blog posts with Billy Connolly. He’s my favourite stand up comedian, hands down, and has been since I was a very young boy (or wee lad, I should say). The infamous Scotsman is also one of the most popular and influential comedians in the world, and has been for about four decades now. To top this off, he’s also a quite talented actor and musician, travel documentary maker, and just all round really nice guy.
One thing I have always admired about Billy is his approach to performing comedy on the stage. There are some comedians who rehearse their shows, working to a fairly tight script written before hand, and so if you see them more than once on the same tour you’ll essentially get the same show. This is fine and works for some comedians, but Billy doesn’t operate in this way. His “notes” for his shows tend to consider of 7 or 8 ideas, written down in point form or just with a few words, and then he spends hours each night looping his way between them gradually in his own time and style, working off the audience reactions to gauge which story is working and which is not. As a result of not having to remember specifics, he can become passionate and lively on stage, marching around performing impressions and firing off on rants if it suddenly takes his fancy.
Perhaps one thing he is notorious for is swearing. It’s not that he always swears – he can control himself off stage with ease, in the right social contexts. But on stage, especially when he’s worked up about something, he can swear like nothing else – and he makes it sound so good! So much so, he once told a story about how a young child and the child’s father came up to Billy in the street, and asked if he could tell the child to “f#$% off”, which with the father’s permission he promptly did (and made the child’s day). But he isn’t vile with his language, nor does it dampen his humour or intelligence – it simply adds to the anger and passion of some of his stories.
Out of all the stand up comedians I’ve seen live, Billy Connolly is by far the best and most memorable. I saw him perform at Newcastle (Australia) in 2006 on his “Too Old To Die Young” tour, and he was on stage for a little over three hours. I had a sore stomach for days from laughing so hard, it was simply brilliant and worth every dollar! I also own all of his travel documentaries, all of his recorded stand up shows on both DVD and CD, and I have both biographies written by his wife, Pamela Stephenson.
All I can say, ultimately, is that if you haven’t seen Billy Connolly live, you absolutely must! He is amazing, and has influenced both my comedic tastes and also my own sense of humour significantly.
Are there any other Billy Connolly fans out there? Have you seen him live before? What were your thoughts?