Billy Connolly: The Man Live
Even after more than 30 years in the comedy business, Billy Connolly confesses that he still finds it every bit as frightening to get up in front of an audience. And when he wanders onto the stage of the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco, he looks dazed and uncomfortable -- as if someone has shoved him on against his will.
For the first several minutes of his show, "Billy Connelly: The Man Live," the audience seems uneasy, too. Have we made a mistake coming? Despite being voted Britain's favorite ever comedian in 2010, is the 70-year-old Connelly over the hill?
"I'm not used to doing this," he warns us. "I've been busy being a movie star." Indeed, he must have been distracted from his comedy since, among other things, he did the voice over for King Fergus in "Brave" and is playing a major role in Peter Jackson's soon-to-be-released "Hobbit."
But it's not long into his show that Connolly demonstrates his comedy prowess. Dressed in a black T-shirt with tails and a pair of black and white striped pants, he soon takes command of the stage and of the audience, taking us on a meandering journey filled with some very funny stories.
We visit his past as a folk singer playing alongside Jerry Rafferty (of "Baker Street" fame) as he tells us about the morning they accidentally took acid together. We learn about the hecklers he's encountered and how he's dealt with them (some solutions more violent than others).
We hear how he spent a drunk evening with an undertaker who had the worst living room décor in the universe. And how he started a new "ancient" tradition on Orkney, in which people run butt-naked around the Scottish island's famous standing stones -- apparently it's become quite a money-maker for the Islanders, or at least that's what Connolly claims.
Throughout, he manages to get many, many laughs. And though nothing he says is so hilarious that it brings tears to your eyes, his wry observations, wit, clever physical comedy and sheer silliness make the two hours that he's on stage (with no intermission) hurtle by.
Unlike many stand-up comics, his delivery seems completely off-the-cuff. But it's more likely that he's such an expert at his craft that, despite having an act that's been very finely honed, he can convince us he's simply making things up on the spot.
Known for his plentiful use of bad language (Robin Williams once said that anyone can swear but Connolly can make it poetry), he's certainly not given it up. But with so many bad-mouthed comics in the world these days, that no longer puts him on the comedy's cutting edge. Still, that doesn't really matter.
Instead, in addition to being downright funny, it's his ease with his craft and with his audience that make Connolly stand out. He demonstrates that, despite any nervousness he may still experience, he's still on top of his game.
"Billy Connolly: The Man Live" runs through Dec. 1 at The Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter Street in San Francisco. For info or tickets, call 415-771-6900 or visit the theater’s website