(Channel 5, 9pm)
Everyone from Generation X, through Millennials to Gen Z has their own version of Billy Connolly.
Whether it’s the windswept and interesting young folk singer who walked away from a promising career as a boilermaker in mid-1960s Scotland, or the accomplished actor who shared the screen with Judi Dench, or the documentarian who travelled the globe exploring fascinating places.
Billy has been voted the greatest-ever stand-up in 2007 and 2010 Channel 4 polls, and three years later in a Channel 5 list. Considering he’s explored every subject under the sun including – but not limited to – blasphemy, flatulence, haemorrhoids, sex, his father’s illness, his aunts’ cruelty and, more recently, old age – his enduring popularity remains quite the feat.
Or does it? Perhaps it’s because he’s a relentlessly nice guy and his surprise at how far he’s come from the Glasgow shipyards never fails to make his worldwide audience grin happily and clap him on the back.
He consistently recorded and performed between 1972 and 2016, and so numerous are the honours that have been bestowed on him, it’s a wonder he can stand up straight.
Most recently, he was the recipient of a BAFTA Fellowship, marking his 50-year career, and as if that wasn’t enough of a list of accomplishments, he’s also exhibited his art and sculpture.
But he hasn’t done all of it completely on his own. Elton John called on him as a warm-up act during his 1976 US tour, but as Billy later quipped to Michael Parkinson – who gave him regular slots on his chat show for decades – “It wasn’t my audience. They made me feel about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.”
He was also the first performer to take part in the Secret Policeman’s Ball charity shows who wasn’t part of the Oxbridge school line-up, giving his profile a boost on both sides of the Atlantic (finally).
In his film work, he went up against the likes of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Judy Davis, and was among the cast of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Director Peter Jackson said: “We could not think of a more fitting actor to play Dain Ironfoot, the staunchest and toughest of dwarves, than Billy Connolly, the Big Yin himself.
“With Billy stepping into this role, the cast of The Hobbit is now complete. We can’t wait to see him on the battlefield.”
But back to the comedy. This compilation looks back on the stand-up routines from some of his most critically acclaimed live shows and TV recordings in London and New York, a wealth of hilarious jokes and stories – as seen for the first time on some of the most successful talk shows – and a selection of rarely viewed archive clips from Billy’s unique performances.
We’ll leave the last word to the man himself: “You either look at the world one way or another. It’s the old half full half empty. It’s up to you. The world’s a great place, it’s full of great people. The choice is yours.”