It’s been a stellar year for Bill Connolly. He landed a role in the two-part behemoth that is “The Hobbit,” directed by Peter Jackson, and also stars alongside Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Smith in the soon-to-be-released, heartfelt romp “Quartet.”
But first, the stand-up comedian, actor and musician returns to The City for the first time in four years in “Bill Connolly: The Man Live,” which opens at Marines’ Memorial Theatre next week.
When asked what audiences can expect to experience in the show, Connolly is candid: “I have absolutely no idea.”
“I don’t write the show,” he adds in his Scottish accent. “I have years and years of material and I scan it before I go on. Then I ad-lib and that’s how it grows.”
Sounds like a game of creative surrender.
“I wish I was one of the other guys, who just sits there and writes a new show,” he says. “I tried that and it doesn’t work. It gives me some things I can use on talk shows, but it doesn’t give me the kind of meat that I need. That only comes from nerves, coffee and anger.”
Fortunately, the formula has worked extremely well for the Glasgow-born performer, who has been hailed as the U.K.’s most influential comedian of all time.
Performing continuously for five decades around the world — including a fabulous stint with his band The Humblebums in the 1960s — may have honed Connolly’s stage presence, but comedy always beckoned.
“My aunt Margaret was crazy about vaudeville, and I was the victim, the one she would take along to the shows,” he recalls. “And then, in school, my science teacher, Bill Sheridan, asked us what we wanted to do when we left school. Everybody wanted to be marine engineers and when they came to me, I said, ‘Comedian.’
“And the whole class exploded in laughter. And Bill Sheridan said, ‘Well, I saw you playing football in the playground at lunch and I think you’ve achieved your mission already.’”
Many people may recall Connolly as the loyal servant in the acclaimed Judi Dench drama “Mrs. Brown,” but he also turned heads on TV in “Head of the Class” and, later, “Billy.”
Still, with the wisdom and success he’s gathered over the years, it’s fitting to ask what he finds most humorous these days.
“Getting old,” he says. “I run like an old guy. But what you have to really be aware of is sticking your tongue out when the spoon is only halfway to your face.”