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Billy Connolly says he ‘would never have become a comedian’ if he hadn’t been called gay in his youth

Nick Duffy May 20, 2020
Comedian and actor Billy Connolly

Comedian and actor Billy Connolly (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images for BFI)

Billy Connolly has revealed that he was branded “gay” when he was younger due to his eccentric dress sense, but said his experiences are what led him to comedy.

The Scottish comic opened up about his time working as an apprentice in a shipyard in BBC Scotland series Billy and Us.

According to the Daily Record, Connolly explained: “In the shipyard they gave me a hard time, calling me gay because I wore beads and had long hair, but it went on and on and on and never really stopped and it hasn’t really stopped yet.

“Without the shipyards I would never have been a comedian. The shipyard was where I discovered humour in the world of the heavy industry dwelling male and where I learned to cheer for the wee man, the underdog, the little guy.

Billy Connolly: Gay jokes spurred me on.

Billy Connolly continued: “Back then when I watched TV, the comedians were funny but they never made me fall about the same way as the ordinary guys in the shipyard did. So I’ve spent my life making people roar like they did.

“If they found a weakness or a difference in you they would go for that. The shipyard was good for that.

“You didn’t mind though as having a nickname made you one of the boys.”

Scottish comedian and folk singer Billy Connolly performing in 1975.
Scottish comedian and folk singer Billy Connolly performing in 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Comedian reveals where his ‘androgynous’ costumes came from.

Of his look, Connolly explained: “I came upon weird costumes by mistake. I was playing in lounge bars the length of Britain from Bolton, Bury and Birmingham to Manchester and Stratford.

“It was brilliant but when you came in wearing jeans and a denim shirt, you looked the same as the audience, so I decided I was going to dress so they knew I’m the attraction.

“I started with stars on my trousers, then I went stripy and after that I went crazy – all androgyny. A girl in Lambhill in Glasgow made me some costumes, velvet stuff with big hoods and huge flairs.

“It was the era of glam rock and David Bowie. I wanted a shiny satiny body suit with a diamond on my crotch so I twinkled and attracted attention all the time. It was great dressing up.”

The comic previously joked that he surprised that he is not gay because “the women in my life are nightmares”.

More: Billy Connolly, comedy

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