Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly Headshot

Actor • Musician • Comedian

Birth Date: November 24, 1942

Age: 81 years old

Birth Place: Anderston, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Famous in the United Kingdom as a musician and groundbreaking stand-up comic since the 1970s, Scottish entertainer Billy Connolly did not hit the American radar until he was showcased on "Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance" (HBO, 1990). He spent a season as Howard Hesseman's replacement on the sitcom "Head of the Class" (ABC, 1986-1991) before he was given his own short-lived series, "Billy" (ABC, 1991-92), while at the same time, touring relentlessly, charming audiences in the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand - all locations where he made a series of successful tour documentaries for the BBC. His boisterous, animated physical style and off-the-cuff vulgarity eventually caught on with American audiences and he toured the United States more regularly, becoming a familiar sight on late night talk shows. As an actor, Connolly revealed a dramatic side with his BAFTA-nominated performance as a confidante of Queen Elizabeth in "Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown" (1997), and also had memorable character roles in such diverse fare as "The Last Samurai" (2003), "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004) and "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" (2008). Seemingly able to do it all and succeed, the multi-talented Connolly continued his long and varied career well into the 21st century.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 24, 1942, Connolly suffered family discord at four years old when his parents, William and Mary, divorced. As a result, Connolly and his younger sister, Florence, were raised by an abusive father and two aunts in a poor, unhappy home. By the age of 13, Connolly knew he wanted to be an entertainer, but he was torn between his love of American country music records and his admiration for the comedians at the local variety show. Music ended up being Connolly's first pursuit, but it was nearly a decade before he made a name. He dropped out of school at 15, then worked as a delivery boy before taking a five-year apprenticeship as a shipyard welder. He spent a brief tour building an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria, after which he moved to London in time to join the booming folk rock scene as a banjo and guitar player. He co-formed the folk group, The Humblebums, along with future pop star Gerry Rafferty, and while playing around local clubs, Connolly's between-song banter proved to be a hit with audiences which he parlayed it into a sideline in standup comedy.

Audiences had not heard anything like Connolly when he began making a name for himself as a comic in the late 1960s. His was a modern new perspective, with long hair and a working class Scottish accent at a time when the only comic voices on television and radio were university-educated Brits. Inspired by the bawdy humor of his ship-working colleagues, Connolly strove to be like funny "ordinary guys," whom he found entertaining, rather than tell standard jokes as a detached comic. To that end, he focused on observational humor that discussed the absurd and uncomfortable in everyday life, with a bit of an obsession for sophomoric bathroom humor. Connolly went solo as a musician, releasing Billy Connolly Live! in 1972 and performing an original musical play based on his time at the shipyard, "The Great Northern Welly Boot Show," at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After "Welly Boot" opened to rave reviews in London, Connolly scored a number one hit in the U.K. in 1975 with a parody version of Tammy Wynette's country classic "D.I.V.O.R.C.E." A tour of his comedy and music hybrid act was turned into the film "Big Banana Feet" (1975), which was followed by a famously controversial appearance on the English interview show "Parkinson" (BBC) that helped turn Connolly into a star.

Connolly was tapped to perform his stand-up act on Elton John's 1976 American concert tour, after which he returned to the U.K. to launch a three-month tour throughout Britain, "The Billy Connolly Extravaganza." In 1977, Connolly's first non-musical play, "An' Me Wi' a Bad Leg," debuted in London to a sold-out run at the Royal Court Theater. The following year, the ever-evolving artist appeared in a Scottish Opera production of "Die Fledermaus," then had his play, "The Red Runner," performed to packed houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1979. Connolly went on to appear in the Amnesty International music and comedy fundraiser "The Secret Policeman's Ball," which put the working class Scotsman alongside revered British comic icons as John Cleese and Peter Cook, confirming his status as a top British talent. The subsequent concert, "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball" (1982), achieved cult status with British music and comedy fans in the United States, laying the groundwork for Connolly's eventual breakthrough to American audiences. In 1982, his ninth album, Pick of Billy Connolly, went gold almost immediately, and by the mid-1980s, the well-known stage act was appearing in British film productions and making guest appearances on television.

When the Fox network aired "Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Celebration" (1988), Connolly was a virtual unknown in the United States. But his performance caught the attention of producers, who brought him to the States in 1990 to appear in "Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance," a special produced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Connolly was subsequently cast in a television adaptation of the film "Dead Poets Society" (1989). But when the pilot went unsold, he was instead cast as a teacher on the ABC sitcom "Head of the Class" after Howard Hesseman left the series. In an interesting cultural twist, Connolly - who was initially an outcast among educated British comedians because of his working-class status - was brought on the show to play an Oxford-educated teacher able to handle genius-level students. The show lasted another season to diminishing ratings amid complaints that Connolly's accent was too thick for American ears. Undaunted, Connolly relocated his family to Los Angeles, intent on breaking into the U.S. market. He headlined his own HBO special "Billy Connolly: Pale Blue Scottish Person" (1991) and followed with the short-lived ABC sitcom "Billy" (1991-92), again playing a teacher - this time, a college instructor who marries a student (Mary Springer) to remain in America.

After the demise of his short-lived sitcom, Connolly broke into American films with roles in the Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama "Indecent Proposal" (1993) and in Disney's animated hit "Pocahontas" (1995). In between both films, he undertook a 40-date stand-up comedy tour of Scotland which was filmed by the BBC and aired as a six-part series "World Tour of Scotland" (1994). In 1996, the network sent Connolly to shoot "A Scot in the Arctic" (1996) and "Billy Connolly's World Tour of Australia," before he triumphed as the hunting servant who brings Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) out of her depression after the death of Prince Albert in "Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown" (1997). With the film's rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, Connolly had finally arrived as an actor, and had a BAFTA Award to prove it. Connolly returned to American film with a hilariously bawdy role as a horny tennis pro aboard a luxury cruise liner in Stanley Tucci's ensemble comedy "The Impostors" (1998) and relived his early years in music playing a roadie in the British comedy "Still Crazy" (1998). The comic then sold out a 59-date tour of Australia in New Zealand, as well as a solid 25-date run at London's Hammersmith Apollo Theater. He rounded out the millennium with the British thriller "The Debt Collector" (1999), then entered the next century alongside Sharon Stone in the popular European theatrical release "Beautiful Joe" (2000), playing a florist unwittingly mixed up in a mob heist.

Back in his native land, he filmed another BBC tour series, this time performing in England, Ireland and Wales, before returning to American film with a highly visible role opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in "White Oleander" (2003). His film profile continued to rise with "Timeline" (2003), director Richard Donner's lackluster adaptation of the Michael Crichton bestseller. After a more winning turn as Tom Cruise's loyal sergeant in "The Last Samurai," Connolly had a great supporting role in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," adapted from the popular series of children's books, then hit the road again to tour New Zealand and film another successful series for the BBC. In 2006, the unstoppable 63-year-old unveiled a new stage show, "Too Old to Die Young," which was also given a five-week run in New York. Back on the big screen, Connolly gave a strong dramatic performance as a disturbed Catholic priest in the otherwise disappointing sequel, "The X Files: I Want to Believe" (2008). After reprising Noah "Il Duce" MacManus for the long-in-the-making sequel, "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" (2009), Connolly was the King of Lilliput in the poorly reviewed adaptation of "Gulliver's Travels" (2010), starring Jack Black as the light-hearted Lemuel Gulliver. He went on to voice King Fergus in the animated hit "Brave" (2012), and was one of four retired opera singers who revive both Verdi and old rivalries in the British-made dramedy, "Quartet" (2012), co-starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins.

Credits

Billy Connolly Does ..

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2022

Billy Connolly: My Absolute Pleasure

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2021

Billy Connolly: In His Own Words

Self
Show
2021

Hogmanay: The Pride of Scotland Awards

Guest
Show
2020

Billy and Us

Actor
Show
2020

Billy Connolly: Life, Death and Laughter

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Show
2020

Billy Connolly's Great American Trail

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Show
2019

Ray Martin Presents: Laughs and Larrikins

Guest Star
Show
2019

Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland

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Show
2018

Billy Connolly's Ultimate World Tour

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2018

Tate Britain's Great Art Walks

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Show
2018

The Russell Howard Hour

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Show
2017

Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime

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Show
2017

Tate Britain's Great British Walks

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2017

Billy Connolly: High Horse Tour Live

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2016

Billy Connolly's Tracks Across America

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2016

Wild OatsStream

Actor
Movie
2016
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Dying Laughing

Self
Movie
2016

Billy Connolly: High Horse Tour Live

Actor
Movie
2016

Billy Connolly: High Horse Tour Live

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Movie
2016

Five Fables

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Show
2014

What We Did on Our Holiday

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Gordy McLeod
Movie
2014

Brave: Extras

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Show
2013

Great Bear Stakeout

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2013

What About Dick?

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Inspector McGuffin
Show
2012

BraveStream

Voice
Fergus
Movie
2012
79%

Quartet

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Wilf Bond
Movie
2012

Billy Connolly's Route 66

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2011

Gerry Rafferty: Right Down the Line

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2011

7.30

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2011

The Ballad of Nessie

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Movie
2011

ConanStream

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Talk
2010

Billy Connolly and Aly Bain: Fishing for Poetry

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2010

George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight

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2010

Gulliver's TravelsStream

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King Theodore
Movie
2010
20%

Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World

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2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

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Noah 'Il Duce' MacManus
Movie
2009

The X-Files: I Want to Believe Extra

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Father Joseph Crissman
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2008

Gaybo Laughs Back

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2008

The X-Files: I Want to BelieveStream

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Father Joseph Crissman
Movie
2008
32%

Open Season 2

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McSquizzy
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2008

Wisdom

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2008

An Audience with

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2007

The Graham Norton ShowStream

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Talk
2007

Fido

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Fido
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2007

The One Show

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2006

Open Season

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McSquizzy
Movie
2006

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

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Lord Dargis
Movie
2006

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

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Talk
2005

The Aristocrats

Self
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2005

HouseStream

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Thomas Bell
Series
2004
90%

Who Do You Think You Are?

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2004

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate EventsStream

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Uncle Monty
Movie
2004
72%

The Last SamuraiStream

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Zebulon Gant
Movie
2003
66%

TimelineStream

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Professor Johnston
Movie
2003
13%

The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch

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Interviewee
Movie
2002

White OleanderStream

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Barry Kolker
Movie
2002
69%

Columbo: Murder With Too Many Notes

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Findlay Crawford
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2001

Prince Charming

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Hamish
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2001

Who Is Cletis Tout?

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Dr. Savian
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2001

The Man Who Sued God

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Steve Myers
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2001

Gentleman's Relish

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Kingdom Swann
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2001

Gabriel & Me

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Gabriel
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2001

An Everlasting Piece

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Scalper
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2000

Beautiful Joe

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Joe
Movie
2000

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

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Talk
1999

The Debt Collector

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Nickie Dryden
Movie
1999

The Boondock SaintsStream

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Il Duce
Movie
1999
26%

Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years

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1998

Guys Like Us

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1998

The Changeling

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Alibius
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1998

Middleton's Changeling

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Alibius
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1998

The Impostors

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Mr. Sparks, the Tennis Pro
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1998

Still Crazy

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Hughie
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1998

Veronica's Closet

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1997

The View

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1997

Mrs. BrownStream

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John Brown
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1997
92%

Paws

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PC
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1997

Pearl

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1996

3rd Rock from the SunStream

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1996

La Isla del Tesoro de los Muppets

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1996

Muppet Treasure IslandStream

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Capt. Billy Bones
Movie
1996
71%

Deacon Brodie

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Deacon Brodie
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1996

A Scot in the Arctic

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1995

A Scot in the Arctic

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1995

PocahontasStream

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Ben
Movie
1995
54%

Down Among the Big Boys

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JoJo Donnelly
Movie
1993

Indecent ProposalStream

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Auction MC
Movie
1993
34%

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

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Talk
1992

Billy

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1992

The Big Man

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Frankie
Movie
1990

Dreaming

Self
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1990

Face to Face

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1989

Head of the ClassStream

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Billy MacGregor
Series
1986

Water

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Delgado Fitzhugh
Movie
1985

Blue Money

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Des
Movie
1984

Bullshot

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Hawkeye McGillicuddy
Movie
1983

Kenny Everett New Year

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Various Characters
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1980

The Concert for Kampuchea

Self
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1980

The Secret Policeman's Ball

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1979

Kenny Everett Video Show

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1978

Absolution

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Blakey
Movie
1978

ColumboStream

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Findlay Crawford
Series
1971
84%

Parkinson

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Show
1971

Play for Today

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Jody
Show
1970

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