BILLY Connolly struggled with memory loss on his return to the live stage in Scotland for the first time since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – but made light of his health problems throughout the show.
The 71-year-old’s movement was clearly restricted as he played the first of 22 gigs in his home country, but he received a standing ovation as he left the stage in Aberdeen.
Connolly, who remained on his feet at the Music Hall for an hour and 45 minutes, without an interval, had difficulty recalling parts of his planned routine, despite extensive prompting notes on an on-stage table.
And at other moments in the show – his first in Scotland for five years – the comic struggled to identify particular words. At one point, after looking with puzzlement at his notes, Connolly admitted: “I’ve written stuff down that I don’t understand. What the f*** is that supposed to mean?”
At another point he asked for the audience’s patience, saying: “Let me get this right.”
Earlier, after asking the audience if they were “watching for me shaking”, Connolly said they would notice that his left arm would appear as if he was carrying “an invisible raincoat”.
After taking the stage to huge acclaim at the Music Hall, Connolly told his fans: “You’re only doing that because I’m no’ well.”
He added: “It’s kind of weird; my left side is different from the right. You’ll notice it as the evening goes on. It doesn’t bother me all that much, except it’s getting worse.”
His health problems, death and religion dominated the sold-out show, which saw Connolly plead with his male fans to get a “check done” for prostate cancer, urging them “don’t be a scaredy, don’t be embarrassed”.
He went into graphic detail of the procedures he endured after he suffered bladder problems and revealed how the cancer surgery has affected his sex life, saying: “My wife will kill me for telling you this.”
Connolly revealed earlier this year that he had put himself on a “strict regime” of crossword books to help him cope with memory loss, one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, with which he was diagnosed last summer – the same week he discovered he had prostate cancer.
Connolly’s opening night show on Monday included routines about a patient dying before his eyes as he was performing music on stage at a charity gig in a hospice, and a pal who worked in a mortuary.
Parts of the show saw Connolly as fearless as ever, particularly over the Catholic Church abuse scandal, with the Tory conference, Nigel Farage and IS providing some of the most up-to-date material.
However the comic, who earlier this year described the independence referendum as a “morass that I care not to dip my toe into,” sidestepped the issue.
He said simply: “Let’s talk about the referendum … let’s no’ f***ing bother.”
Tickets for Connolly’s homecoming tour, which also visits Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Glasgow, sold out within minutes on their release in July.
The live appearances coincide with the release of Connolly’s new film, What We Did On Our Holiday.
In an interview with The Scotsman’s Weekend Life magazine last Saturday, Connolly talked about his desire to keep performing live comedy.
He said: “I’ve been trying to think of why, and there is no why – it’s just my job and I keep on doing it, because I think that you should do what you do.”