Big Yin shows little sign of passing years

FUNNYMAN: Billy Connolly has the sense of humour most people can only hope to have in their 70s.
FUNNYMAN: Billy Connolly has the sense of humour most people can only hope to have in their 70s.

What: Billy Connolly's High Horse Tour

Where: Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000, Blenheim

When: Friday, May 9, 2014

Reviewed by: Ian Allen

Billy Connolly sauntered on to the stage on Friday night oozing his usual confidence, like someone who had popped out to grab the milk - a swagger that comes from 40 years of experience.

The only noticeable difference to his comedic early years being the small sheet of paper he was carrying. His notes, akin to a musician's set list, are obviously to prompt him should he lose his train of thought, which is ironically something he has built a career around.

His notes were an instant reminder of the health troubles the Big Yin has faced over the past 12 months - something he does not shy away from. According to Connolly, his cancer has "pissed off" and his Parkinson's disease has not caused him much shaking.

Certainly his ability to hold a room of 2500 people for two hours straight, no interval, has not missed a beat.

And the physicality of his standup routine still plays an integral part of Connolly's delivery, as he acts out absurd, yet everyday, scenes.

Even his attire has not changed - he is still wearing a baggy, black poncho-esque shirt.

The other constant is the crudeness of Connolly.

Going through the list of obscenities the Blenheim crowd should expect, he gauges how far he can take them.

The first half of the show genuinely seemed ad-lib, a technique he has undoubtedly crafted over the decades, as he jumps from one story to another.

Those unfamiliar with Connolly's comedy might think his Parkinson's is showing before he brings the story back again, actually reminding the audience of where the joke started. Another custom of Connolly's standup comedy is to tailor each show to the different places he visits.

Unfortunately, his joke about rose wine bombed on Blenheim's wine enthusiasts but how he reacted, through cursing the crowd and wishing he had never bothered, in the end received some of the biggest cheers. In the second half of his routine, Connolly moved into more tried and tested skits that show the Big Yin is still at the top of his game.

His story about watching a commercial for instant weight-loss pills and their side-effects hark back to his 1985 An Audience With Billy Connolly and his famous incontinence pants joke.

Our tears of laughter were no different to those shed by Michael Parkinson and company 30 years ago.

Still as sharp as a tack, at the age of 71, Connolly showed on Friday night why many believe he is the greatest comedian of his generation.

The Marlborough Express