It’s no exaggeration to describe Billy Connolly as the greatest stand up to ever take to the stage. Not only have three separate polls come to this conclusion, but there is not a single comedian who has taken to the stage in the last three decades that hasn’t looked to ‘The Big Yin’ as inspiration. Connolly’s High Horse tour marks the first time since 2011 that the comic has released a live stand-up and it’s clear from the moment he struts on stage he hasn’t lost it.
As soon as Connolly utters his first words it’s evident the great comic isn’t scared to talk about his illness, as he chastises the audience’s applause claiming they’re only doing it because he is ill. It’s a lovely moment that reminds you just how honest and unflinching the comedian can be. His humour is as dry and unapologetic as ever. Be it discussing adventures in France with his dead cousin, lunch with Liam Neeson and Brian Cox or his use of the C word, Connolly is never scared to tell you exactly what is on his mind.And, that’s one of the (many) beauties about the comic; his material never feels constructed in the typical, stringent manner modern stand up does. It all feels like an intimate discussion with a man down the pub with Billy working his way through hilarious tales of his life; it’s relaxing, brilliant and natural. While his illness is evident – the once energetic performer now stands stationary – his ability to express joy and happiness through tales of his colourful life have gladly been unaffected. Billy never shies away from using his illness as a source for comedy, his Ian Holm story is a stunning way to find humour in the darkest of places. It’s not only his Parkinson’s that gets a mention, Connolly discusses his recent prostate cancer, thankfully he is all clear now, and for a moment it stops the audience in their tracks. But then Connolly recounts a story about one of his treatments that’s as unflinching as it is amusing, emptying the room of silence and filling it up with endless laughter.
When he isn’t musing on tales of the past, Connolly discusses politics, his take on Trump contains numerous uses of the C word, and of course, his homeland of Scotland gets a mention with lines like “I knew a man in Scotland once that loved his wife so much he nearly told her one day”. He even manages to make plane noises sound painfully hilarious. He does it all effortlessly. A whole generation of comedians might have been inspired by the Scot but none have come close to the genuine article.
These days stand up comedy is everywhere but Connolly is in his own league, it’s like seeing The Rolling Stones in concert. Whether it’s shrimps in curtains or hecklers requesting heroin songs, the comic expertly crafts brilliant comedy that reminds you why he is still the best.