It’s a cruel disease. Billy Connolly talks about Parkinson’s

I’ve had a couple of serious falls. It’s a cruel disease. Billy Connolly opens his heart about suffering from Parkinson’s

  • ‘I’ve had a deterioration in my balance’ reveals comic 

Scots comedy legend Sir Billy Connolly has revealed he has suffered ‘serious falls’ as the symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease worsen.

The 80-year-old was diagnosed with the degenerative condition ten years ago.

In a new interview, conducted by his wife Pamela Stephenson, he has admitted his balance is getting worse – causing him to suffer what she described as ‘a couple of serious falls’.

The Glaswegian explained how the disease was creeping up on him, saying: ‘It’s very difficult to see the progression exactly, because a lot of things come and go.

‘Recently I’ve noticed a deterioration in my balance. That was never such a problem before, but in the last year that has come and it has stayed.

A tartan-clad Big Yin in national dress

Billy Connolly’s wife Pamela Stephenson conducted the interview

‘For some reason, I thought it would go away, because a lot of symptoms have come and gone away… just to defy the symptom spotters. The shaking has reappeared.’

With typical irreverence, Connolly compared the situation to a joke he used to tell on stage as part of his routine.

He said: ‘It’s funny, that fall I had when I landed on my jaw reminded me of a thing I used to do on stage. I used to say, “I fell out of bed, but luckily my face broke my fall”.’

He explained that the falls are only one sign of the progress of his Parkinson’s, saying: ‘It’s just added to the list of things that hold me back.

‘I feel like I want to go for a walk, but I go 50 yards and want to go home because I’m tired. I’m being encroached upon by this disease.

‘It’s creeping up behind me and stopping me doing things. It’s a cruel disease.’ He conceded that the disease is progressing slowly, adding: ‘But that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.’

Nicknamed the Big Yin, Connolly worked as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards before starting a career as a folk singer. When he discovered that the audience enjoyed his banter between songs more than the songs themselves he swapped to comedy.

Throughout the 1970s, his anarchic and expletive-laden humour catapulted him to global fame.

He later starred in a string of films and presented a long list of TV shows.

His illness means he no longer performs live, but in recent years he has successfully channelled his creativity into art.

In the Guardian interview, he joked that tremors were helping his latest venture.

He said: ‘What I find is that sometimes I get little gifts. When I’m fed up with shaking, I try drawing while shaking and the wriggly lines make it turn out nice.’

The comedian, who lives with his wife in Florida, also reflected on old age. He said: ‘It’s a cunning ploy that awaits you. The surprise is f****** nerve-wracking. 

Suddenly you can’t walk any more. Can’t run. Can’t jump. It’s a weird and nasty surprise.’

Discussing the regrets and consolations of age, he said: ‘Growing old is a secret everybody keeps. It isn’t a jolly thing. But I often think of old men that I knew when I was a boy. 

They were younger than I am now and I thought they were very old. And I’m not like them and I don’t behave like them.

‘Sometimes I’d like to run. I’d like to dance. But apart from that, everything seems to fit me lovely.

‘People seem to drive me places. And that’s great.’

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