Emotional viewers have praised Sir Billy Connolly for his ‘beautiful’ acceptance speech at the BAFTA TV Awards as he was honoured with the fellowship gong.
The Scottish comedian, 79, was celebrated for a career spanning more than five decades at the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday night.
The fellowship is the highest accolade given by The Academy to recognise ‘outstanding and exceptional contribution’ in film, games or television across their career.
Honoured: Emotional viewers have praised Sir Billy Connolly for his ‘beautiful’ acceptance speech at the BAFTA TV Awards as he was honoured with the prestigious Fellowship
Viewers were left teary-eyed after Sir Billy, also known as The Big Yin, appeared in a pre-recorded message from his US home and spoke about his Parkinson’s disease as he accepted the honour.
Sir Billy said his wife Pamela Stephenson, 72, puts on his clothes for him as he is suffering ‘badly’ with the brain disorder, which causes shaking and stiffness, but insisted he has ‘no complaints’.
Opening up about the disease, he said: ‘Hello ladies and gentlemen, it is I, Billy Connolly, accepting my wonderful thing! It is beautiful isn’t it? I am very proud to receive this.
‘Life is good, I haven’t been on the stage for about two years, this is kind of nice and it suits me.
Award: The Scottish comedian, 79, (pictured in 1985) was celebrated for a career spanning more than five decades at the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards on Sunday night
‘Symptom spotters among you may notice that my left is my different from my right. It’s just one of these things, Parkinson’s disease, I suffer badly from the disease.
‘My wife puts on my clothes in the morning and takes them off at night. It’s a jolly life, I’ve got no complaints.’
Sir Billy, who was knighted in 2017 for services to entertainment and charity, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and retired from live performances five years later, but has continued to record programmes and make TV appearances.
In his acceptance speech, the legendary comedian went on to joke that he was thankful to receive the prestigious award now that his career is ‘out the window’.
He said: ‘I went from strength to strength on television and here we are today, getting this award.
Touching: Viewers were left teary-eyed after Sir Billy, also known as The Big Yin, appeared in a pre-recorded message from his home in the US and spoke about his Parkinson’s disease
‘I couldn’t be happier, it’s made me such a happy man getting these good attendance medals now that my career is out the window. It’s lovely talking to you. Cheerio!’
After watching his poignant speech, viewers were quick to take to Twitter to praise Sir Billy for his candid speech as they said his award was ‘well deserved’.
One person wrote: ‘Absolute legend Billy Connolly huge congrats so well deserved.. a fighter, a gentleman, a funny funny man xx’
Another penned: ‘Billy Connolly is an international treasure.’
A third gushed: ‘So pleased Sir Billy Connolly has been given the Fellowship by BAFTA so deserved.’
While a fourth added: ‘A bit weepy watching #BAFTA and Sir Billy Connolly getting the fellowship. Me and my Dad would watch Billy together and laugh until we cried.’
Love: Sir Billy said his wife Pamela Stephenson (both pictured in 2016), 72, puts on his clothes for him as he said he is suffering ‘badly’ with the brain disorder, which causes shaking
And a fifth tweeted: ‘So moving to see the wonderful Billy Connolly receiving his much deserved BAFTA Fellowship award. Feel so privileged to have worked with him on Muppet Treasure Island. His contagious energy & humour were a joy every day.’
A sixth added: ‘Congratulations Billy beautiful speech, my favourite comedian.’
And another said: ‘Anyone else almost crying at #BillyConnolly at the #Baftas2022’
Sir Billy, who is set to turn 80 this year, previously spoke to Bafta.org about receiving the prestigious fellowship.
He said: ‘I have a collection of shiny things that I’m very proud of.
‘Beautiful’: After watching the poignant speech, viewers were quick to take to Twitter to praise Sir Billy for his candid speech as they said his award was ‘well deserved’
‘But I never set out to get them or hunt them down. I don’t believe in aiming at it because if you don’t get it for whatever reason you’re all disappointed.
‘Just do what you do well and you’ll find yourself a fellow before you know it.’
‘It’s really important to work, to draw, to write, to walk silly for your grandchildren,’ he told Bafta.org, adding: ‘Doing the same thing you’ve always done is good for you.
‘I don’t let the Parkinson’s dictate who I am – I just get on with it. I’ve had a very successful career and I have no regrets at all.’
Sir Billy joins a prestigious list of other recipients honoured for their work in the world of television which includes Sir David Attenborough, Dame Julie Walters, Sir Trevor McDonald, Dame Joanna Lumley, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Jon Snow, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Dame Joan Bakewell and others.
Incredible: Sir Billy, who is set to turn 80 this year, previously spoke to Bafta.org about receiving the fellowship, which is the highest accolade given by The Academy
Sir Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and retired from live performances in 2018.
Born in Glasgow in 1942, Sir Billy began his working life as a welder in the Clyde shipyards before embarking on a career as a folk singer and musician alongside Gerry Rafferty in The Humblebums before developing the stand-up act that made him famous.
He is also an accomplished actor, winning praise for his role opposite Dame Judi Dench in Mrs Brown in 1997, as well as The Man Who Sued God and The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. He is also a gifted travel reporter, making a string of popular documentaries.
In 2002, Sir Billy was presented with a Bafta Special Award and made a CBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
In 2010, he was given the highest honour Glasgow could bestow upon him – the Freedom of the City.
Achievements: In 2002, Sir Billy was presented with a Bafta Special Award and made a CBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List (pictured)
Two years later, he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award by Bafta Scotland for six decades in showbusiness.
Sir Billy has been married to actress turned clinical psychologist and author Pamela Stephenson since 1989.
He added of the fellowship: ‘I am deeply honoured. Fifty films and… I can’t remember how many TV shows – as well as my stage comedy – added up to something that’s a joy to look back on. A lovely thing. I have no regrets at all.
‘I had no idea the fellowship existed, but I’m told it’s a big deal!. It’s lovely to be recognised and to become a jolly good fellow.’
Illness: Sir Billy (pictured in 2013) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and retired from live performances in 2018
He credited the first of many appearances on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 with helping him to become a household name.
He said: ‘It was a huge breakthrough. It made me 10 times more famous than I was. I was two-thirds of the way through an English tour at the time, and the venues were half-full. As soon as I went on Parky it sold out, and it stayed sold out for the rest of my career.’
Emma Baehr, executive director of awards and content at Bafta, said: ‘We’re honoured to be awarding Sir Billy Connolly with the 2022 Bafta Fellowship Award.
‘He has made a remarkable contribution to our industry from his first appearance on Parkinson in 1975, through to becoming a national treasure on stage and screen, adored by fans around the world.
‘Bafta is looking forward to celebrating this award with Sir Billy in due course and thanking him again for his phenomenal career in television.’
Receiving the fellowship this year means Sir Billy is being recognised by Bafta for the third successive decade, the organisation said.
His most recent projects include TV shows including 2018’s Billy Connolly: Made In Scotland, Billy Connolly’s Great American Trail in 2019 and Gold’s Billy Connolly Does… which aired this year.
Last year, he released an autobiography titled Windswept & Interesting.