Big Yin in battle to get back on stage

Connolly after being presented with a special TV award last year by Dustin Hoffman. 
Picture: Alan Chapman/Getty

Connolly after being presented with a special TV award last year by Dustin Hoffman. Picture: Alan Chapman/Getty

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Billy Connolly has said his chances of returning to the stage depend on the success of a first attempt at taking medication for his Parkinson’s symptoms.

After being diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition in 2012, Connolly remained defiant and continued to appear on stage and screen.

However, he has revealed that he has had to relinquish passions that include playing the banjo, tying fishing flies and smoking cigars. On a doctor’s advice he refrained from taking medication until recent weeks, although his left side is now affected by a tremor.

A star-studded TV special celebrating his career will be broadcast on Tuesday, with friends and famous fans including Dame Judi Dench and Sir Elton John expected to honour the comedian, actor and musician.

Asked if he will perform on stage again Connolly, 74, said he “lives in hope”.

“I’ll have to see how this medicine works out,” he said.

Connolly, who gathered fans around he world with his energy and humour, told the newspaper there are moments where he struggles with the burden of his disease.

“Asking waiters to help you out from the table is one of those stages,” he said. “It’s the first thing I think about in the morning because getting out of bed is quite hard. It’s a weird thing because it has stopped me playing the banjo and it stopped me smoking cigars.

“It seems to creep up on everything I like and take it away from me. It’s like being tested.

“A sense of humour is absolutely essential. It’s the only thing that gets you through. Sometimes I get kind of dark about it. It’s because it’s forever, you know.”

Connolly is now living in Florida, having moved from New York with his wife, the psychologist, author and comedian Pamela Stephenson.

“It’s kind of drawn us together,” he says. “I’m really dependent on her, you know physically, whereas I used to be the strong guy.”

He said he is still able to go fishing and draw as he has retained control over his 
ight hand, but the new treatment has “shaken me 
up a bit”.

Billy Connolly & Me: A Celebration is on Tuesday at 9pm on STV

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