Review: Billy Connolly – High Horse Tour

Billy Connolly High Horse Tour
By Michael Thomson


Like many Scottish comedy fans the first stand-up comedy of any kind I saw was of Billy Connolly but I was becoming resigned to the fact that I would never get to see him live with reports regularly updating the deteriorating condition of his health. He has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and recently had successful surgery for prostate cancer. So when he announced earlier this year that he would do a series of shows across Scotland this October I was obviously delighted. This was a sentiment clearly shared by the rest of the people of Scotland as the shows reportedly sold out in 10 minutes. The Clyde Auditorium was the perfect venue for these shows, it must have been tempting to do one night in “The Hydro” and sell as many tickets as a week in the Auditorium but a comedian in an arena like that loses all sense of intimacy. Comedians playing arenas with thousands and thousands of seats is certainly an increasing trend in the comedy world but I’m sure all those who turned up were grateful to be in the smaller theatre.

It is hard not to sound sentimental when describing the greatest ever Scottish comedian performing likely his last run in his hometown but to be too sentimental would be an injustice as it would detract from the fact that he is still a brilliant comedian. The general public is exposed to more stand-up comedy now than ever before and while this has bred a much bigger and more diverse new generation of comedians, they often give off a feeling that they have studied and learnt the science of how to be funny while Connolly has always had the innate ability to make people laugh. His love for his art is clearly demonstrated by the fact that he is still performing at 71 and must be key to his longevity in an increasingly fickle industry. He has such authenticity and charm as a performer which are features sometimes missing from the younger British comedy superstars of today.

He took the stage to a rapturous reception and quickly addressed his health, noting that Parkinson’s had heavily affected his left arm and impacted his general mobility. He would have been completely forgiven for taking a seat but he performed the whole show standing and there were even some strong routines of physical comedy including a long act of the story of him scaring his sister and her bizarre reaction. Despite his physical deterioration he still has his style; wearing his customary tight black trousers and long, cape like shirt.

While his delivery may not be as ferocious and his showmanship minimalized the actual jokes have not lost their edge. In fact the softer spoken delivery may well be an advantage as it kept the audience on the edge of their seat, almost leaning in and truly hanging on his every word. Topics are diverse as expected, from farcical stories about getting arrested in Aberdeen or one involving a dead cat with a mistaken identity to slightly more showbiz trips to Mozambique for Comic Relief and of course there were some silly bits about sneezes, the potential laxative effects of American slimming pills and setting off stink bombs on the train to London. There were stories from all periods of his career, of which he claimed most were true, including one from his time as a banjo player where he was continually harassed by a member of the audience, while playing a frankly ridiculous sounding song, until he stormed off stage and confronted him. He turned out to be the treasure of the venue and he would not be paid that night but there would be no such issues this night. In fact it may have been one of the least hostile comedy crowds a comedian could ever wish to perform to with everyone truly appreciative to have a ticket to see a genuine national treasure.} else {