Billy Connolly on his desire to return to the stage with Parkinson's: 'I'll have to see how this medicine works out'

Stephen Walter
Billy Connolly, pictured with his wife Pamela Stephenson, has opened up about his battle with Parkinson's - Getty Images

Billy Connolly has revealed he is relying on a first course of Parkinson’s medication to allow him to perform on stage again as his condition steadily worsens.

The 74-year-old comedian only recently started taking drugs to control his tremors, which he says are present throughout his waking hours.

Connolly said he is now “really dependent” physically on his wife Pamela Stephenson, the psychologist and author.

He also admits he can get angry and fed up and has had to apologise to his wife for being "a bit gruff".

Billy Connolly revealed he is "really dependent" on his wife Pamela Credit:  Silverhub/REX/Shutterstock/Rex

He was diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition in 2012 and initially continued life as normal. In more recent times however, the symptoms have seen him relinquish some of his favourite passions, including playing the banjo, tying fishing flies and smoking cigars.

Doctors avoided prescribing medication for as long as possible but have now advised he begin a course.

It comes after he admitted that on occasions, the condition hampers him to such an extent that he needs help getting up out of seats.

But he told Weekend​ magazine the “shakes” are currently limited to his left hand side, meaning he can still continue his great passion of drawing with his right hand.

Connolly said he "lives in hope" of performing on stage again, adding: “I'll have to see how this medicine works out."

Billy Connolly says his return to the stage will depend on his course of Parkinson's medication Credit:  Holden/Variety/REX/Shutterstock/Rex

He told the magazine: “There’s a whole lot of shaking going on. It’s kind of weird, this instability. The only time it stops is when I’m in bed and then I can’t roll over.”

And in a frank account of his current health, Connolly admitted: “A sense of humour is absolutely essential. It's the only thing that gets you through. Sometimes I get kind of dark about it. It's because it's forever, you know."

Connolly, known in his native Scotland as “The Big Yin”, first rose to prominence in the 1970s, but these days he is more focused on his health than humour.

Admitting that his Parkinson’s “seems to creep up on everything I like and take it away from me”, he said: “It’s like being tested, 'cope with that, cope with life without your banjo. Now I’m going to make your hand shake so you can’t tie your fishing flies anymore'."

Connolly with his wife Pamela Stephenson Credit:  REX/Startraks Photo/Rex

At times, he said his Parkinson’s gets him down, but he refuses to get too disheartened. The jovial Scot has also battled prostate cancer, for which he underwent surgery.

The revelations about his current health come as a new star-studded TV special celebrating his career is to be broadcast on Tuesday, with friends and famous fans including Dame Judi Dench and Sir Elton John expected to honour the comedian, actor and musician.

These days Connolly and his wife are living in Florida, USA, having moved from New York. The couple met on the set of Not The Nine O'Clock News in 1979 and married ten years later. 

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