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Famous Birthdays this week: Billy Connolly

Sir William (Billy) Connolly CBE is a comedian, musician, presenter and actor from Glasgow.
Sir William (Billy) Connolly CBE is a comedian, musician, presenter and actor from Glasgow.

BILLY CONNOLLY

24/11/1942 - current (75 years old).

"Marriage is a wonderful invention: then again, so is a bicycle repair kit".

1942: Sir William (Billy) Connolly CBE* is born in, Anderston, Scotland. He is a comedian, musician, presenter and actor from Glasgow. Connolly's father was William Connolly; his mother, Mary "Mamie" McLean was from the McLean of Duart clan from the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. *CBE: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the Civil service.

1946: When he was barely four years old, Connolly's mother abandoned her children while their father was serving as an engineer in the Royal Air Force in Burma. Connolly and his older sister, Florence were cared for by two aunts, Margaret and Mona Connolly.

1965: After he had completed a five-year apprenticeship as a boilermaker, Connolly accepted a ten-week job building an oil platform in Biafra, Nigeria. After watching The Beverly Hillbillies, he bought his first banjo at the Barrowland market.

1968: A 26-year-old Connolly married Springburn native and interior designer Iris Pressagh, with whom he had two children.

1969: Connolly formed a folk-pop duo called The Humblebums with Tam Harvey. They were joined by Gerry Rafferty, who had approached Connolly after a gig in Paisley. The band signed for independent label Transatlantic Records, and after recording one album (First Collection of Merry Melodies), Harvey left the trio, and Connolly and Rafferty went on to release two more albums. Connolly's time with Rafferty possibly influenced his future comedy, because years later he would recall how Rafferty's expert prank telephone calls, made while waiting to go on stage, used to make him "scream" with laughter.

1971: The Humblebums broke up and Connolly returned to being a folk singer. The head of Transatlantic Records, Nat Joseph suggested Connolly drop folk singing and focus primarily on becoming a comedian.

1972: Nat Joseph produced Connolly's first solo album, Billy Connolly Live!, a mixture of comedic songs and short monologues that hinted at what was to follow.

1973: Joseph produced the breakthrough album that propelled Connolly to British stardom. Recorded at a small venue, The Tudor Hotel in Airdrie, the record was a double album titled Solo Concert.

1974: On tour, he sold out the Pavilion Theatre in his home town.

1975: The rapidity and extent of Connolly's breakthrough was used to secure him a booking on Britain's premier TV chat show, the BBC's Parkinson. Connolly made the most of the opportunity and, ignoring objections from his manager, told a bawdy joke about a man who had murdered his wife and buried her bottom-up so he'd have somewhere to park his bike. Connolly's UK success spread to other English-speaking countries: Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. However, his broad Scottish accent and British cultural references made success in the US improbable. His increased profile led to contact with other individuals, including musicians such as Elton John.

1979: Connolly was invited by producer Martin Lewis to join the cast of The Secret Policeman's Ball, the third in the series of The Secret Policeman's Balls fundraising shows for Amnesty International.

1981: John Cleese and Martin Lewis invited Connolly to appear in that year's Amnesty show, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. The commercial success of the special US version of The Secret Policeman's Other Ball film (Miramax Films, 1982) introduced Connolly to a wider American audience, who were attracted to the film because of the presence of Monty Python members.

1985: He divorced Iris Pressagh, his wife of sixteen years (they had separated four years earlier). That same year, he performed An Audience with..., which was videotaped at the South Bank Television Centre in front of a celebrity audience for ITV. The uncut, uncensored version was subsequently released on video. In July that year, he performed at the Wembley leg of Live Aid, immediately preceding Elton John.

1986: He visited Mozambique to appear in a documentary for Comic Relief. He also featured in the charity's inaugural live stage show, both as a stand-up and portraying a willing "victim" in his partner Pamela Stephenson's act of sawing a man in half to create two dwarfs.

1988: Connolly's father died after a stroke, the eighth of his life. His mother died five years later, in 1993, of motor neurone disease.

1989: Connolly shaved off his trademark shaggy beard for a film role and he remained clean-shaven for several years. Connolly and Pamela Stephenson married in Fiji on December 20. She was his second wife, a comedian and psychologist and they had three children together.

1999: After forming Tickety-Boo management company with Malcolm Kingsnorth, his tour manager and sound engineer of 25 years, Connolly undertook a four-month, 59-date sellout tour of Australia and New Zealand. Later in the year, he completed a five-week, 25-date sellout run at London's Hammersmith Apollo.

2000: He travelled to Canada for two weeks on a 13-date tour.

2007: He was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups and again in 2010.

2013: Connolly underwent minor surgery for early-stage prostate cancer. The announcement also stated that he was being treated for the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Connolly admitted earlier in 2013 that he had started to forget his lines during performances.

2014: Connolly appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? where he discovered his Indian ancestry.

Film career:

Connolly is also an actor and has appeared in such films as Water (1985), Indecent Proposal (1993), Pocahontas (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Mrs. Brown (1997), The Boondock Saints (1999), The Man Who Sued God (2001), The Last Samurai (2003), Timeline (2003), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006), Open Season (2006), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), Open Season 2 (2008), Brave (2012), Quartet (2012), and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). Connolly reprised his role as Noah "Il Duce" MacManus in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009).

Interesting Fact:

In the book Billy, and in a December 2008 online interview, Connolly states that he was sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. He believes this was a result of the Catholic Church not allowing his father to divorce after his mother left the family. Because of this, Connolly has a "deep distrust and dislike of the Catholic church and any other organization that brainwashes people". On his religious views, Connolly called himself an atheist.

Topics:  billy connolly comedian famous birthdays general-seniors-news seniors news


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