Sir Billy Connolly has always stood unapologetic and steadfast in the face of controversy. In previous interviews, the Big Yin emphatically declared that he would never apologise for his boundary-pushing routines that poked fun at religion, sparking protests and condemnation.
In his legendary Crucifixion sketch, Billy dared to reimagine Christ’s Last Supper as a booze-infused escapade in Glasgow’s Gallowgate. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church didn’t take kindly to this irreverent take on sacred events, and the protests outside his gigs became a vivid backdrop to his comedy revolution.
“There is no way I am going to apologise. Not only am I not ashamed of the things I’ve done, I’m very proud of them. There’s something appalling about being asked to apologise for having a point of view.” he proclaimed defiantly.
Billy Stands Firm Against Apology Seekers
“There’s something quite fascist about it and I refuse to apologise. When I was starting out, other comedians were happy to do sexist, racist and homophobic jokes but they didn’t speak about religion or politics in public as that was considered bad manners, which was extraordinary”
“I have nothing against religion, but it is big enough to defend itself. Religion is all, ‘Thou shalt not.’ We are a race of people with skirts and nae knickers, and we f*****g shall. We’ve done it before and we will do it again,” he declared.
In a journey through his past in the BBC Scotland series Billy and Us, the comedian bared his soul on topics ranging from dockyards to sex, religion, class, and politics. A master of his craft, Connolly reflected on his controversial yet trailblazing career, revisiting classic routines and forgotten footage.
The infamous Crucifixion routine was born from a friend’s joke about the disciples enjoying a Chinese takeaway during Jesus’ Last Supper. “It went really well, so the following gig I expanded it even more, and soon it turned into almost my whole act. It was the making of me,” he reminisced.
The protests and demands for apologies, particularly from the fiery Pastor Jack Glass, reached a crescendo. Connolly recalled, “He would come up beside me and say, ‘What would you do if Christ was to judge you now? Crucify Christ again?’ and he would hand me three nails. I never looked at him. It would infuriate him.”
While challenging religious beliefs with his humour, Billy Connolly remained unyielding. His routines were not just comedic forays but a profound exploration of societal norms, boundaries, and his own upbringing in a Catholic Scotland where sectarianism loomed large.
Tackling Bigotry And Prejudice
“My Catholic experience bears great relation to what I do because I felt second rate as I was being brought up as a Catholic in Scotland. Did that mean I had less civil rights?” he questioned. Admirably, Connolly tackled prejudice and bigotry, becoming a symbol of resistance against the status quo that sought to confine him.
Even at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, he stood firm, agreeing to perform while refusing to entertain British troops. “I said no because I would be taking sides. I told the Army guys they were welcome to come and see me as I had nothing against them, but I wouldn’t be going to their barracks,” he explained.
As time progressed, Billy Connolly’s attitude towards religion softened, yet his admiration for its positive aspects remained. “There’s a side of religion I really like. The side that comforts the lonely and encourages art. It explained the world to a lot of people for a long time,” he mused.