Billy Connolly: Medical challenges of my Parkinson’s disease are getting worse

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Sir Billy Connolly has said the medical challenges he faces while filming for television are “getting worse”.

The comedian was speaking during a session at the Edinburgh TV Festival, which is honouring him with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the industry.

Sir Billy, 78, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and retired from live performances five years later, but he has continued to record programmes for television.

During an interview with his wife, Dr Pamela Stephenson Connolly, he said making television programmes now was a “challenge”.

He said: “The challenges lately have been medical. They are getting worse.”

He added: “I will have to weigh it up and see how bad it gets. Play it by ear.”

Sir Billy said that on his last tour he used to say to the audience: “Good evening symptom spotters. I would show them symptoms and it would work really well.”

He said the audience for the online event will have “noticed I have been holding my left hand as this has been going on” as it had started to involuntarily shake.

“It’s started to jump around,” he added.

GQ Men of the Year Awards 2016 – London
Sir Billy Connolly (Ian West/PA)

Sir Billy said he was “proud and happy” to be receiving the lifetime achievement award.

During the interview the comedian, affectionately known as the Big Yin, also discussed his first appearance on Sir Michael Parkinson’s talk show which helped to make his name.

He said it was a “very weird” experience.

“I had done wee talk shows in Scotland and they were good, but there wasn’t the big time thing that Parkinson had.”

Watch: Swiss hiker defies Parkinson’s disease

Sir Billy also discussed receiving a warm welcome back to Glasgow when he was applauded by members of the public after he landed at the city’s airport following his appearance on the show.

“It’s a thing the Scots have got about accents,” he said.

“You can be as popular as you like but if you don’t have a Scottish accent when you’re doing it, it’s different.

“They loved the fact I went on with my Scottish accent and got famous.

“They took it personally and they all applauded and it was lovely.”

What We Did On Our Holiday Premiere – London
Sir Billy Connolly (Ian West/PA)

The discussion, which was streamed online, took place on the first day of the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Screenwriter Jack Thorne will deliver the annual MacTaggart lecture as part of the festival.

Thorne will draw attention to the “glaring problem” of the treatment of disabled people in its flagship session.

The MacTaggart lecture has formed the centrepiece of the Edinburgh International Television Festival since 1976.

The virtual festival will also feature appearances from Hollywood star and Hamilton writer Lin-Manuel Miranda, Greta Thunberg and Whoopi Goldberg, while comedian London Hughes will be this year’s Alternative MacTaggart speaker.

There will also be a Spitting Image session with Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings coming face to face in puppet form, as well as the traditional appearances by the commissioners of the TV channels.

The Edinburgh TV Festival runs until Thursday.

Watch: Sir Billy Connolly given lifetime achievement award at Edinburgh TV festival

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