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His accent and voice have made him a distinct asset in voice-work. He has narrated stories and provided the voice for a number of animated films. The next animated feature will be Brave next year, for Pixar. Two other films, Quartet and Glide, will feature Billy Connolly.
There are times when the mere mention of someone’s name is enough to provoke a smile. It might be a smile of warmth, familiarity or humour, it might be associations with events or stories about or from the person. Billy Connolly is someone who can conjure that smile with all those associations.
Certain people, arguably more conservative, will not smile: they might wince. Mr. Connolly’s style is often crude and coarse. Most must agree that he is talented, whether or not they can suffer his colourful language. The point that bears consideration here is this: for all the use of a few standard vulgarities, his humour is not entirely vulgar.
He is a story-teller, and his stories are very funny indeed. His use of swear-words might be unnecessary, even extravagant, but they make many laugh. But it is not for the sake of shock, nor is it to distinguish: the majority of stand-up comedians use vulgarity: it seems a natural and possibly common-folk way of relating absurdities.
And when delivered in a strong Scottish accent, these words can sound a wee bit funnier. Especially outside Glasgow. Billy Connolly is famous for his long career as a comedian. His stand-up comedy has earned him the respect of his peers and legions of fans. He tops lists of the best comedians of all-time. He is also an esteemed actor and musician.
Mr. Connolly was initially a welder, but became a folk-singer, writing his own songs, and then, a comedian and a writer. He has appeared in scores of TV series, many films, and has done much voice-work. In most cases, his characters are sympathetic, even cuddly, much like the man himself.
Whether a kind relative, in Lemony Skicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) or a sympathetic zombie, in Fido (2006) — in which he did not say a word — and notably, as Queen Victoria’s friend, in his film breakthrough, Mrs. Brown (1997), there is something gentle and amiable in his characters.
In his own character, these traits come across in interviews and appearances where he is presenting more than acting. His travels around Canada’s north, in Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World (2009) presented him as a humble, friendly, adventurous and compassionate man.
Perhaps, therefore, the most surprising element of his comedy is the paradox that this gentle and friendly man should be so angry. Much of Mr. Connolly’s humour is based on frustration at kinds of people or situations, many of which are familiar to the audience. But, here again, although the swearing might be in frustration, it is not uttered violently, more in bewilderment.
The audience truly feels the same frustrations and confusion, and understands the exasperation in the language. And that accent, along with the twinkle in his eye, makes it all feel like a fire-side chat.
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