Friday 19 January 2018

William Langley: Live stand-up is no place for a legend like the Big Yin to spend his 70th birthday

Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly

ON the approach to his 70th birthday, Billy Connolly is treading the boards of places such as Southend and Llandudno, thereby testing the theory that even though it’s out of season, he’s not out of friends. Things started well, with strong bookings and decent reviews, but twice last week the comedian walked off after being heckled. Over his silvery perm now hangs the question of whether he’s been at it too long.

The first unpleasantness arose in Scarborough where – annoyed by drunken abuse and heavy traffic between the seats and the toilets – Connolly declared the show over. A few days later, in Blackpool, a joke was interrupted by a heckler who complained that he’d heard it before. As Billy attempted to continue, the heckler himself was heckled by a woman objecting to the interruption, at which point Connolly walked off, telling his confused audience: “I’m out of here.”

Most comedians are in agreement about hecklers. Loathe them or hate them, you just can’t stand them. The stand-up comic Jim Tavaré remembers starting a routine with the line: “Good evening, I’ve just discovered that I’m a schizophrenic.” Whereupon a heckler stood up and yelled: “Well, why don’t you both ---- off?”

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