To my utter dismay I read recently that my friend Billy Connolly suffers from Parkinson’s disease and had, at one point, contemplated taking his own life. The 73 year-old comedian and actor learnt he had the disease in 2013, weeks before he had successful surgery for prostate cancer. He now struggles to get out of bed some days because he is in so much pain and is unable to play his beloved banjo. He meditates to relieve bouts of depression.
Connolly is set to perform three live stand-up shows in America. Asked in a US radio interview whether he had considered ‘checking out’ on his own terms, he said: ‘Yeah. Sometimes I give it a bit of thought when I’m in bed. I think “Well this is forever. This isn’t going to get better, it’s going to get worse.” But then I try to change my mind. The guy who told me I had it said to me “you realise it’s incurable?” I thought he could have said, “We have yet to find a cure” or something like that to put a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m OK at the moment but it comes and goes. Sometimes I have problems getting out of bed and I walk sort of strangely. Turning over in bed is difficult… I have started to drool as well. That’s a nice thing. That’s going to make me really attractive.’
How I met Billy is rather a long story. In my book Fulfilment and Betrayal published in 2007, I vividly narrate the occasion which led to my working with him. Billy was a joy to be with and professional to the core. I hope to God he will remain with us, keeping his spirits up and his verve for life, despite the tribulations of his ill-health.