OCT 12, 2021 | 9781529318265 | RRP $49.99
One might think that after so much has been written and shared about hi, that the man himself would not have much more to add, but not so. Because aside from the recollections and anecdotes, it is Billy’s innate gleeful humour that lifts this beyond straight autobiography to become a literary stand-up delivery 🙂 and a laugh-out-loud reading experience.
What truly amazes me is that when one looks at the bald facts: losing his mother before he was 4, the crowded and haphazard tenement life in Glasgow and the terrible abuse from not just one by two members of his close family, it could be reasonably expected that this man would be one of these archetypal comics – morose, bitter, depressed. Not Billy. This is a man whose warmth, joy in life and generosity of spirit is so evident, that one cannot help but smile at the least but mostly guffaw as he rambles his way through his memories.
We find out much about his childhood, the good and the bad, his teens (and really, couldn’t such an upbringing easily result in a kid going off the rails?), and his start, in a working life, as a welder in the shipyard where he found, seemingly much to his own surprise, that he could make people laugh. It was his love of music, in particular the banjo, that provided his first entrée into entertainment though. His ability as a banjo player should not be under-estimated (and I’m extremely envious of my ex, who remembers going to see The Humblebums many years ago). Along the way in his early forays into performing, his patter became part of each show and, little by little, began to eclipse the musical side. In the mid 1970s his appearance on the Michael Parkinson show (anyone else remember that?) catapulted him from ‘cult hero’ to not only a national star but international as comedy shows, TV programs, documentaries and movie roles followed.
It took the dual diagnosis of cancer and Parkinson’s to slow down his incredible life as a performer of live shows, though TV and film work has continued, as has his art (a talented creator), fishing, farting and writing.
For those of you who are fans of the Big Yin, I don’t need to recommend it but for those who may not be (seriously? you’re kidding, right?) but enjoy to learn about the rise of someone from less than ideal beginnings to a much-respected, be-knighted (who’d ever have guessed that back in the start?) and dearly loved icon, I heartily give this my highest accolade: this is one review book that is remaining on my own shelves as I know it will give me the greatest pleasure to re-read it – and laugh aloud again as I do so.