Comedian and actor Billy Connolly will be knighted today at Buckingham Palace for his services to entertainment and charity.
The Big Yin is finally being recognised with the old three-sword-touch courtesy of Queen Elizabeth II, after decades of entertainment and philanthropy.
The 74-year-old Glaswegian comedian, music and film talent said ‘I’m not big on pride’ but added he is ‘very pleased’ to be given a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Connolly told the BBC:
I am a little embarrassed but deep within me, I’m very pleased to have it. I feel as if I should be called Lancelot or something. Sir Lancelot, that would be nice. Sir Billy doesn’t quite have the same ring.
After decades – a veritable lifetime – bringing light and laughter into the world, it’s about time Sir Big Yin stepped up to the plate.
Although Billy decided he wanted to make people laugh during his ‘unhappy’ childhood, the schoolboy garnered two engineering qualifications, one of which was collected by mistake and actually belonged to a boy named Connell.
In his autobiography, penned by his wife Pamela Stephenson, Billy recalls the origins of his love of laughter:
I can remember the moment in the school playground. I would have been 7 or 8. And I was sitting in a puddle and people were laughing. I had fallen in it and people found it funny.
And it wasn’t all that uncomfortable, so I stayed in it longer than I normally would because I really enjoyed the laughing.
My life was very unhappy at the time, and laughter wasn’t something I heard all the time, so it was a joy. And I realised quickly that if you can have an audience this way, life was rather pleasant.
As a young man, Connolly spent his formative years working in the shipyards, enjoying the hive of activity and banter of his 9 to 5. He went onto join the Territorial Army Reserve unit 15th (Scottish) Battalion and the Parachute Regiment (15 PARA) and became the Weekend Soldier he would later sing about.
So, then there came the music. With his band, The Humblebums – and in the early 1970s during his solo career – Billy mixed his trademark wit and whimsy with the melodic tones of folk to cult acclaim.
But it wasn’t long before his comedic stylings finally took centre stage and The Big Yin – as he’s known by his Scottish fans – was born.
Billy’s first solo endeavour came with the release of Billy Connolly Live!, a brave double album of comedy monologues and ditties.
It features one of Billy’s most famous sketches – The Crucifixion, which likens Christ’s Last Supper to a drunken night out in Glasgow – and immediately garnered the eminent performer his deserved status on comedy circuits.
Billy was a hit with the 1970s audiences in Britain, who longed for the sort of tongue-in-cheek edgy comedy the bearded icon has always delivered, with a cheeky smile on his unusually-hirsute face.
Billy has dedicated much of his career to appearances for charitable causes, such as Comic Relief and Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela‘s 70th Birthday Celebration.
Connolly’s other television endeavours have seen him travel the world on his Harley Davidson, from Australia to America and the Arctic Circle.
In 1997, Connolly starred with Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown, in which he played John Brown, the favoured Scottish servant of Queen Victoria. He was nominated for a BAFTA Award and a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Connolly has since starred in White Oleander (2002), The Last Samurai (2003), and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), as well as voicing animated feature length films such as Brave (2012).
The self-confessed atheist also warmed the hearts of cult classic audiences in a plethora of charming indie films, including his portrayal of an elderly, sea-faring lawyer who undertakes a legal case of Biblical proportions in The Man Who Sued God (2001).
Connolly has brought life and laughter to the lives of many. To say this honour is deserved would be an understatement.