Sir William Connolly, (born 24 November 1942) is a Scottish stand-up comedian, musician, presenter, actor and artist. He is sometimes known, especially in his homeland, by the Scots nickname “The Big Yin” (“The Big One”).Connolly’s first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer. He first sang in the folk rock band The Humblebums alongside friends Gerry Rafferty and Tam Harvey, with whom he stayed until 1974, before beginning singing as a solo artist. In the early 1970s, Connolly made the transition from folk singer with a comedic persona to fully fledged comedian, for which he is now best known. In 1972, he made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Connolly’s Glasgow Flourish. He also played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 1972, Connolly’s first solo album was produced, Billy Connolly Live!, a mixture of comedic songs and short monologues.
As an actor, Connolly has appeared in such films as Indecent Proposal (1993), Pocahontas (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Mrs Brown (1997) – for which he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, The Boondock Saints (1999), The Last Samurai (2003), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), Brave (2012), and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). On his 75th birthday in 2017, three portraits of Connolly were made by leading artists Jack Vettriano, John Byrne and Rachel Maclean. These were later turned into part of Glasgow’s official mural trail. In October the same year, he was knighted in Buckingham Palace by Prince William for services to entertainment and charity.
Known for his idiosyncratic and often off-the-cuff observational comedy, which frequently includes the use of profanity, in 2007, Connolly was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and again in the updated 2010 poll. In recent years, he has established himself as an artist. In 2018, he stated “art is my life now” as he unveiled the third release of his Born on a Rainy Day series in Glasgow.