Billy Connolly, HMV Apollo Hammersmith, London

From Big Yin to Big Yawn – with swearing where the jokes used to be

He is, of course, a national treasure – the man voted number one by the British public for 2007's 100 Greatest Stand Ups and without whom, to quote Time Out on this 20-night near-sell-out run at London's Hammersmith Apollo, "modern comedy would look very different indeed".

Indeed. At 67 years old and in his fifth decade as a comedian and entertainer, Billy Connolly has earned the right to do just as he pleases – and tonight it quickly becomes apparent that that is exactly what he is going to do.

He starts – with an ironic aside about how revolutionary this is – by thanking everyone for coming out on such a "shitty night" and then flattering us by telling us how varied and uncategorisable a Billy Connolly audience is. Which is strange, because the auditorium seems to be filled mostly with middle-aged couples in fleecy clothes who look as comfortable sitting here as they would be at home watching Top Gear on the telly.

Instead, over the next two hours-plus, they will be entertained by a relentless stream of apparently off-the-cuff invective featuring digressions within digressions, anecdotes that trail away and either return or don't, depending on whether Connolly remembers them, a few moments of doubling up at his own brilliance and the obligatory swearathon. The audience laps up every moment and laughs its collective arse off.

I laugh once. And that's at the punchline to a joke told to Connolly by Jimmy Nail, one of several celebby names he drops loudly over the course of the evening. When he's not telling other people's jokes, Connolly's shtick these days is made up of either spittle-flecked ranting (politicians, bankers, Christians, TV chefs, Alan Titchmarsh) to which the punchline is either "fuck you", "fucker" or "fuck off", or cringey stories about, say, how annoying life is when the butler in your hotel penthouse suite won't leave you alone. (This particular tale, by far the longest uninterrupted section of the evening, ends in the "hilarious" observation that Vegemite, when smeared on to a bedsheet, looks a lot like poo.)

As all around greet each expletive as if it will be their last (it won't be), I conclude that it is he who has the problem. Am I the only one who feels as if he's listening to a psychotic cabbie putting the world to rights? Perhaps you have to agree with Connolly's opinions. Nope, can't be that. Mostly I do. What is it, then?

Perhaps it is this: that to enjoy a Billy Connolly show you have to find Connolly, if not as charming and likeable as he used to be, then at least the sort of bloke you'd still be happy to spend the night drinking with (and yes, his observational stuff about drunks is as accurate and appreciated now as when he started doing it all those years ago). But there is a thin line between spontaneous comic genius and shambolic and disconnected spite and, even if I were one of those who would like nothing more than to sink a pint with the Big Yin, Connolly would not be seen dead drinking with me. And not just because he's teetotal these days. His attitude to reviewers, as he tells the audience, is "'Funny ... Not funny ...' Who gives a fuck what you think, Cedric?".

So, for any other isolated souls out there similarly perplexed by the enduring popularity of Top Gear, sliced bread and Billy Connolly, here's another worthless verdict on our greatest-ever stand-up comedian, which, thankfully, he couldn't give a flying one about. My name's not Cedric. And you're not that funny any more.

Continues to 31 Jan (0844 844 4748)

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living