‘They got my mother to tell her story in the Sunday Mail — and published it on Mother’s Day. Nice fucking touch guys!’ Billy Connolly was back in Glasgow, and this time it was personal. The South Bank Show captured Connolly as he returned to the city for a rare gig, and laid a few ghosts from his upbringing in the process.
This was a thoughtful and revealing portrait of a Glaswegian whose relationship with his home town (and the inspiration and source for his humour) has become more problematic as the trappings of success have come his way. The scatological kid from Partick now has a pad in LA and a smart riverside villa in Windsor where he and Melvyn Bragg sipped wine and toyed with their lunch (and we’re not talking ﬁsh suppers nowadays). He’s a television semi-superstar in the States these days, and we saw a clip from Billy where Connolly was kissed by one of those cute American sitcom kids. ‘Get outta here’ he screamed in a curious amalgam of two very different West Coast accents.
‘They managed two jokes this time around. The scriptwriters/band oi chimpanzees with typewriters must have been working overtime.’
Wrong-minded people resent Connolly’s new status as mainstream celebrity, friend of royalty and self-imposed Glaswegian exile. He spoke pointedly about the problems of coming back. ‘You walk into a pub to see your old mates, and the guy at the bar who was feeling successful suddenly feels a lot less successful when he sees you there. That’s why you can’t see your old friends regularly any more. You’re not good for each other. And that’s one of the saddest things there is.’
Connolly rejected all romantic notions of the ‘tragedy of the comedian’, the ‘tears of a ciown’. What was noticeable though was his refusal to get misty-eyed and nostalgic about his childhood. Deserted by his mother and brought up by a ‘mad auntie’ , who regularly beat him, Connolly hasn’t forgotten, far less forgiven. Bragg suggested
that the aunt must have been good-hearted to take him in in the ﬁrst place. ‘I wish she hadn’t,’ snapped Connolly. ‘I hate that, being big for ﬁve minutes then rotten for twenty years.’ It was a disturbing ﬂash of venom, but infinitely more honest than the schmaltzy reminiscences of most celebrities. ‘I’m still working on the stuff she did to me.’
It was intriguing to see how Connolly used these experiences in performance, in comically accurate routines about his aunt’s obsession with the dangers of ‘having someone’s eye out’ and the contrasting male and female styles of corporal punishment. Even on stage, he made no attempt to soften the bitterness. ‘She bought all my clothes at this special shop “Clothes for the kid you never wanted in the ﬁrst fucking place.” It was a harder, more confessional tone than we’ve come to expect from Connolly, whose usual approach was
accurately described by Jimmy Reid as ‘Friday night pub chat, ludicrous story-telling, bragging and lying.’ Still, as Connolly pointed out, ‘there is no rule-book, funny is funny is funny.’
Whatever he feels about the city now, Connolly couldn’t hide the fact that the prospect of going out in front of a hometown crowd was tearing him up inside. ‘It’s like singing in front of your aunties,’ he said, and as he stood sidestage at the Royal Concert Hall, his face froze in a spasm of sheer animal terror that the camera closed in on remorselessly and held in freeze-frame. It was the face of a man who still cared intensely about what Glasgow thought of him, still needed his auntie’s approval.
The South Bank Show led into a new series of Spitting Image (Scottish) which seems to have improved enormously from last year’s dismal efforts. They managed two jokes this time around. The scriptwriters/band of chimpanzees with typewriters must have been working overtime. Infinitely funnier was a line from Brookslde (Channel 4). Patricia Farnham has just had a miscarriage after collapsing at the Round Table dinner. Caring husband Max stroked her hand at her hospital bedside and asked how she felt. She stared dolefully into space, milking the tragedy. ‘Empty’, she mumbled. (Tom Lappin)
A selection oi television highlights. listed by day, in chronological order. Television Listings compiled by Tom Lappln.
I Royal Gardens (BBC2) 8.30—9pm. A new six-part series presented by posh poseur Sir Roy Strong, starting with a look at the 17th century gardens at Hampton Court and Het Loo palace in Holland, created by William of Orange and Queen Mary.
I Blackadder Goes Forth (BBC2) 9—9.30pm. Yet another chance to see Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry era] in the trenches, repeated as part of the BBC2 WarAnd Peace season.
I Between The Lines: Lest Ye Be Judged (BBC1)9.30-10.20pm. The police internal investigations series continues with Tony Clark (Neil Pearson) called to Liverpool to investigate Detective Inspector Kendrick (played by lovable Scouse moptop Michael Angelis).
I Cheers (Channel 4) 9.30—10pm. Norm has a surprising confession for the regulars when he starts dating his attractive client Emily.
I Nurses (Channel 4) 10—10.30pm. The Miami hospital is hit by a hurricane and, with equally devastating effect, Rose from The Golden Girls.
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I Terry And Julian (Channel 4)
10.30—1 1pm. Julian ruins Terry‘sjob prospects, and June Whitﬁeld turns up as the wife of the manager of the Bank of England. Gordon Honeycombe’s in there somewhere as well. How the mighty are fallen.
I Campaign (BBC2) 11.15—1 1 .45pm. In the last four weeks before the American Presidential election, this new series goes beyond the nightly news to present the stories behind the campaign. See preview.
I Bad Timing (Channel 4) 11.30pm—l .45am. Despite dubious casting (Art Garfunkel opposite Theresa Russell)
Nic Roeg’s powerful vision of a tormented love affair between a psychoanalyst and an American expatriate lingers in the memory.
I Court TV: America On Trial (Channel 4) 7—8pm. Cynthia McFadden presents highlights of current trials in the American courts.
I Goodbye Columbus (Channel 4) 8pm—3.55am. Eight hours devoted to the legacy of old Chris, from the city in Ohio that bears his name to Latin-American soap operas, with a brief history of the tomato sandwiched in there somewhere. The ﬁrst programme in Channel 4‘s extensive Latin-American season. See preview.
I Casualty (BBCl) 8—9pm. Holby General plays host to a loopy shoplifter played by Dora Bryan, who fakes fainting ﬁts. Meanwhile sensitive Charlie counsels a teenager who is confused about her sexuality.
I Music On 2: Sergei Rachmaninov-The Secret Island (BBC2) 8. 10—9. 10pm. A new series of arts documentaries featuring 20th century composers opens with a portrait of the Russian exile, partly ﬁlmed at the villa he built on Lake Lucerne, a re-creation of his wife’s estate in Russia.
I Renegades (BBC1)9.10—10.50pm. Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips star as a rogue Philadelphia cop and a Lakota Sioux Indian on the trail of a psychotic gangster who has killed Phillips brother. The plot gets steadily more preposterous, but the violence never lets up, if you like that sort ofthing.
I The Dead Pool (Scottish) 920—] lpm. Clint Eastwood is ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan wiping out punks and hoodlums and getting involved with a female (Harry is very hetero. OK?) TV reporter. Routine. over-violent, macho thriller for saddo inadequates to identify with.
I Once Upon a Time in The West (BBC2) lO.35pm—1.20am. A short season of spaghetti westerns opens with Sergio Leone‘s epic story of the opening up ofthe West to make way for the railroad. Henry Fonda plays a hired killer working with the railway boss, clearing obstacles in ruthless fashion. Two mysterious outlaws, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson, stand in his way.
I The Gig (Scottish) 1 1.35pm—12.35am. More live music, featuring bands from rock ’n‘ roll hotbeds Nottingham and Hull. plus indie stuff from London‘s Subterrania club.
I Scotsport (Scottish) 5—6pm. From the sublime to the mediocre asJim White introduces all the goals from the Premier Division plus highlights from Europe.
I Equinox: Born That Way (Channel 4) 7—8pm. Brain scientist Simon Levay presents his arguments. based on genetics and psychology, that homosexuality is inborn. He is confronted by political and scientific opponents who believe homosexuality is merely a perverse lifestyle.
I The House Of Eilott (BBC 1) 7.45—8.40pm. Evie (Louise Lombard) ﬁnds herself fancying Government treasury minister Sir Alexander Montford when she meets him at a preview ofJack’s film.
I London's Burning (Scottish) 8.45—9.45pm. The Blue Watch boys race against time to rescue a young girl trapped in a silo.
I Screen One: Running Late (BBC!) 9.25—10.40pm. Peter Bowlcs stars as a TV interviewer at the peak ofhis success who is forced to look more closely at his life when his wife leaves him in mysterious circumstances. Writer Simon Gray can usually be relied on to provide a healthy dose of blackish humour.
The List 9 — 22 October 1992 67