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Sir Billy Connolly: "I’m the least patriotic man in the world"

"I do love Scotland, but if the love for your country is all you have, you’re in a desperate state"

Published: Tuesday, 17th April 2018 at 12:13 pm

You’ve made a new programme about the very English painter Stanley Spencer – a strange choice for a Scotsman?

I’m the least patriotic man in the world. I do love Scotland, but if the love for your country is all you have, you’re in a desperate state. I dislike people that write England off because they’re Scottish. It’s unfair and brutal.


Your own art, which we see in the show, is fantastic. Which of your pictures would you give to the nation?

It’s never crossed my mind to give something to the nation. I didn’t think they took me that seriously! But I have one called Big Fat Man and a Wee Piano, which they might like. And Scary Chick – a sort of punk-looking girl playing drums.

Spencer made a mess of his marriage. You seem to have cracked it after 28 years with Pamela Stephenson.

There’s no secret to it at all. If you listen to the song The Glory of Love: “You’ve got to give a little, take a little/Sometimes let your poor heart break a little/That’s the story of, and that’s the glory of love.” It’s all in there.

What’s the view from your sofa?

There’s no sofa. I watch telly in bed. We live in a cosy place. On the walls are portraits of Elvis and Mick Jagger, a painting of the Beatles on a roof in Savile Row and a photo of me meeting Obama, which pleases me greatly.

What’s on?

I like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. And British comedy is fantastically good. James Acaster on Netflix is a scream. I watch politics and try to make something of it, which I’m failing miserably at.

Who’s in charge of the remote, you or Pamela?

We have different viewing habits, and different TVs! Occasionally I’ll tell her about something and she’ll come and watch it with me. And every year we watch the Oscars and I make macaroni and cheese. It’s a ritual. Apart from that she watches a lot of dancing.

Was getting knighted last year a little bit nerve-racking?

It was a big bit nerve-racking. You don’t want to make an arse of it. You think, “Oh God, don’t trip.” Or worry you might make a rude noise. Since I’ve got Parkinson’s, I’m a bit dodgy getting down on one knee – I don’t do it all that well. And then I had to walk backwards to a certain point, but I managed it fine. I’m sure Prince William will think I’m a mentally ill person. I answered his questions in the most stupid fashion just though nerves.

Do you feel more knightly now?

Since I’ve been knighted I haven’t met any other knights! I’m dying to meet some so I can ask them various questions like, when did your knightly behaviour come in? Tom Courtenay is a knight, and I’d like to ask him a thing or two. Next time I’m in London I’ll corner him at the Garrick Club and get some information out of him. Or Sean Connery – he’d be a good one to ask.


Billy Connolly is art historian Gus Casely-Hayford’s first guest in Tate Britain’s Great Art Walks — Tuesday 9pm Sky Arts and NOW TV


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