Scottish comedy’s plight is no laughing matter

Amid the coronavirus crisis, grassroots comedy in Scotland faces potential ‘extinction’ without a lifeline from the government, writes Brian Ferguson.

Can you remember the first time you saw yourself reflected back from a television screen or at the cinema?

It’s quite vivid in my memory as an awkward, hapless schoolboy, watching Gregory’s Girl at home in the mid-1980s. I was agog at not how achingly funny it was, from almost the first frame to the last, but also how true to life it felt to the harsh realities of teenage years when almost everything feels like a total mystery.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gregory’s Girl recently, partly because it is 40 years old next year. It is undoubtedly a touchstone for my generation, but is still seen as one of the greatest Scottish films of all-time. Director Bill Forsyth is revered as one of the nation’s leading filmmakers, not just for Gregory’s Girl, which was famously honoured in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, but for his two other best-known movies, Local Hero and Comfort and Joy. All three comfortably fit into the category of comedy.

Yet 40 years on, the current crop of Scottish comics have had to go into battle to try to secure official recognition for their art form for the first time and a share of the £107m lifeline funding to secure the future of arts and culture north of the border. I’ve come across some bizarre scenarios, but the sight of Scottish stand-ups pleading for fair treatment from the government of a country of Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle, Still Game, Chewin’ the Fat, Elaine C Smith and Karen Dunbar is right up there.

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BBC to dedicate a night to the iconic Billy Connolly with three documentaries

Billy Connolly: Life, Death and Laughter and Billy Connolly: Made In Scotland are both airing on BBC tonight. Heaven for fans of the comedian

BBC is dedicating an entire night to ‘The Big Yin,’ better known as Billy Connolly.

Starting at 10pm tonight, Billy Connolly: Life, Death and Laughter follows the iconic comedian as he returns to Glasgow’s famous Kings Theatre – where his journey into comedy first began – to talk life, death and laughter.

The feature looks back on Connolly’s past and ahead to the future, covering all elements of his unusually packed existence – how he got started, his approach to comedy, his Scottish roots and how Parkinson’s disease is the latest thing he is having to laugh at.

Later on this evening, Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland airs at 11.05pm with part one taking a uniquely ‘Billy’ approach to biography – part shaggy dog tale, part self-portrait, with a lot of jokes, personal archive and a few famous faces thrown in between.

The second part of the documentary – which airs immediately after the first episode finishes – finds the comedian back in the Scotland of his childhood, where he reveals that knitted woolly swimming trunks were not a figment of his imagination.

That’s a good night in if you’re a fan of the legendary comedian.

Source: BBC to dedicate a night to the iconic Billy Connolly with three documentaries | JOE is the voice of Irish people at home and abroad

Billy Connolly hits back at Michael Parkinson’s claims about his health: ‘I’d recognise him in a diving suit’

Sir Billy Connolly has firmly dismissed Sir Michael Parkinson’s claim that the 75-year-old comedian was no longer capable of recognising him.

Sir Billy Connolly has firmly dismissed Sir Michael Parkinson’s claim that the 75-year-old comedian was no longer capable of recognising him.

On Saturday, the broadcaster described an “awkward dinner” he had with his close friend Sir Billy, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013.

“[His] wonderful brain has dulled,” said Sir Michael, 83. “I saw him recently – he’s now living in America – and it was very sad, because I was presenting him with a prize at an award ceremony […] We had an awkward dinner together, because I wasn’t quite sure if he knew who I was or not.”

Speaking on ITV’s Saturday Morning with James Martin, Parkinson continued: “To know someone as long as I knew and loved Billy […] it was an awful thing to contemplate, that that had been taken from him in a sense.”

Now the comedian has hit back at Sir Michael’s claim that the 75-year-old comedian was no longer capable of recognising him. In a direct response to Sir Michael’s comments, Sir Billy says: “I would recognise Parky if he was standing behind me – in a diving suit.”

Friends and colleagues of Sir Billy are surprised by Parkinson’s remarks this weekend and insist he is “fine and well”.

Producers at Indigo Television, the company behind several of the Glaswegian comedian’s TV projects, have suggested Sir Michael did not have an accurate impression of Sir Billy’s health [ .  .  . ]

Continue reading at: Billy Connolly hits back at Michael Parkinson’s claims about his health: ‘I’d recognise him in a diving suit’