Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Billy Connolly says ‘cruel’ Parkinson’s disease has made it difficult to walk

Actor and comedian has lived with the brain disorder for a decade

Nicole Vassell
Saturday 30 September 2023 17:29 BST
Billy Connolly says he's done with stand-up

Billy Connolly has shared updates on how Parkinson’s disease has had a greater effect on his physical abilities over time.

The actor and comedian, 80, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and retired from his stand-up career in 2018 due to the illness.

Parkinson’s is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Often, the disease gets more severe over time.

In an interview conducted by Connolly’s wife, the writer and psychologist Pamela Stephenson Connolly, the comedy figure gave insight into how his Parkinson’s disease has had a greater effect on his physical abilities.

“It’s very difficult to see the progression exactly, because a lot of things come and go,” he began in the Guardian profile, published on Saturday (30 September).

“Recently I’ve noticed a deterioration in my balance. That was never such a problem before, but in the last year that has come and it has stayed. For some reason, I thought it would go away, because a lot of symptoms have come and gone away… just to defy the symptom spotters.”

He added that the shaking had reappeared, as well as “the inability to get out of certain types of chairs”.

Stephenson added that balance had been the most significant factor to affect the star’s health, and had resulted in “a couple of serious falls”.

Billy Connolly (Getty Images)

“It’s funny, that fall I had when I landed on my jaw reminded me of a thing I used to do on stage,” Connolly replied. “I used to say: “I fell out of bed, but luckily my face broke my fall…”

“It wasn’t so funny when you broke your hip,” Stephenson said in response.

The What We Did on Our Holiday star noted that his declining ability to control his body movements is one factor “added to the list of things that hold me back”.

“I feel like I want to go for a walk, but I go for 50 yards and I want to go home, because I’m tired. I’m being encroached upon by this disease. It’s creeping up behind me and stopping me doing things. It’s a cruel disease.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the couple discussed the changes to their relationship as a result of his changing health. Connolly praised Stephenson for her ability to care for him.

Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson Connolly in 2016 (Getty Images)

“It’s lovely. I found a new you. I found a new Pamela. And it’s worked out great. I never thought that you’d be able to look after me the way you do.

“I thought it would annoy you terribly,” he continued. “You were such an independent “look after yourself” kind of person. But you’ve rallied round to looking after me. And it suits you great. And it sure suits me lovely.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in