Sunday, May 06, 2012
The Night Billy Connolly came to see me do comedy
I never thought I would ever write those words down in a blog but here I am. Let me take you back a bit, when I was growing up in Glasgow in the 70s and my dad let me hear an LP vinyl recording of Glasgow comic Billy Connolly- I have been hooked and love the man ever since. His story telling style hooked me and made me really interested in comedy.
When I went into comedy at the age of 35, the first press reaction was “Janey Godley is like discovering an early Billy Connolly” I was touched but a tad embarrassed in case the great man ever read that and was annoyed, as if he ever read about me? What a dick I am.
Anyway I have followed his career and been totally in love with his style and always regarded him as the best comic I have ever known. So I land in Wellington New Zealand for the Comedy festival to learn that the Big Man is in town and was staying in the same hotel as me and Ashley. To make matters worse, the hotel slip under every door every day a note about the weather and about comedy shows at the festival, so they slipped under his door “come see Janey Godley at the International Comedy festival and see why the press call her the female Billy Connolly” I was was horrified to know this! He would read that shit!
I had small dreamy moments, we would meet in the lobby and by some miracle we would be pals for life meeting up again!
I certainly had to stem the overwhelming desire to stalk every corridor and hunt him down, so I eventually gave the reception a copy of my autobiography ‘Handstands in the Dark’ with a short note to be sent to his room. The fact he may ever read my book would have been enough for me, I am not joking- it was that or I started hacking into the reception computer to find his room.
So, there was me and Ashley sitting having a cup of tea in the most beautiful hotel room we have ever been in and my phone rang.
“Hello Billy Connolly here” the Scottish voice boomed out.
“Get fucked you cunts, who is this? Is that you Terry Alderton?” I said believing it to be amazing UK comic who is at the comedy festival with us.
“Nope, it’s me Billy, you want to meet in the lobby for a cup of tea?” he suggested, I squeaked a yes.
I ran about the room, pulling off my pyjamas and managed to pull a bra on outside in, run a brush through my mental hair, grab my bag and me and Ashley went racing down to the lifts.
“Mum for fucksake calm down, you look like Kathy Bates from Misery, he will be terrified you are going to hobble him” Ashley yelled as I managed to press all the lift buttons but the ground floor one.
Eventually after what felt like 45 minutes the lift reached ground floor and I spotted myself in the mirror and I indeed looked like a woman who had ran away from a hostage situation. I breathed slowly and walked calmly into the foyer. Billy Connolly came towards me dressed sharp and looking good and hugged me close “lets get tea” he said.
After introductions, Ashley got us a tea tray, said hello and the excused herself and explained she was going to see The Avengers and bid her goodbyes.
Me and Billy Connolly chatted for over an hour and I tried hard not to gabble and talk utter shite and managed to calm down, he has a way of making you calm and is a genuinely lovely man.
I met my hero and I totally fell in love with him, he is really attractive and warm to meet.
We laughed, we talked comedy, we talked art, we talked books, we talked Glasgow and then he said “I will come see your show tonight” I said “please don’t it would be like singing karaoke in front of Elvis” he laughed and said “I am a great audience member I laugh and I love comedy”
I didn’t believe he would come, not that I think he is a liar, I just thought he was being polite – so me and Ashley headed up to the San Fran Bath House venue in Cuba street. We explained to the ticket man that Billy Connolly might turn up and it felt like we were fantasists who regularly claim famous people are our pals! The man nodded and rolled his eyes!
The venue manager Ziggy was over the moon though and the staff were excited about the prospect of our lovely venue having such a star in....then I felt bad if he didn’t turn up, the prospect of sharing the room with me for an hour would disappoint them.
Billy Connolly came to the door and Ashley met him and walked him up. The venue was closed to the public and the staff were so overwhelmed yet cool as hell and made the big man and me a cup of tea.
The look on my punters faces as they rocked up to the bar to buy drinks and turned round to see Billy Connolly just tickled me pink. Ashley and Billy sat down shared pizza and the show started.
I was very aware as i walked out onto that stage that everyone one in that room knew Billy Connolly was sitting there watching me, I was aware he was sitting there....my long time comedy hero was sitting beside my daughter with hands clasped and staring at the stage. My heart skipped a beat, the light blinded me and i said “Hello Wellington, how are you?” and the cheer went up.
I did the show, I did my stuff, I riffed, I chatted to the crowd, I made good laughs and claps happen and I forgot he was there, I forgot Billy Connolly was sitting watching until I heard his big laugh and then my heart boomed again and the show went on....the show went great...there were some odd heckles which I embraced and which made the show better and soon the lights dimmed and I was standing in front of my comedy hero.
He put his two big arms around me, hugged me close and said “that was brilliant, you are so unafraid up there, you know the craft so well, there is no such thing as female or male comedy, there is just comedy and you are comedy Janey, the way you calmy held them in your hand and took them on a journey, everything was just amazing, well done” It was the best endorsement ever.
My heart swelled with pride and relief, I know even if I died he would have said nice things, but it was a good show and as a seasoned one woman show performer of over ten years I know the difference...it was a good ‘un. Thank GOD!
We went onto the balcony and he lit a cigar and then quoted all the bits he loved and replayed how they made him laugh and then I forgot he was a huge star and me, him and Ashley nattered for over an hour and then we walked back.
Here’s the thing, I thought Billy Connolly watching me do comedy was scary, no- walking through the busy roads of Wellington with Billy Connolly was terrifying – he doesn’t give a fuck about the GREEN MAN and he marches onto busy roads.
Ashley felt compelled to walk beside him and I ran like a wee hobbit behind them and visualised my daughter being battered by a car alongside Billy Connolly!
Him and Ashley were like big Highlanders tramping through the glens of heather, no sideways glances just big Scottish arms swinging and weirdly cars stopped as if in homage to their presence....me? they almost hit me and were annoyed I was in their way!
I can’t tell you how good a night I had and thanks Billy for coming and thanks to Ziggy and the crew at San Fran bathhouse in Wellington. You rock.