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)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn