Comedian Sir Billy Connolly reportedly struggles to recognise his close friends as he battles with Parkinson’s disease.
The 75-year-old went public with his diagnosis five years ago. In 2017, he was knighted for his services to the world of entertainment, as well as his charity work.
Parkinson’s disease affects both the brain and the body, causing involuntary shaking, stiff muscles and slow movements, as well as memory problems.
Recently, his friend Sir Michael Parkinson explained how Connolly now struggles to recognise his close friends.
The former chat show host was in New York to present Connolly with an award, but the Scottish comedian struggled to place Parkinson, despite them having known each other for years.
Sir Michael explained the pair both attended a dinner, but described one moment in the encounter as ‘sad and awkward’ as Connolly had trouble remembering who his friend was, and asked him how long they’d known each other.
Speaking on Saturday Morning With James Martin, Sir Michael explained:
The sadness of Billy now is that wonderful brain is dulled.
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. But we were walking out after the presentation to go down and have our picture taken, and he turned to me and put his hand on my shoulders.
To know someone as long as I knew and loved Billy… it was an awful thing to contemplate, that had been taken from him in a sense.
He was just a genius and the best thing that happened to me on the show.
Billy Connolly appeared regularly on Michael Parkinson’s chat show, which ran from 1971 to 2007.
The comedian has also appeared in films such as The Hobbit, The Last Samurai, and A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
According to the Mirror, Connolly has spoken in the past about how he continued to perform despite having Parkinson’s.
When I’m in front of people and performing, I don’t give it much attention.
And I perform in spite of it. That’s why I put on the song A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On – just to stick two fingers up to it.
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. I’m like a big log. It’s the first thing I think about in the morning because getting out of bed is quite hard.
It’s weird. I’m trying to stay on the light side because the dark side is unthinkable.
Our thoughts are with Sir Billy, and his friends and family at this difficult time.
The Parkinson’s UK helpline is a free and confidential service providing support to anyone affected by Parkinson’s. Their number is 0808 800 030.
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.