Billy Connolly

On this date in 1942, Billy Connolly was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Connolly’s early years were difficult; his mother abandoned him and his sister Florence when Connolly was four. His father was at that time still away with the army. In the 2001 biography Billy, written by Connolly’s wife, psychoanalyst Pamela Stephenson, Connolly described being sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. At 15, Connolly graduated high school with an engineering degree and worked as a welder in a Glasgow shipyard. In the mid-1960’s, Connolly began to perform as a folk singer in the duo “The Humblebums.” After the breakup of the duo, Connolly began to perform solo and transitioned from a singer who told long comedic stories to a comedian who sometimes sang funny songs. Connolly’s comedy became very popular throughout Britain in the mid-1970’s. In 1969, Connolly had married Iris Pressagh, and they had two children together. Connolly’s involvement with show business as well as his problems with drugs and alcohol caused the end of their marriage in the early 1980’s; they legally divorced in 1985. In 1981, Connolly moved in with Pamela Stephenson, then a comedian. After the birth of their three daughters, they were married in 1989.

In 1990, after featuring in an HBO standup special with Whoopi Goldberg, Connolly’s popularity in America grew. He was cast in the sitcom “Head of the Class” in the 1990-1991 season, and moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1991. Connolly has since featured as a character actor in many U.S. television and movie productions, as well as continuing his career as a comedian. Much of Connolly’s comedy is idiosyncratic and irreverent. He uses profanity freely and jokes about many of the more difficult, abusive experiences of his childhood. He also takes many potshots at religion, especially Catholicism. Connolly was raised as a Catholic, and blames the Catholic Church’s prohibition of divorce, at least in part, for the sexual abuse he suffered at his father’s hands.

I don’t like religion. I think religion is a con. 

—-Billy Connolly

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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