Billy Connolly gets on ‘high horse’ for NZ tour


Scottish comedian Billy Connolly is showing his artistic – and equine – side and has designed the tickets for his latest tour of New Zealand.

Artwork for the “High Horse Tour”, starting in Napier on April 8 and wrapping up in Hamilton on May 14, is a fine art depiction of Connolly and a horse.

The process is similar to that of the Surrealist Automatism movement, whereby the artist allows the hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas, without an intent to create anything specifically.

Connolly’s PR machine says his art can be “likened to that of the cave paintings that originated in Aurignacian culture, possessing a charming simplicity, yet an extraordinary self-awareness and humanity”.

“Connolly’s characters are faceless, completely anonymous; seemingly devoid of emotion or expression and yet, the emotional connection with the audience is quite prevalent.”

Connolly – or The Big Yin as he’s known in his native Scotland – did his first live stand-up show in New Zealand in 1978. His fanbase has grown with every visit: from under 7000 people in 1978 to more than 60,000 in 2009

“It’s great to have Billy back for a comprehensive 12-city tour,” says promoter Ian Magan. “In the 36 years he has visited New Zealand, Billy has become a true friend to Kiwis who love his irreverent and topical humor.”

His professional life started in the shipyards of Glasgow where he worked as a welder in the early 60s. He decided to give it away to pursue a career as a folk singer and banjo player in the Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty (later of Baker Street fame) and then as a soloist.

The jokes he told between songs eventually took over his act and he became a full-time comedian. Already a big star in Scotland, he became a household name in the UK after appearing on “Parkinson” (1971) in the early 70s.

He also became an actor, and has appeared in blockbusters ranging from Indecent Proposal (1993) to Mrs. Brown (1997), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA; the all-star Quartet (2012) through to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and Gulliver’s Travels (2010) starring Jack Black, to name but a few. His love affair with New Zealand has included appearances in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies as well as The Last Samurai, filmed in Taranaki with Tom Cruise.

New Zealanders also got to see him hooning around on his trike and naked bungy jumping for his series World Tour of New Zealand (2004).

In September 2013, Connolly recently underwent minor surgery in the US after being diagnosed with the early stages of prostate cancer. The operation was a success, and Connolly fully recovered.  He was also assessed as having the initial symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, for which he is receiving treatment.

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