Billy Connolly: Old age is a weird and nasty surprise.

Billy Connolly: Old age is a weird and nasty surprise. I don’t know if we should tell people about it

In his most intimate interview yet in The Irish Times, by his wife Pamela Stephenson Connolly, the comedian talks about living with Parkinson’s, the secret of ageing and the changing nature of comedy

William Connolly, aka Billy Connolly, aka the Big Yin, the Glaswegian welder-turned-folk-singer-turned-comedian has been my partner for more than 40 years. When Billy and I met, I was a comedian appearing in the BBC’s popular topical comedy programme Not The Nine O’Clock News, but since then I have become a psychologist, author, dance enthusiast and regular Guardian columnist.

Billy and I have five children between us. We married in Fiji (my mother’s birthplace) then settled in the United States in the late 80s, living first in California, where Billy was under contract to Warner Brothers. We subsequently moved to New York after our children finished school, and we currently reside in the Florida Keys, where the “fishing is easy” and (in Billy’s words) “the sun comes clattering down”. Our move to Florida was prompted by a need to situate Billy in a more relaxed place, without the extremes of temperature one experiences in New York. As is the case in Billy’s beloved Glasgow, for him a cold winter is accompanied by the likelihood of his slipping on ice and “falling on my arse”. So for now, our alternative environmental hazards are hurricanes, aggressive grackles and iguana poop.

Billy has had an extraordinary career. Aside from the many years of live concerts that made him a much-adored performer in many countries around the world, he has made about 50 movies and hundreds of TV shows. He survived prostate cancer and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 10 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped him continuing to develop his creative talents. Although performing live is no longer an option, in recent years Billy started making wonderful drawings and became a celebrated artist. He also began to write books. His successful first autobiography, Windswept and Interesting, has been followed by his latest memoir, Rambling Man – an ode to the restless soul, chronicling Billy’s lifetime wanderings in his usual charming, irreverent and hilarious style.

As my 80-year-old husband’s main caregiver, I try to reduce his stress, so this interview has been conducted via a series of questions sent over by the Guardian, the answers to which I recorded in a relaxed conversation between the two of us.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly

Your career has taken you to so many different places. What are the best and the worst places you’ve ever been to?

And the best place?

B: Australia’s a great place. It looks good. It’s clean and bright and healthy. And the people seem happy and delighted to be there … and they don’t waste any time telling you that.

Pamela: Plus, Australia produces the best wives …

B [laughing]: Of course it does. It does a fine line in wives …

P: Was that why you married me? Because I’m Australian?

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