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-by Ken Plume 

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To pop cultured Americans, Billy Connolly is probably best known as the teacher with the heavy Scottish accent who replaced Howard Hesseman on Head of the Class. To the rest of the world (and savvy Americans), he’s a comic god. Think of him as the Scottish Robin Williams and you wouldn’t be too far from the mark. As an actor, he made quite a strong impression with his dramatic turn in Mrs. Brown, in addition to a few dozen other film roles (that The Boondock Saints and Muppet Treasure Island are both on his résumé speaks volumes about his range).

During his run of stand-up dates in New York last year, I got the chance to speak with Billy again (we had chatted a few years previous) about his philosophy as a comedian, his work ethic, banjos, film, and much more.

One of the most genuine people I’ve had the chance to speak with over the years, it’s always a pleasure to get the opportunity to do so again.

Billy is currently doing a run of dates in Los Angeles until March 24th at the Brentwood Theater. If you’re in the area and are able, you should definitely make an evening of it.

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KEN PLUME: You know, there’s a question that I’ve wanted to know the answer to for years - is it true that your beard holds magical powers?

BILLY CONNOLLY: (laughing) It holds many, many things, but I don’t think magic powers is one of them.

KP: Now that I’ve got the worst possible question I could ask out of the way, coming back and playing America - how different has it been for you over the years? Is it something you’ve seen evolve, or is it essentially the same?

CONNOLLY: It’s pretty much the same. I’ve come in and out of America for… well, I’ve lived here for 15 years. And I’ve played here for nearly 30 years. On and off. But I’ve always played to my fan base. And I can come and do two or three nights in New York or two or three nights in L.A., and all that. But when I go away, nobody knows I’ve been gone. You know, I don’t get reviewed or anything like that. So that’s why I’ve come back and done a longer time in a smaller place, in New York. It’s always the people who live here that get a chance to know me.

KP: Is it something that you just avoided in the past, or have circumstances meant that you just didn’t do it?

CONNOLLY: Circumstances have just dictated it. I always thought I was okay here. It was always very good to me, live. But as I say, I was just playing to a very solid fan base.

KP: What is the difference, when you move outside of that comfort zone of audiences that know you? Have you noticed a major difference?

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah. You have to work hard… but you don’t get anything for free.

KP: Is it almost like starting over, in some ways?

CONNOLLY: It’s very, very much like it. It can be uncomfortable because you’re so spoiled after all these years. I don’t really like the thought of working harder than I do. (laughing) It doesn’t appeal to my basic instinct!

KP: When you talk about being spoiled, how does that really affect the work on the stage?

CONNOLLY: Well, basically the only thing it affects is, I usually play much, much larger rooms. I play up to, like, 7,000 seaters. But when you’re playing a 500 seater like I’m doing, you have to speak all the time. People laugh and the laugh stops quicker. (laughing) And you have to, “Oh fuck! I better speak again!” Whereas in the bigger room you can coast through the laugh rolls like a wave, you know?

KP: Would you say you have to work twice as hard then for that smaller audience?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. You don’t get as much time to think.

KP: Having seen some of the stuff you’ve done internationally and in the UK, those are massive arenas and rooms that you normally play…

CONNOLLY: Yes.

KP: Is it a skill that you have to reclaim, in order to work those smaller rooms?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, you have to get used to being on your toes all the time. And there’s no coasting allowed. The downfall from it is, over the years, when the people are live and laughing and applauding, and they take all that time to do it, it gives you time to think of the next thing you’ve got to do. You can think in an inventive way. But you’re not allowed that luxury when there’s only 500 in the room. They laugh and applaud for a shorter length of time. You have to constantly be on your toes. Which makes you less inventive, I find.

KP: To the detriment of the set, or is it just a different skill?

CONNOLLY: It’s going extremely well. I get standing ovations most nights. So it must be going okay. But for my own pleasure, I would rather have the bigger rooms.

KP: Do you find that you almost are falling back on material that you know works in order to fill that space?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, you’re falling back on material and moves that I’m very well acquainted with.

KP: Is there an end goal as far as building up the American audience into something more?

CONNOLLY: No, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m playing it very much by ear, to just try and enlarge my ground base.

KP: It almost seems now, in the past 10 years, that this is almost the perfect time for UK comedians to finally achieve mainstream status in the U.S. ….

CONNOLLY: Yeah.

KP: To where you could do the kind of huge Odeon Hammersmith type of shows that you normally do in the UK…

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah. Which I’ve done here. I’ve done that before. You know, for one or two nights. But I want to be better known to the general public in America, rather than just my fan base.

KP: Do you feel the time is right to play to the “middle states” ?

CONNOLLY: Yes.

KP: Is that something that you’ve tried in the past?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I used to… when I was opening for bands and all, I did a lot of that. But it’s a long time since I did it. But I fully intend to do it.

KP: Do you think that there’s almost… I wouldn’t call it a laziness, because that would be insulting - but do you see a sort of pattern that you get into, performance-wise, when you’re only playing the coasts, as it were?

CONNOLLY: Well, there was that. That in itself took a long time to build up. There was that and then when I started to do film as well. It left me less time to be exploratory in the live field.

KP: Has there ever been a period where you’ve been personally bored with standup?

CONNOLLY: No. No… There’s times I’ve been tired. You know, where I’ve done so many in a row that I just want to walk away from it for a while. But that soon heals itself. It only takes a week of something and then you kinda miss it.

KP: So really it’s from a point of exhaustion, more than anything…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, that’s it. I don’t get mentally bored with it. I don’t get bored in my desire to do it.

KP: Do you feel negative about it at all, when you start to feel exhausted?

CONNOLLY: No. I get that kind of sub… when I start to get exhausted, I tend to get on sort of automatic pilot more. And I find myself replacing inventiveness with energy.

KP: We sent someone up who decided that he would fly himself and his wife up to go see your show.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah?

KP: On the spur of the moment. He’s like, “See Billy Connolly? I’ll go!” So I think they emptied out their savings to go see you a few weeks back, for us. (laughing)

CONNOLLY: Love it!

KP: He said it was the most brilliant two hours he’d had in years.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I love it.

KP: He said he was so close he could feel the sweat…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, that’s real close. I mean, you’re talking like really, really… like, the furthest person away is only about maybe 20 odd feet away.

KP: Is it a different vibe or preference for you to actually feel that intimacy after having… I mean, I’m assuming when you get to the larger venues the crowd almost becomes a single entity…

CONNOLLY: That’s right. Well, that’s always the desire - no matter what size the room is - to make them into one single entity. I find I’m much more comfortable with the big rooms. I’ve done it for so many years, you know? And in recent years I’ve been doing the big rock and roll rooms. The big rock sheds. And I much, much prefer it to the little room. Little rooms, it’s a bit like a party at your dad’s house, and all your aunts sitting around waiting for you to be funny.

KP: How often do you notice the single audience member? The guy in the third row who’s giving you the weird looks?

CONNOLLY: I don’t notice them at all. I tend to look at the front of the balcony, not the people. I look at inanimate things. I don’t look at people.

KP: So, honestly, the balcony’s getting the best show at all.

CONNOLLY: Yes. And when there’s no balcony, I look at the foreheads of the people.

KP: Has there ever been a forehead that’s just completely distracted you?

CONNOLLY: (laughing)

KP: You’re looking at this shiny object going, “I can’t think of anything else…”

CONNOLLY: No. Hats are weird. When people are wearing hats, it’s kind of strange. You know, because the fast majority of people take off their hats indoors. But in recent years, people wear baseball hats indoors. It seems you’ve gone beyond the normal thing. So sometimes like a white, or a colored hat will just… just take your eye for a second. But not for long.

KP: So, really, if anyone wanted to derail you, they’d just have to wear a big, antlered Viking helmet.

CONNOLLY: Green antlers!

KP: Maybe flashing every once in a while…

CONNOLLY: (laughing)

KP: Maybe that’s what you need to sell at the gift shop now, is the official Billy hat…

CONNOLLY: Those ones on springs, you know, that you wear with a hair bun… That light up…

KP: And it’s saying, “B-I-L-L-Y”…

CONNOLLY: “Hello Billy!” (laughing)

KP: You could start selling these things through the website. They’d fly off the shelf…

CONNOLLY: (laughing) I had a fan last night give me a lovely thing. She gave me a CD with all songs of New York that she had compiled herself. It says, “New York Welcomes Billy Connolly,” and then she’s compiled about 30 New York songs on a CD. I was really moved by it.

KP: Are you in some ways surprised by the level of affection that the audience has for you?

CONNOLLY: I am. I’m constantly surprised. And especially on this run. Because there’s always people waiting for me when I come out. And usually with the big gigs, you come out the back and you’re gone. And so I actually meet them more on this level that I’m doing. I’m totally shocked about how warm the people feel towards me.

KP: How different are audiences that you encounter today to audiences 35 years ago?

CONNOLLY: They’re much more familiar with me. They know me so much better, and they know my children’s names and all that. And attentive. Because of the internet and all this information that’s out there, they tend to know an awful lot. You’re not so mysterious as you once were.

KP: Do you think that increases the onus on you to be unpredictable?

CONNOLLY: No, it doesn’t increase anything on me except on the personal level. You know, when I come out to the end, I hope that they’re… I always hope they’re not disappointed by the real guy. He isn’t as full of funny one liners as the guy they just saw.

KP: Do you think they’d tell you that?

CONNOLLY: I think they might. You might feel the disappointment, but I don’t… it seems to be rather nice. I met a guy last night who’d been here three times, and he’s from Toronto. He flies down from Toronto. And on this run he’s been there three times.

KP: Maybe this is his subtle way of saying you should go to Toronto.

CONNOLLY: That’s what he was saying! And I told him I’m going there in about November or something, and he was quite shocked. Maybe he could have saved some dough by hanging on.

KP: Well, now he’s going to be in the audience going, “Yeah, I saw that part.”

CONNOLLY: “Help me, help me!”

[phone rings]

KP: Do you need to get that phone?

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah, hang on a sec and I’ll see who it is. Oh fuck, I’ve run into the wrong room!… Oh, it’s right next to me, for Christ’s sake… Who is this then? Oh, it’s my boy. Wait a minute…. Hello?… I’ll call him back…. It doesn’t matter, it’s my son.

KP: Oh, I’m sorry about that.

CONNOLLY: Oh, don’t be daft. It’s easy!

KP: Well, I’m still sorry about it.

CONNOLLY: I ran away from it. I ran into the next room and left it beside me.

KP: Are you saying you’re starting to get a bit old?

CONNOLLY: I think I’m starting to get a bit worse. You know, I started bad, but I’m getting worse.

KP: I watched your DVD the other day, from the 2005 “Too Old To Die Young” American tour…

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah…

KP: Obviously, the title of the tour begs the question… Is it harder to do that kind of marathon show length that you’re known for, the older you get? I was talking to a friend of mine who just saw you, and he mentioned that he was shocked by how long the show was and how long you were able to perform at the level at which you perform…

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Well, I’ve been cutting it down. I’ve cut it down to about 2 hours. It was getting closer to three.

KP: I can’t even imagine how much energy that must take…

CONNOLLY: I thought, “What’s the point of this?” You know, it isn’t a bloody marathon. I’m so much more comfortable at two. But it wasn’t because it was too tiring, I just questioned where it was going. And at one point on the Australian tour I did three and a half.

KP: Is that just a fluke of circumstance?

CONNOLLY: Yes, it just sort of flops along. You know, it’s such an odd shape when it comes to that storytelling. You know, I don’t have anything that’s short.

KP: And existing within the moment like you do, it can go in any direction.

CONNOLLY: It can go anywhere, yeah. And it constantly does. So it’s kinda hard to control. And that’s why I dropped the music out of it, because I couldn’t find a place to put it. And then having played the music to start being funny again, I thought, “Oh bollocks,” and I just left the music out of it.

KP: I have to admit, as someone who’s gone back and found all the music, admittedly through the internet, it’s a shame that some of those sort of chestnuts are gone.

CONNOLLY: Yeah.

KP: Have you ever felt the urge to pick the banjo back up and do something with a guitar up or…

CONNOLLY: No, I’ve had the urge, but when I think about it, I think, “Oh Christ,” you know, “What am I gonna do?” And I have to get all miked up for it as well. You know, the banjo or the guitar needs another microphone and it needs to be set up. And it all becomes a sort of pain in the ass. So what I do is I keep my music for, like, folk festivals and things.

KP: Has there ever been a thought to sort of release, the literally, the Billy Connolly concert DVD?

CONNOLLY: Oh yes, I’ve often thought of that. We’ve been talking about that recently.

KP: I was watching the anniversary DVD you did a few years ago…

CONNOLLY: Yeah…

KP: And the one thing I wished was a bonus feature that had the full length versions of things like the music videos you did, like for “In The Brownies”…

CONNOLLY: Oh god, yeah.

KP: The documentary just had the snippets on there, and I’m going, “I want the whole thing!”

CONNOLLY: Oh, that would have been a nice idea. But I’ve often thought, and in recent times I’ve talked a lot with my management, about doing music stuff and, you know, making a CD.

KP: Honestly, I like your version of Van Morrison’s “Irish Heartbeat” even more than Van’s version…

CONNOLLY: Oh, it’s a goodie, isn’t it?

KP: When those bagpipes kick in, how could you not be swept away by that?

CONNOLLY: (laughing) That’s great!

KP: Something like that seems like just such a brilliant thing to do, just a music CD release.

CONNOLLY: Yes, I would like to, and I really have been thinking very seriously about it.

KP: Well, put this as another vote in the please do column.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah! (laughing)

KP: Like my opinion matters… (laughing)

CONNOLLY: And all the things that you want to do, they all pile up eventually. All the film things you would like to do and all the music stuff, and eventually you… well, with my kind of temperament, I’d say, “Ah bollocks,” and just go, “Oh, look what I’m doing.” I did it live for a while

KP: The subject of you came up yesterday, when I was talking to a good friend of mine, (Muppet writer/director) Kirk Thatcher…

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah…

KP: The last time we had talked, you had mentioned wanting to work together with him again…

CONNOLLY: Aye, that we wanted to do a thing together, but Ozzie kind of preempted us… But being the real thing.

KP: So there must be some kind of thing that would finally draw you back to TV…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, nice writing would draw me back.

KP: Has there been anything in the past couple of years that’s even caught your eye?

CONNOLLY: No, there hasn’t. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been offered a single thing.

KP: You’re kidding me…

CONNOLLY: No, not a sausage.

KP: At some point, do you think that there might be a perception that you’re unapproachable about these things?

CONNOLLY: I think when it comes to film that’s certainly true. People, they see, like, “He’s doing okay.” Because the vast majority of my film work comes from America and Canada, Australia. And Britain I get very little. Although I was offered one the other day, but they don’t have any money or anything like that. Just, would I be interested? I don’t get as many offers as people might imagine I do. I’m at a funny age as well.

KP: As far as…

CONNOLLY: As far as film goes.

KP: Sort of transitioning into that elder role, are you thinking?

CONNOLLY: Aye. You know, you get out of the leading man thing in their mind.

KP: So, you think you’re finally at the age you’ll be playing Sean Connery’s brother?

CONNOLLY: Absolutely! (laughing)

KP: With Ewan McGregor playing your son…

CONNOLLY: Aye!

KP: I’m telling you, that’s a heist comedy waiting to happen.

CONNOLLY: Oh, yeah! (laughing) And a family one would be fun.

KP: A multi-generational kinda thing…

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. It’s just sitting there waiting to be done.

KP: I’m still expecting you to one day do your own production of Braveheart.

CONNOLLY: Oh, god, I would love to! Braveheart: the Truth.

KP: Well, as you’ve said, I’m actually shocked when they had, what, practically every Scotsman in the flick… I think they even had Scrooge McDuck in that movie.

CONNOLLY: (laughing)

KP: I think he’s in one of the long shots in one of the battles.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, it was like A Bridge Too Far. Everybody was in it, you know.

KP: And it’s something that obviously has been coming up in your standup ever since the movie.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely!

KP: I mean, at some point, will it no longer be a thorn in your side?

CONNOLLY: It never has been a thorn in my side. Because I remember at the time being glad I wasn’t in it, because everybody who could walk upright and had a Scottish accent was in it. And that never became a thing I wanted to be in.

KP: And yet you’re still not in a Harry Potter film, either.

CONNOLLY: No, I’m not in Harry Potter. Even with insiders rooting for me.

KP: Well, the friend of mine who flew up to see you was the one who started the quote/unquote web campaign to get you cast as Mad Eye Moody.

CONNOLLY: (laughing) David Thewlis was trying to get me on as some character. I don’t know who he had in mind.

KP: I mean, it’s just a couple of films… maybe a crowd scene or something.

CONNOLLY: (laughing) Yeah!

KP: When they shove everyone else who’s ever been in some way associated with acting in the UK into the films…

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. I’ll get my face in there. Don’t worry about that.

KP: Watch - there’ll be, like, a cardboard cutout of you at some point.

CONNOLLY: And it’s like if I don’t succeed, I’ll spread a rumor about why… I’ll make up a story about why I would never do it.

KP: I think you need to start that rumor.

CONNOLLY: (laughing)

KP: In fact, they’ve been pursuing you for years and you just haven’t cared to do it…

CONNOLLY: “Why do I keep turning down Harry Potter?” (laughing)

KP: I think you were offered the same role that Maggie Smith eventually got…

CONNOLLY: Aye. Well, I was interviewed for the role that Coltrane’s got. What is it? Hagrid?

KP: Yes…

CONNOLLY: Well, they interviewed me for that, but they gave it to him.

KP: I think if you had just bulked up before you went in…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, but only at lunch. If that interview had been after lunch, I would have gotten the gig…

KP: You see, it’s all about circumstance.

CONNOLLY: Oh absolutely. It’s all serendipity. But I think Robby was the choice. I think he was a brilliant choice.

KP: But you’re close to that. Aren’t you playing a zombie in a film coming up?

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah, I’m doing a zombie named Fido. I think it comes out at Halloween. And that’s the weirdest, because they cut my hair and shaved me. So I didn’t look like me. And then I don’t have any dialogue, I just growl. You can’t growl in a Scottish accent, so I don’t sound like me. I said, “You could use somebody much cheaper…”

KP: We talked about how most of your roles come from the US and such. I mean, do you think you achieved that sort of level of pop culture familiarity that people have a real affection for you?

CONNOLLY: Yes. Oh, without question, that comes rolling back. I just did Garfield… you know, the cat thing. I’m in that one, and it’s extraordinary. And with Fido, I didn’t realize these things had the following that they have. Especially with zombie movies. It’s a whole culture in its own. I didn’t know that.

KP: Fido is a bit of a satire, isn’t it?

CONNOLLY: It is, but the whole zombie genre’s very weird, you know. It has a whole audience of its own.

KP: So does that mean you’ll start doing zombie conventions?

CONNOLLY: You know, there are magazines and all that. I did some of that.

KP: Magazines like Fangoria and such…

CONNOLLY: Yeah…

KP: Obviously it’s a culture you hadn’t been exposed to when you did Mrs. Brown

CONNOLLY: Yes! (laughing)

KP: To achieve that sort of cult status as a performer… I mean, I know that you know that people desperately try and pursue talking to you, and you’ve always been described as press shy…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I don’t like them very much.

KP: And I feel bad about that. (laughing)

CONNOLLY: Oh no, don’t feel bad about it. I just… Particularly with the Scottish and English press, I felt kind of abused over there the last few years, so I decided to stop talking to them.

KP: I’m assuming it also had to do with whatever happened in that event at the airport - which I still don’t fully understand why that was blown out of proportion. Whatever comment that was made at the airport that all of a sudden became this thing that was spread across every paper in the UK.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah, that was front page all over the fuckin’ place. I couldn’t believe my ears. It’s as if they’ve sort of invented a rule book about what comedians can and can’t speak about, and fuck that. This is anarchy. You know, comedy has always been anarchy, and I like it for that.

KP: And you were one of the early pioneers of that, especially within the UK scene.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. Saying stuff that actually meant something. But they’ve always been desperate to put a little rule book on it. And so you end up with ludicrous scenes like Larry King and Bill Maher, talking about when is it alright to speak about the twin towers or whatever? There’s no time limit. There’s no fucking rule book.

KP: Have you noticed any chill, even since the 70s, when there were attempts by people to dictate what they believe you should and shouldn’t say?

CONNOLLY: No. I’ve seen various attempts at it, usually by the press. Sort of alluding to the fact that people… bad taste - that speaking about certain subjects at all it bad taste and blah blah blah. But I’ve always regarded that as conservative crap.

KP: Has there ever been anything that you’ve shied away from?

CONNOLLY: No.

KP: Or said “I just won’t talk about that”…

CONNOLLY: No. There’s stuff that I haven’t bothered to talk about, I imagine, but I’ve never… I don’t really think along those lines.

KP: So it’s never been something where you’ve self-censored…

CONNOLLY: No, I don’t… sometimes I do. But there’s a degree to which you can do things and beyond which it becomes… it changes its nature. You know, like supposing you’re talking about a real event, and supposedly it’s like a murder or something that everybody knows about. It becomes a degree when you’re wallowing in it instead of commenting on it. And I try and avoid that.

KP: But that’s not so much a function of not talking about it as just how you talk about it.

CONNOLLY: Yes! So that’s where I censor myself - in the degree that I do it. But I don’t censor myself on the subject matter. I think everything’s fair game.

KP: What’s been the biggest negative response that you’ve ever gotten to something you’ve said?

CONNOLLY: I told a joke about Hitler once and got absolutely nothing. And it was quite a long joke. And I got to the end and absolutely nothing happened.

KP: Was that the more painful aspect of it?

CONNOLLY: No, I thought it was the funniest thing that had ever happened to me. I collapsed on the floor laughing. It was so ludicrous.

KP: Was the audience with you on the failure…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, they started to laugh at me laughing.

KP: Watching you perform, I really get a sense that you’re enjoying it as much as the audience is…

CONNOLLY: I do. I have a really good time.

KP: If it stopped being that, is that the point at which you would walk away?

CONNOLLY: Yes. I think that’s the sign for everything. Whether it’s drinking or whatever you’re doing, if the fun goes away, stop doing it.

KP: Is that something that has become an easier thing over the years for you to notice - that point at which something is no longer fun?

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. And I’ve always enjoyed doing it, you know, and I laugh, and I giggle and stuff. And I don’t care if anybody likes it or not. Some people have said, mainly press guys have said, they’re irritated by it. And the other day, a year or so ago, there was an English comedian said it irritated him, my laughing. Who gives a fuck what irritates him?

KP: I don’t understand that… I mean, I think there’s nothing more infectious than to see someone who’s trying to make you laugh who feels that they want to have just as much a good time as you do.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, yeah. Well, I would have thought so. And I must say the reactions to it are like 99.5% positive over all these years. So it doesn’t really come up as a question.

KP: Is it a fundamentally different feeling walking on a stage now than it was 35 years ago?

CONNOLLY: Well, in New York just now, it’s more a feeling of having to work very hard. But normally it’s exactly the same feeling.

KP: Does playing the smaller venue make you want to do it elsewhere?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I’d like to do it elsewhere and build my audience up. But when I’ve done that, I’ll be back in the big rooms again.

KP: It’s always fascinating to sort of remember at time when Whoopi Goldberg essentially used her clout at that period to bring you over to the U.S. in a big way. You’d been in the U.S. before, but as a way of saying to the American public at large, “You know, I find this guy funny, and I hope you do to.” Has there ever been a performer that you’ve run across that you felt that you might be able to do that with?

CONNOLLY: No, it’s never crossed my mind, because I think the world changed right after that. You know, it was huge of Whoopi to do that, but I think because of satellite and all that, that’s already happening in the world. I think people… it’s not so difficult to hear of people in other places anymore. Especially because of the internet and all that.

KP: Are there any comedians out there that surprise you, and that you get a huge kick out of?

CONNOLLY: Oh yes. I love Lewis Black.

KP: He’s a great, great guy, too.

CONNOLLY: And I love… do you know Charlie Fleischer?

KP: Yes.

CONNOLLY: I love him.

KP: That’s a good example of someone that hip people know, but the majority of the American public wouldn’t know his name unless you went “Roger Rabbit.”

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. That’s what I have to say when I’m talking about him.

KP: That’s the kind of guy who you would one day hope would be able to pop and people would appreciate…

CONNOLLY: If there was anything I could do to make people more aware of Charlie Fleischer, I would do it in a heartbeat.

KP: I was talking to Alan Davies and Bill Bailey a few months back, and it seems like the time is ripe now to do sort of a “Brit Kings of Comedy” type of film.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah?

KP: Having a collection of Brit comedians and using that as a way to kind of do a blanket introduction to the U.S….

CONNOLLY: Yeah. I would avoid it like the plague.

KP: (laughing) What about that is unappealing to you?

CONNOLLY: ‘Cause I’ve never felt that I’m in a club or a movement or a crusade of some kind. I’m just me. I don’t care whether I still do it.

KP: But obviously you’re a groundbreaker. Eddie Izzard has cited you as a major influence in how to get into America.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, but that’s got nothing to do with me.

KP: But you’ve been an inspiration…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, well, and I’m delighted to be an inspiration, but I don’t regard myself as part of some kind of movement.

KP: Well, I certainly can’t name another performer that’s like you…

CONNOLLY: No. But I don’t regard myself as part of some British invasion or some shit like that. I never go to the Edinburgh Festival, where all the comedians are and all that. I just… I’ve never been at a comedy festival. I’ve, like, maybe three times in my life ever been in a comedy club.

KP: And when were those three times? Were those early in your career?

CONNOLLY: It was when I first came over to America, I went to the Improv on Melrose. Just to look and see what it was like. And the other times I’ve gone to meet people. But it’s not my favorite surrounding.

KP: It seems almost like sort of a dead zone for a comedian to try and work.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I think so.

KP: Anytime I’ve been in one, it doesn’t seem like it’s a room, ironically, conducive for comedy.

CONNOLLY: They’re not… they’re not happy places. There’s an air of desperation. Of all those people who want to be in sitcoms.

KP: Particularly when they turn on that spotlight with the bullseye that shines on you.

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Everybody wants to be like Raymond, you know… whatever his name is.

KP: As far as getting that supposed brass ring of getting a TV career out of it?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. And I don’t want a TV career. I never did and I never will.

KP: But it’s certainly something that you flirted with.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I tried it see if I liked it, got over it, but it was never… my aim was never to be a TV star. I always wanted to be like Victor Borge. I wanted to be an international concert guy.

KP: Well, in any stretch of the imagination, no one can say you haven’t achieved that.

CONNOLLY: Well, that’s what I’ve done, yeah.

KP: Is there any venue, any place, any country that you still feel you haven’t, you know, made your mark in?

CONNOLLY: No. No. I would like my audience here to expand a little, but when you think of the things I’ve done here, like Carnegie Hall and all that, I’ve done okay.

KP: Anyone who’s playing Carnegie Hall can’t be said to be doing poorly.

CONNOLLY: Yeah! (laughing) I’ve done it twice.

KP: I hold a fond hope that I’ll finally get to see you live at some point. I keep hoping that you’ll travel to the hinterlands to tour in the near future.

CONNOLLY: Where are you?

KP: I’m in North Carolina.

CONNOLLY: Oh, that’s my spiritual home!

KP: Oh really?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I’m a banjo player…I’ve always wanted to go to Asheville.

KP: Beautiful, beautiful area. In fact, one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been to is Asheville. And remains remarkably like it’s been for decades…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to go… they have a great festival I’d love to go to.

KP: Is this the storytelling festival?

CONNOLLY: Well, it’s a folk, banjo-y thing. Fiddles and banjos. I’d love to go and play there.

KP: Would it take an invitation from them to get you to go?

CONNOLLY: Oh, no… I’ll go myself.

KP: Well, my fingers are crossed that you do so.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I’d love to. The home of great music I love is from North Carolina.

KP: Well, I keep hoping that somehow, someday, America would get something like the Edinburgh Festival.

CONNOLLY: Oh, yeah…

KP: Because we don’t have anything, particularly for comedy, like that. Aspen is far too elitist and corporate.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I hope you never have one. I don’t think comedy responds well to that. It’s sort of… Edinburgh Festival comedy just seems to feed television.

KP: Do you think that it’s always been like that?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, from day one.

KP: What’s the last comedy festival that you’ve attended?

CONNOLLY: I’ve never been to a comedy festival.

KP: I thought you’d done Aspen in the past…

CONNOLLY: No, I went there with the… what the hell did I go for? I went with Eric Idle for something. We went on Robin’s plane - Robin Williams. Just to be all together again, because Steve Martin and Robin and Eric and I all hang out together.

KP: That just blows my mind.

CONNOLLY: They come to my house in the summer, in Scotland.

KP: At what point do the guitars come out?

CONNOLLY: Oh, all the time in the evening.

KP: I gotta know, what song is the recurring… there must be a recurring song that you just jam to.

CONNOLLY: “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.

KP: And who does it better in the group?

CONNOLLY: Eric, by far… Eric Idle is the stalwart. He’s the guitars. He’s the solid one of us all who knows most words of songs. The vast majority of us have dabbled all the time. We know bits of things. And of course Steve is a sensational bluegrass picker.

KP: I was thrilled when he did that fundraiser last year, where he actually played the banjo again on stage.

CONNOLLY: Aye. And I’m an old-timey picker. I’m an old frailer. I love the old North Carolina stuff. You know, the old fashioned picking.

KP: So that old bluegrass mountain music.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, the old-timey.

KP: So you and Andy Griffith, together…

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. And I like all that autoharp and Carter family and all that stuff.

KP: So when are we gonna get a bluegrass album out of you?

CONNOLLY: Oh, that would be fun. I’d love to get together with some of my pals and do that.

KP: Just pick some of those great old tunes…

CONNOLLY: Yeah…

KP: It seems almost inevitable that you’re gonna wind up in Nashville then.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I will, without question. Oh, there’s no question about that. I will get there.

KP: So, if you were to pick one of those songs that you just noodle to, that you love dearly, what would you choose?

CONNOLLY: “Little Maggie”.

KP: When did you first encounter that tune?

CONNOLLY: Oh, it was way at the beginning, about 30 years ago. I think I first heard the Stanley Brothers doing it, but almost everyone I know has played it.

KP: Is that one of those things that, when you pick up the banjo, you will eventually find yourself picking?

CONNOLLY: Absolutely, within about an hour or half an hour you’ll find yourself playing “Little Maggie”.

KP: I read an article where Steve recounted how he learned the banjo, and he said that the banjo is this unforgiving instrument that demands you practice or you start to lose your skills on it.

CONNOLLY: That’s why you have to do it every day.

KP: Is it something that you do every day?

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah.

KP: So you travel with the banjo.

CONNOLLY: Yes, I do. If you just hang on a second… I’m walking into the living room. And there, lying on the couch is… (banjo plays)

KP: I can’t tell you how happy that’s made me. And how sad that something like that just gave me so much joy.

CONNOLLY: And I do it every day. I do it in a kind of meditative way.

KP: So is it almost like a Zen kind of thing for you?

CONNOLLY: It is! And it’s an amazing thing. You know, you sit down and you think, “I’ll give it half an hour,” and then you look at your watch and it’s two and a half hours.

KP: Do you find that that’s the closest thing to the same kind of joy and fulfillment that you get from standup?

CONNOLLY: Without question. It’s the nicest… it’s the best thing that every happened to me.

KP: How would you define that…

CONNOLLY: It led to everything, you know. Because when I wanted to be a comedian there wasn’t an obvious way to become one. Most comedians were old guys. There was no such thing as a young comedian in Britain.

KP: Particularly - I mean, this is when you were still in Glasgow, right?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. And so I went into the folk scene - the folk music, coffee house kind of stuff. And put around the banjo. I saw Pete Seeger on television, and then Earl Scruggs, and I picked up the banjo and became a sort of folk singer. But I was funny all the time. And all those banjo songs and stuff led to being funny, ’cause you were always singing about chicken pie or murdering pregnant women…

KP: Do you think it’s hard to get a truly mournful song out of a banjo?

CONNOLLY: No, it isn’t! It can be incredibly mournful. If you listen to people like Dock Boggs and people at that, it can be really mournful…

KP: But it always seems to be… When you get those sort of songs, they always seem to have a tinge of hope to them, though.

CONNOLLY: Oh, yeah.

KP: It doesn’t feel… I mean, some guitar songs you feel like, you know, you want to go shoot yourself…

CONNOLLY: Yeah, but all good stuff, all the great blues players, sing the blues from the outside looking in.

KP: Do you think that that would be sort of the definition of how you felt early in your career?

CONNOLLY: Oh, yeah, definitely. It was lovely. And then if somebody had told me I was gonna be a banjo player and folky for the rest of my life, I would have been quite happy.

KP: Again, just hearing you play that, and even when I heard Steve Martin do his bit last year, it’s just a shame that there isn’t some kind of way to bring that back in…

CONNOLLY: Do you know Kevin Nealon?

KP: Yes…

CONNOLLY: He’s a good picker, too.

KP: Really?

CONNOLLY: Yeah.

KP: Technique-wise, how would you compare your three techniques?

CONNOLLY: Well, Steve is very, as you can imagine, is very clean and crisp bluegrass - just like he is himself. You know, he’s got that clean, crisp look about him.

KP: Right.

CONNOLLY: And Kevin’s a bit the same. And I am more funky. More, uh, strange choices of tunes to play and stuff. And old hillbilly, obscure stuff. I’ve learned songs just because of the titles, you know…

KP: Like?

CONNOLLY: Like “Beasties in the Sugar.”

KP: (laughing) Honestly, going back to some of the songs that you’ve written, I can tell where the influence came in.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. And the one I used to love introducing’s called “Clench Mountain Back Step”… I just think it sounds great, you know. “Clench Mountain Back Step”. I love introducing it, and I love playing it.

KP: It’s like “Four Flies in the Flour,” or something like that.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. “Shoo Fly Shoo”. But I love “Beasties in the Sugar”. It’s my favorite title.

KP: When was the last time that you sat down and actually wrote a song?

CONNOLLY: Oh, it’s been a long…oh no, no. I did it quite recently. I wrote a song called “I Wish I Could Be a Little Bit More Like Michael Palin.”

KP: Now, you have to elaborate on that…

CONNOLLY: I just wrote it for Eric Idle, just to give him a laugh. I sang it to him the other night in a restaurant.

KP: And what exactly are you saying within the song?

CONNOLLY: That I wish I was a nicer guy. I wish I was an all around nice guy. You know about that lovely reputation’s Michael’s got…

KP: Oh yes. I was actually talking to Terry Jones about it the other day. We were comparing notes about, you know, we keep fearing that day when the news flash comes across that an international rescue operation is being mounted for the nicest Python…

CONNOLLY: Oh, absolutely.

KP: Who’s lost somewhere in Sumatra on a mountain side or something.

CONNOLLY: I’ve got lines in it like, what is it - “They tell me he never swears, and never puts on airs, and I have it on good authority that he never forgets his prayers.”

KP: So how plucky is the tune for this? I’m assuming it’s a suitably Michael Palin-ish tune.

CONNOLLY: It’s a very banjo-y, it’s (sings) “da diddle-dee dum, dee deedle ee dum, de dum dum dum dum, deedle ee dum, dee deedly die deed um. I wish I could be a little bit more like Michael Palin, I’d like to be a duddly decent chap…

KP: It reminds me of the song that Eric wrote for Harry Nilsson…

CONNOLLY: It’s a lot like that. I met Harry Nilsson once myself.

KP: Oh really?

CONNOLLY: He made me a Knight of Malta.

KP: (laughing) You’re gonna have to explain that.

CONNOLLY: He was making Popeye at the time and I was in Malta for another reason. And we met, and he had a competition… you had to make a mark somewhere in Malta that could be read from a mile away, and if you did you became a Knight of Malta. It was a cigarette lighter he gave you with a little Maltese cross on it. It was one of those cheap plastic ones. So I wrote my name on the side of a castle thing on a hill. And we could see it. So he made me a Knight of Malta, and we went out drinking, and it was one of the best nights of my life.

KP: So do you still have that lighter?

CONNOLLY: No, I don’t. I wish I had. I took it… I just took those things very lightly in those days. Not knowing he wouldn’t always be around.

KP: He was another sort of talent that’s comparable… I mean, it’s interesting how lasting those sort of personalities and perspectives are - those kind of skewed perspectives.

CONNOLLY: Yes.

KP: No one can claim that you’re not a unique thinker, as well.

CONNOLLY: Yeah…

KP: I think that’s part of what leads to longevity. Did you see the new Harry Nilsson documentary?

CONNOLLY: No I didn’t. I wish I could see that.

KP: Eric actually performs his tune about Harry at the end of it.

CONNOLLY: Oh really? Well, I’ll see Eric about it. He’ll get it for me.

KP: It’s Who’s Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talking about Him. It’s got Eric, Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson… All telling wonderful Harry stories…

CONNOLLY: Oh, I’d love to see that.

KP: It’s a nice mixture of the profound, the insane, the surreal, the beautiful, and the emotional sides of his life and work. It’s a really powerful documentary.

CONNOLLY: Oh, that’s amazing. The funniest thing was, when I met him, he was doing the music for Popeye, and so was Doug Dillard, the great banjo player from North Carolina. The Dillards…

KP: Oh yeah, who actually were featured on The Andy Griffith Show

CONNOLLY: That’s right. Well, Doug was on the movie as well.

KP: Those Popeye sessions are legendary.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely.

KP: In fact, a tape has surfaced of all of Harry’s Popeye demos.

CONNOLLY: Oh really?

KP: It’s nearly a complete demo reel for it. And it’s amazing to hear that sort of session work, with Harry providing all the vocals.

CONNOLLY: Well, when we were rambling through the night we came to a garage, a gas station that he knew. He knew, he said, that the guy played guitar. And we went into the gas station, and the guy wasn’t there. But there was an old piano there that had been painted green. It was a pale green piano. And he says, “What do you want to hear?” And I said, “Remember Christmas.” Remember that song?

KP: Oh yes.

CONNOLLY: And he sat down and played it for just, it was only me.

KP: I… I mean, when you’re sitting there in that moment, what are you thinking?

CONNOLLY: You’re thinking you’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s just… it’s the nicest thing.

KP: If you could pick one thing that gives you the biggest high, would it be music or would it be comedy?

CONNOLLY: It would be music, I think.

KP: And if you could pick one song that you called closest, what would you choose?

CONNOLLY: Oh, I don’t know. There’s too many, I think.

KP: Well, a clutch of them. Which ones come to mind as ones that always get you in one way or another… Either happy or sad, or…

CONNOLLY: “Across the Universe.” The Beatles song.

KP: Do you remember where you were the first time you heard it?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. I was at home. I’d just bought the album. And I… it was the chorus, “Nothin’s gonna change my world, nothin’s gonna change my world.” And I thought, “Oh, how great is this?” I’ve been trying to play it ever since.

KP: When you say trying to play it…

CONNOLLY: I can never find a key that suits me.

KP: What’s the closest you’ve come?

CONNOLLY: Oh, I get quite close, but I sing like a girl.

KP: What do you mean you sing like a girl?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. The only one that suits me, I’m singing way up high like a soprano.

KP: It almost sounds like a Rex Harrison spoken thing might suit you the best.

CONNOLLY: Oh, (laughing) yeah.

KP: That sort of talk-sing kind of thing. You naturally have a voice that lends itself to the lyrics.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. I do a mean version of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”.

KP: Oh, you do!

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah!

KP: See, why have you not had just a plain music concert?

CONNOLLY: I actually don’t know. It takes so much setting up and getting down to it.

KP: Or just have a jam. You know, go out and give Neil Innes a call…

CONNOLLY: Oh, I’d do that. I don’t give Neil Innes a call, but I go to various pubs and places where people play. And join in.

KP: What about recreating that in a concert setting?

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah. Neil Innes has the best opening line in a song that I ever heard. I don’t know the rest of the song, but the line was, “The champagne was Canadian.”

KP: (laughing) I was just listening to that…

CONNOLLY: Were you?

KP: Actually, ’cause I just talked to Neil last week.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I think he’s great, Neil Innes.

KP: You should have been there for that Bonzo reunion they did a few months back…

CONNOLLY: I love it. I love to see Bonzo Dog getting back together. I would go miles to see that. I used to love Bonzo.

KP: Looking at sort of the body of work going back over 30 years now, is there anything you can point to and say, you know, “If they take away one thing, that you know, defines me…”

CONNOLLY: No. No, I would never…I don’t think along these lines ,and I never will. Now is the hour. I think now is the best time. This is, I think the stuff I do now is the best I’ve ever done.

KP: So, really, the way you live your life is reflected in your comedy.

CONNOLLY: Yes. I think the stuff I do now is by far the best stuff I’ve ever done. And it certainly makes me happier than anything I’ve ever done. And I’m always embarrassed looking back at my stuff.

KP: Well, I know you mentioned when we talked last time that you really detest watching yourself on screen.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I can’t stand it. My god.

KP: What do you see when you look at yourself?

CONNOLLY: Just, just see too many things. I don’t like the way I walk, I don’t like the way my face moves. I don’t… you know, it’s just… it’s just so different from the way I thought I looked.

KP: I mean, has your assessment of yourself softened over the years?

CONNOLLY: I would rather live with my self-assessment than the filmed image of how I looked at that minute on that day.

KP: Has there been anything that’s been palatable to you to look back on?

CONNOLLY: No.

KP: Do you feel yourself softening about that over the years?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Well, I’m not so… I’m not so aggressive about it. I’ve actually sat through some things, you know, because I was forced to. The premieres, I’ve had to sit through films. But it was agony for me.

KP: So, objectively, you can’t look at a performance say like Mrs. Brown and say, “You know, I was really good in that.”

CONNOLLY: No, I can’t. I thought I was crap in it, anyway. I would do it differently if I was doing that again.

KP: How would you do it differently?

CONNOLLY: I don’t know, it just, it’s kind of small differences. Sometimes, you know, if I see a little clip - when I’m on a show and they show a clip of it, I go, “Oh god, I could have done that better.”

KP: So you hate going on things like Jonathan Ross, then.

CONNOLLY: Oh, aye. I would. I avoid that.

KP: Where he dredges up some clip of you…

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Oh my god, somebody did it the other day. I can’t remember what show I was on, but they had a clip from Head of the Class. Oh, I thought I was gonna die.

KP: It always struck me, particularly during your first season of Head of the Class, that you weren’t really enjoying yourself.

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Well, I was kinda trapped in it.

KP: Was it just a circumstance where you took the job…

CONNOLLY: Oh, no, I was enjoying doing… I like doing it and I liked being in America doing the thing, but I… it was so… they were all so firmly ensconced in what they did that there wasn’t much room for me to maneuver around.

KP: So, essentially, you were just plugged into a machine…

CONNOLLY: It was much better in the second season when I got to stretch a bit.

KP: Is there anything different you would have done about Billy, which was tailored around you?

CONNOLLY: Yeah. I would have had other writers than myself writing it.

KP: If you were to construct a TV or a movie project for yourself, what would it be?

CONNOLLY: Oh, I don’t think I would do that.

KP: Just because it doesn’t appeal to you?

CONNOLLY: No…I don’t have any ambitions in that department.

KP: So really, in essence, what you’re doing right now is, is what you…

CONNOLLY: It’s what I love to do.

KP: I’ve never seen a stand-up performance from you where it doesn’t look like you were giving 100%…

CONNOLLY: Oh yes, and I always do. I have that working man thing, you know, because I’ve been a working guy. You know, I’ve been a welder. And I have a great thing about value for money. You know, when you’ve worked your balls off in some shipyard or coal mine and then you go to spend some of the money, well, it’s so difficult to get the money that you should spend it in the same way. So the person performing for you should be giving the same as you gave.

KP: Well, like I said, the person who saw you in New York was literally stunned that you went two hours, because that’s virtually unheard of from most comedians…

CONNOLLY: I’m glad he felt like that. Yeah, I’m not sure how many other guys do that, but I’m glad I do and I’m glad he felt like that. You know, I’m really proud of it. I don’t tread lightly on it. I mean, I’m really, I’m really proud of any of these achievements. But I’m a real stickler for value for money, you know. As long as they leave thinking that they got more than they spent…

KP: Well, I can tell you right now that you made the vacation for him and his wife…

CONNOLLY: Well, that’s wonderful. I’m really glad to hear that. It’s amazing, you know, the number of Americans who have told me how much they love it. It really pleases me. How original to find that, you know?

KP: I think that every once in a while, a comedy scene gets into a bit of a rut.

CONNOLLY: It does. I think comedians go and see too many other comedians.

KP: In American comedy today, and I don’t know how much of this that you’ve noticed or been aware of, there seems to be this trend towards comedian’s comedians…

CONNOLLY: Yeah.

KP: … being the predominant form, and the type of comedy being what other comedians might find funny at a restaurant at three in the morning.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah. Well, that’s not so good.

KP: And it’s incredibly inaccessible for the majority of audiences.

CONNOLLY: Well, that renders it dead to me.

KP: Is that something that you’ve noticed in any way?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, I’ve noticed a bit of that. And another thing - people on talk shows saying funny things, and then when they talk and the thing doesn’t go down well, they’ll say, “Well, that didn’t go down very well.” You know, they’ll comment on how the stuff’s going down. They should shut up and say something else.

KP: I think that’s a sort of preciousness about prepared material.

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Or comedians talking about how it is to be a comedian.

KP: Which is a circular entertainment.

CONNOLLY: Yeah. Or talking about, “Oh, life on the road is so hard,” and you say, “I’ve never fuckin’ heard of you, where have you been?” You know? “I’ve been on the road for about three months.”

KP: Well, you do a little comedy, do a little ditch digging…

CONNOLLY: You know, they’re talking like they’re Woody Guthrie, for fuck’s sake!

KP: (laughing) Oh, come on, it’s so hard to be a comedian. You don’t understand what they’ve gone through in those horrible hotels…. All that bad food…

CONNOLLY: Well, nobody forced them at gunpoint, for fuck’s sake!

KP: Well, I think there is that sort of, “If you don’t laugh at this, you’re rejecting every moment I poured over this…”

CONNOLLY: Absolutely, but I think the calling to be a comedian is almost… it’s almost a holy one. You know, a lot of people have been comedians because comedians can get work, you know? People gradually want to be actors on sitcoms. And I think the calling to be a comedian is, as I say, it’s almost holy, because it’s a very painful process.

KP: Do you think have to have an empathy or desire to, you know, “minister to the masses”?

CONNOLLY: Oh, no.

KP: You don’t think so?

CONNOLLY: No, no. Just the belief that you’ve got this thing that can make people laugh. Which is the most desirable thing of them all. I can guarantee if you asked Marlon Brando would he like to make people laugh, he would have said, “Fuck yeah.”

KP: Well, you can look at the majority of his latter career to see that he made that decision.

CONNOLLY: (laughing)

KP: Or people like Leslie Nielsen, who went from 40 years of a dramatic acting career to finally saying, “I’m just gonna enjoy myself for the rest of my career.”

CONNOLLY: Yeah.

KP: No one can say that you haven’t accomplished that.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I love doing it, I must say.

KP: And you’re definitely one of those comedians… I mean, it seems there are two schools of comedy. There are those who embrace and want to take the audience on the ride, and there are those that come out with contempt for the audience and almost are saying, “You know, to hell with you if you don’t laugh at my genius.”

CONNOLLY: Oh, that’s a sad state of affairs. I love my audience. I’m so… I can’t imagine anybody getting a babysitter and parking their car and paying money to actually see me. It’s such an immense compliment.

KP: Well, like I said, I hope eventually I will have the pleasure.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I’ll come to Asheville and do it, then.

KP: If you come to Asheville, I will make the five hour drive over there to see you.

CONNOLLY: And I’ll play my banjo.

KP: See, you know, you got me sold. And you have to play the Michael Palin song.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah, I’ll sing the Michael Palin song for you!

KP: Maybe you should record that and put it up on the website.

CONNOLLY: Aye, I might do that.

KP: As a fun little thing for people to download.

CONNOLLY: Oh yeah! I’ll get Eric to back me on it, then.

KP: See, now you just made it even better.

CONNOLLY: We could do it together. When I had dinner with him the other night in New York, he was saying, “We’ve gotta play together. When are we gonna play again?”

KP: Well, you know, this is what the web was invented for. A banjo showcase.

CONNOLLY: Yeah, well, we must do it.

KP: I’m gonna hold you to that. I have no possible way of doing so, but I’m gonna hold you to that.

CONNOLLY: Aye, I would love to do it. I’ll put it to Eric.

KP: Looking at the clock, I’ve taken up way, way, way too much of your time.

CONNOLLY: Oh, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks very much.

KP: And I hope that, in the future, we can definitely do this again.

CONNOLLY: Oh, I hope so. I hope we meet again.

KP: See you in Asheville!

CONNOLLY: We’ll meet in Asheville and pick a little!

KP: I’m putting money on it right now.

CONNOLLY: Kick off our shoes and set a spell.

KP: Now, I’ll consider this a very hurtful tease if you never show up.

CONNOLLY: Oh no, I’ll be there.

KP: I’m gonna have to have some personal vendetta going - “That bastard Billy Connolly swore! I had it on tape!”

CONNOLLY: You southern guys are very good at those personal vendettas. I’ve read about them.

KP: See, what happens is, if you don’t show up, I’ll start a website - BillyConnollyScrewedCarolina.com.

CONNOLLY: (laughing) “Why does he hate Carolina so much?”

KP: And I’ll put the audio clip of you going, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go.” And say, “See? He screwed Carolina. Sign the petition.”

CONNOLLY: I’ll be there!

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