Billy Connolly heading to Claudelands Arena

RETURNING TO NEW ZEALAND: Scottish comedian Billy Connolly.
RETURNING TO NEW ZEALAND: Scottish comedian Billy Connolly.

Fans of Scottish comedian Billy Connolly will be hoping he will save the best for last during his forthcoming New Zealand tour.

The man known as The Big Yin in his native land will perform at Hamilton's Claudelands Arena on May 14 - the final date of his 12-city schedule, which begins on April 8.

Connolly has legions of devotees in the Waikato alone. His last shows in Hamilton in 2009 and 2004, in which he played at Founders Theatre, were sell-outs and organisers will be hoping to give more punters what could be the last opportunity to see the 71-year-old performing his stand-up routine in this country.

The arena has a seated capacity of 5000, as opposed to Founders' maximum of 1249.

Connolly is being treated for the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease and last year underwent minor surgery in America after being diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer.

While that operation was a success and his Parkinson's condition is not yet bad enough to hinder his work, he recently admitted he had started to forget some of his lines.

Connolly has been wowing New Zealand audiences with his live stand-up shows since 1978. With every visit, his audiences steadily become larger: from under 7000 people in 1978 to more than 60,000 in 2009 - surpassing all records for international comedians in this country.

''It's great to have Billy back for a comprehensive 12-city tour,'' promoter Ian Magan said. ''In the 36 years he has visited New Zealand, Billy has become a true friend to Kiwis who love his irreverent and topical humour.''

Connolly's professional life started in the shipyards of Glasgow, where he worked as a welder in the early 1960s. He decided to give it away to pursue a career as a folk singer and banjo player in the Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty (later of Baker Street fame) and then as a soloist.

The jokes he told between songs eventually took over his act and he became a full-time comedian.

Already a big star in Scotland, he became a household name in the United Kingdom after appearing on Michael Parkinson's chat show in 1971.

He also became an actor, and has appeared in the films Indecent Proposal, Mrs Brown, The Last Samurai and the upcoming Hobbit sequels.

A worldwide TV audience of over 30 million also got to see him hooning around on his trike and naked bungy jumping for his series World Tour of New Zealand in 2004.

He is married to New Zealand-born actress and psychologist Pamela Stephenson, whose biography of her husband, simply called Billy, was a huge best-seller.

Tickets for the Hamilton show will go on sale from Friday, February 7 through Ticketek, Ticketmaster and TicketDirect.