Sir Billy Connolly admitted that he has made peace with death as he retired from his 50-year career in stand-up comedy during a touching documentary.
The Scottish comedian, 78, opened up about his battle with Parkinson’s disease on ITV’s Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, which aired on Monday evening.
He emotionally admitted that his Parkinson’s disease will eventually lead to his ‘end’, but added that he has made peace with this.
‘I’m happy where I am’: Sir Billy Connolly admitted that he has made peace with death as he retired from his 50-year career in stand-up comedy in a touching documentary
Appearing from his home in Florida, Billy explained: ‘It’s got me, it will get me and it will end me, but that’s OK with me.’
Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.
Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and revealed he was retiring from stand-up comedy earlier this year because of the degenerative disease.
The ITV special featured the comedian’s ‘greatest stand-up moments, unseen performance footage and exclusive chats with some of Billy’s biggest famous fans’.
Candid: The Scottish comedian, 78, opened up about his battle with Parkinson’s disease on ITV’s Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, which aired on Monday evening
During the documentary, the legendary star insisted that he does not let his Parkinson’s ‘define’ him, while his wife Pamela Stephenson said he is in ‘great’ health.
His wife of 30 years, 71, said their move to Florida from New York has been ‘fantastic’ for Billy, who is currently writing his autobiography.
She also opened up about his new passion for drawing, saying he manages to create ‘incredible’ masterpieces, while Billy said it has given him a ‘new lease of life’.
Speaking about Billy’s other interests, Pamela revealed: ‘What he wants to do is take it easy, he wants to fish on his dock in Florida, and enjoy the sunshine, watch television and drink tea and eat biscuits, that’s what he wants to do.’
The documentary came to an emotional close as his celebrity friends became teary-eyed while paying tribute to The Big Yin’s legendary career on stage.
Parkinson’s: The legendary star insisted that he does not let his Parkinson’s ‘define’ him, while his longtime wife Pamela Stephenson, 71, said he is in ‘great’ health
Russell Brand, Sir Elton John, Sir Lenny Henry, Dustin Hoffman and Sir Paul McCartney were among the famous faces gushing over the beloved comedian.
Sheridan Smith even revealed that she named her seven-month-old son Billy after the actor, who she starred alongside in 2012 movie Quartet.
After watching the tributes, Billy quipped that he ‘changed his mind’ and was ‘coming back’ to stand-up as he was overwhelmed by their touching words.
As the documentary came to a close, Billy gushed: ‘I’m very touched.
‘But remember I’m happy where I am, and it’s because of you and what you made my life. I’ve got no complaints at all.’
Teary-eyed: The documentary came to a heartwarming close as his celebrity friends became emotional while paying tribute to The Big Yin’s legendary career on stage
‘Thank you Billy’: Viewers flooded Twitter with ‘happy retirement’ wishes for Billy as they admitted that they had both cried from emotion and laughter during the hour-long show
And the stars of the documentary were not the only ones who felt overwhelmed after watching the heartwarming ITV special.
Viewers flooded Twitter with ‘happy retirement’ wishes for Billy as they admitted that they had cried from both emotion and laughter during the hour-long show.
One tearful fan wrote: ‘The world is a far better place with Billy in it #billyconnolly #itsbeenapleasure as ever I laughed and cried watching that tonight.’
While a second tweeted: ‘Very sad but uplifting documentary on the wonderful #billyconnolly tonight.
Tribute: The ITV special featured the comedian’s ‘greatest stand-up moments, unseen performance footage and exclusive chats with some of Billy’s biggest famous fans’
‘He really has been the most consistently funny person throughout my lifetime and his legacy is an incredible body of audio, TV and film performances over the past 50 years. Thank you Billy.’
Another gushed: Billy Connolly doc on ITV is a joy. Probably the best stand up this country has ever had.’
And a fourth penned: ‘That was one of the best things I’ve watched on TV all year. A fantastic man and an absolute legend. Hope he enjoys his retirement.’
The incredible reflection on his career comes soon after Billy said that he believes quitting his 50-year stand-up career is ‘the right thing to do’.
He told The Mirror: ‘Since the Parkinson’s I’m still the same in many ways, but I don’t think as sharply as I need to to be a stand-up, I’ve done 50 years and that’s plenty. Quitting is the right thing to do.’
Legend: Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and revealed he was retiring from stand-up comedy earlier this year because of the degenerative disease (pictured in April 2005)
Billy went on to explain that he has ‘no regrets’ or complaints about his impressive career, saying that he has been ‘damn lucky’ in everything that he has achieved.
He continued: ‘I achieved everything I wanted, played everywhere I wanted to… I did it all.’
Looking back on his career, he admitted he ‘won’t miss the panic’ he got before heading on stage for a live performance, comparing it to walking the plank’.
Billy, who is known for not writing his shows but instead relying on his off-the-cuff comedic flare, said his nerves became worse in recent years, leading him to meditate for around 20 minutes before taking to the stage.
But Billy was quick to add that his nerves always disappeared as soon as he greeted the audience, insisting that he prefers live performances to appearing on TV.
Beloved: The Scottish comedian, 78, said he believes ‘quitting’ his 50-year stand-up career is ‘the right thing to do’, admitting that he doesn’t miss it anymore (pictured in January 2016)
The star revealed he was retiring from stand-up comedy earlier this year due to his Parkinson’s and was given the chance to say goodbye to his career in the ITV show.
Billy previously told Sky News: ‘I’m finished with stand-up – it was lovely and it was lovely being good at it. It was the first thing I was ever good at.’
In the early 1970s, Connolly made the transition from folk singer with a comedic persona to fully fledged comedian, for which he is now well-loved for.
In 1972, he made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Connolly’s Glasgow Flourish. He also played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Known for his idiosyncratic observational comedy, which frequently includes the use of profanity, in 2007, Connolly was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and again in the updated 2010 poll.
Throwback: In 1972, Billy made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Connolly’s Glasgow Flourish (pictured in 1979)
After his diagnosis, Billy continued to tour with his stand-up shows until 2017, but said his Parkinson’s made him get ‘rooted to the spot and afraid to move’.
The actor then moved to Florida with his wife Pamela Stephenson to fight the degenerative disorder.
The multi-talented legend has recently taken up a new lucrative career as an artist – and his artwork is selling for thousands of pounds.
Billy said: ‘It’s just not the kind of thing that people like me do.’
Last year, Billy admitted his ‘hearing [was] going’ and he can no longer think ‘at speed’.
Family: Billy and Pamela (pictured in October 2017) have three kids – Scarlett, 30, Amy, 32, and Daisy, 34. He also has Cara, 45, and Jamie, 49, from his first marriage to Iris Pressagh
He said: ‘I may perform at some other point but I have no plans to. And I’m quite happy taking my medicine and getting along with it.
‘I’ve started to drool which is a new one on me. This disease, it gives you a new thing every now and again that you have to deal with and drooling is my latest.
‘I walk unsteadily and my hearing is going and it’s bizarre that bits of me are falling off but it’s interesting.’
The funnyman has two children – Cara, 45, and Jamie, 49, from his first marriage to Iris Pressagh.
Billy and Pamela have three children together – Scarlett, 30, Amy, 32, and Daisy, 34.
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.
Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.