The Big Yin was presented with the prestigious Royal Television Society Scotland Award in Florida, where he has recently moved with his wife Pamela.
Her was unable to attend the society’s annual Scottish awards in Glasgow, where the screenwriter and playwright Peter McDougall paid tribute to Connolly.
In a video message broadcast at the event, the Glasgow-born comic paid tribute to STV and presenter Bill Tennent for giving him his break on screen.
Connolly said: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart - I really appreciate it. I like these prizes.
“I owe everything to Bill. He put me on his show whenever he couldn’t find another guest.
“He would phone me up and I would go and turn up and play my guitar and sing folk songs.
“Eventually he got me on to sit and interview and that was the breakthrough.
“He leant forward at the end of the interview and said: ‘You’ve done yourself no harm there.’
“After that I did the Michael Parkinson show, which is the legendary one. He leant forward and said the exact same words. Isn’t that extraordinary?”
McDougall, who first worked with Connolly in a Clyde shipyard, later joined forces with him on the dramas Just Another Saturday, The Debt Collector and Down Among The Big Boys.
Paying tribute to Connolly, McDougall told the audience at the Oran Mor arts centre in Glasgow: “Billy Connolly is not just talented...he is gifted...and he is our gift.
“It’s my pleasure that we’ve been friends for nigh on 50 years but, more importantly perhaps, over those years, it’s been my privilege, and yours, to have been allowed the glimpses that he gives of his genius.”
Meanwhile ITV’s series on the Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, In Plain Sight, was named best drama at the awards, while BBC Scotland sitcom Two Doors Down was named best comedy show ahead of Still Game’s comeback.
The sport award was shared between the BBC Scotland series on the social history of Scottish football, Scotland’s Game, and Sky Sports’ coverage of Hibernian’s hood-busting victory over Rangers in last season’s Scottish Cup Final.