Born in Glasgow, Connolly's mother left the family when he was three years old. He was raised by his paternal aunts and his father, who abused him between the ages of 10 and 15.
Connolly started his working life in Scotland's shipyards and became a folk singer in the 1960s, playing in a band called The Humblebums. When the band broke up, he gradually phased out the musical side of his solo career, after which he rapidly became one of the most successful and well known comedians in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.
Connolly has always been controversial, pushing the boundaries of good taste, but he was criticised for going too far in 2004 when he joked about the British hostage Ken Bigley, who was later beheaded.
His acting career has grown over the last 15 years and has seen him act in films as diverse as The X Files, Gulliver's Travels, and Brave.