Funnyman Billy Connolly has revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease on the same day.
The 71-year-old comedian looks at customs and beliefs surrounding death in a new ITV documentary, Billy Connolly’s Big Send Off, in which he describes how he received the double diagnoses.
The week began with hearing aids and pills for heartburn.
The Scottish star tells the program: “It was a funny week I had.
“On the Monday I got hearing aids, on the Tuesday I got pills for heartburn which I have to take all the time.
“And on the Wednesday I got news that I had prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
“They told me on the phone, they said, ‘Look we’ve had the result and it’s cancer.’ And I said, ‘Oh nobody’s ever said that to me before’.”
He told Radio Times magazine: “I remember I went through to the bedroom to answer the phone, and (wife) Pamela (Stephenson) was behind me – I thought she was gonna catch me.
“And she sort of held me, and I went, ‘Oh Jesus…’ But when we went into the living room I went, phrrhrht.”
Connolly, who has since been given the all-clear after treatment for prostate cancer, dismissed a claim the drugs he had to take for Parkinson’s caused on-stage memory loss in Belfast last year.
“Oh that was bullshit! It makes me so f****** angry!,” he said.
“I’ve lost my train of thought all (through) my career! It’s what makes me different from everybody else – ‘Where was I, what was I saying?'”
He added: “I just ramble off and come back ages later.”
Connolly said that he uses notebooks to improve his memory.
“I’ve put myself on a strict regime of crossword books.
“They remind me of everything. I have to train my memory,” he said.
“I’ve got a notebook with all the words I tend to forget.
It’s the same ones cropping up again and again.”
In the Radio Times interview, Connolly refused to say whether he would vote for Scottish independence – but said that he is “deeply suspicious of patriotism”.
“I don’t have great belief in the Union of England and Scotland.
“But I have a great belief in the union of the human race,” he said.
“I’m not gonna say. It’s too important for people like me to put in their tuppenceworth,” he said.
“I’m really tired of people saying England won the war and calling Britain England. I think that does more harm…
“But you must remember that the Union saved Scotland.
“Scotland was bankrupt and the English opened us up to their American and Canadian markets, from which we just flowered.
“And I dislike patriots. I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism.
“People following the band, you know? I don’t want to be part of it… It’s paved with fools.”
Connolly also talks about his own death in the ITV documentary.
“I don’t think I want a resting place. I want to be scattered to the wind,” he says.
“Actually, I’d like to think we could have the coffin in a hearse, empty. And the real me being buried somewhere by pals, quietly, with a tree on top of me.”
* The first part of Billy Connolly’s Big Send Off airs in the UK on May 7th at 9pm on ITV.