My Comedy Hero: Brennan Reece on Billy Connolly

My Comedy Hero: Brennan Reece on Billy Connolly

Brennan Reece / credit: Michael Wharley

Former English Comedian of the Year and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee picks the Big Yin as his comic idol

He is everyone's. But, he is everyone's for a reason. Billy Connolly is the reason I now call myself a comedian. A hobby that has got drastically out of hand is the Big Yin's fault. So if you don't like me, blame him.

I remember being around ten or 11 and hearing my mum and dad howling from downstairs. Laughing more than I ever heard them before. I wanted to know what the fuss was, so often I would sit at the top of the stairs and watch through the bannister, or pretend I wasn't feeling well so I could lie with my head in my mum's lap and watch Billy Connolly on VHS. Most of the time I didn't know what he was talking about, but I knew, I just knew, it was funny.

I've always been a show-off since an early age, marching around the living room with a bin on my head, or dancing in my mum's shoes. Whenever there was a party, I would tell the three jokes I knew again and again to my parents' friends in the hope of receiving a pound, just to bugger off. I think I always had it in me … I just didn't know what 'it' was. Until I saw these videotapes that my parents would watch. This weirdy bearded-looking fellow, captivating crowds with yarns and rants and sound effects and dance. Like no one I had ever come across, four-letter words that I had never heard, and would never say more than once, because I would get a clip round the bonce.

As I got older and was 12, 13 (remember this is an age before YouTube and Vimeo), I would watch the same two tapes again and again, making notes, writing out the routines. I would pinch the tapes, never the box it came in, just the tapes, and watch them on my big-backed 20-inch TV and video-playing combo which hung on the wall in the corner of my room that I shared with my older brother. Ejecting his unusual foreign bootleg films (like German Whores 4), I watched Two Bites of Billy Connolly and laughed as hard as I could.

Never did I imagine that when it came to me becoming a comedian that his long-form stories of authentic family life, his silly jibes at the world, and rude observations would become the foundation of what I am today. I wouldn't say I am the same, or even half the same (I wouldn't disrespect such an icon like that) but his words of decades ago are certainly buried deep within.

I was lucky enough to see him for the first time live on his last tour, the High Horse show, and it felt like a pilgrimage for me, to see one of the few people who I class as a living legend. Weirdly enough I took my nanna, who my new show is all about, where I spin my own yarns about my childhood with her. And as I sat next to one legend, as we both watch another, I felt very grateful that my parents let me stay up past 10, and watch the greatest comedian that has ever been.

Brennan Reece: Everlong is on tour until Saturday 16 June.

Brennan Reece: Everlong

  • 3 stars

A show from the Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee.