Billy Connolly has lived a long and colourful life and his genius as a stand-up conic is undisputed. He is also full of contradictions; a national treasure living at a distance from his Scottish roots; a working class lad who earns his keep in the flighty world of the arts. Like many comedians, his life has had its share of trauma. Despite, or perhaps because of this, his gift of bringing laughter to the world keeps giving year after year.
After a lifetime travelling the world on tour, Connolly admits the ravages of time are reducing his desire to perform live and instead he has written Tall Tales and Wee Stories.
This book commits his stand-up routines, his experiences and foibles to the page exactly as he used to perform them on stage or television. As Connolly writes in the introduction: “You’ll hear my voice in your head while you’re reading. And that is the only way to read this book.”
Some tales are apocryphal, a few may have a grain of truth, but for better or worse all do their bit to capture the essence of this remarkable man.
As you might hope or expect, there is honesty here. No-one has polished the occasionally dated edges or suggested that the phrasing is disrespectful to women or to ethnic groups. What you see is what you get. If you are offended by the comedy of Billy Connolly on stage, you will be offended by this book. It is gloriously, unashamedly peppered with swearing, bodily functions and drunken behaviour. It shows us our humanity in all its ridiculous failings and heroic efforts and invites the reader to laugh long and hard at their own absurdities.
Connolly captures characters and voices that might be vanishing from the streets of Glasgow and preserves them for eternity, including jokes, onomatopoeic dialogue and even a few of Connolly’s truly delightful drawings.
As a literary work, the stories aren’t strong enough to stand alone; they need a certain familiarity of the loud, large physicality of a Billy Connolly performance to make them sing. To truly appreciate this book, the reader needs to summon their own memory of ‘The Big Yin’ and that unquenchable twinkle and when you do, you will laugh, guffaw and snort your way through this remarkable book.