Sir Billy Connolly: I’d be cancelled by the woke brigade if I started out in comedy today

Sir Billy Connolly has said he would not have made it as a comedian today because of cancel culture.

The Scottish comedian, affectionately known as the Big Yin, said his “fearless” material would be deemed too offensive for modern audiences.

Sir Billy said that political correctness today had gone too far and meant talented comedians were not given opportunities because TV executives are no longer brave enough to broadcast edgy acts.

Asked if he would be cancelled in today’s climate, he said: “Absolutely. You can’t decide to be fearless. You’re either fearless or you’re not and you go about it.

“Because of political correctness, people have pulled in the horns, but I don’t know how I feel about that. I couldn’t have started today with the talent I had then; certainly not.”

A thorn in religions’ sides

The firebrand comedian is famed for his send-up of religious groups, which he claims ‘take offence so easily’

Credit: LWT

The 78-year-old rose to fame in the Seventies with controversial routines that upset religious groups, such as the Last Supper and Crucifixion, in which he imagined the final days of Jesus beginning with a drinking session in a pub in Glasgow’s Gallowgate.

The routine led to Christian Evangelicals picketing his gigs and heckling him in the streets. His old school in Glasgow even erased his name from its records.

Sir Billy admitted offending “most religions” in a BBC series, Billy and Us, which aired in 2020.

He said: “I didn’t set out to do that, but they take offence so easily. All you have to do is talk about them and what they do and they will find offence in it. It’s because they know they are a bit ridiculous. You will never hear them saying that, so they will attack you.”

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‘No bravery’ in comedy

In an interview to promote his autobiography Windswept & Interesting, the comedian spoke to New Zealand’s radio network Newstalk ZB.

He said: “There’s a show here in America with all black comedians, men and women, and they are totally ruthless, they are totally without political correctness and they have always got me on the floor howling with laughter. It’s just the cheek of them and the bravery of it.

“There was a comedian who had a series on television and the suits involved were going to take it off at the first commercial break. They have got no bravery. We need people who give people time and a chance to develop and all that kind of stuff.”

He added: “I think things have changed forever [with political correctness] but you never know.”

The comedian announced his retirement from stand-up in 2018, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, but has continued to make documentaries.

In last year’s ITV special, It’s Been A Pleasure, which was widely perceived as marking the end of the comedian’s career, he said: “I have done my stand-up. I did it for 50 years. I did it quite well and it is time to stop.

“My illness, my Parkinson’s disease, has rendered me different. It would either mean renewing what I do and doing something else, or give up what I did – and that’s what I’ve done.”

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