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“If you can be funny in the pub, it means you can be funny on stage – it’s just a question of tweaking it here and there,” said Billy Connolly.
Considered by many to be the greatest comedian of all time, Sir Billy Connolly has topped numerous comedy polls for his legendary standup. Now, thanks to BBC Maestro, he’s offering viewers a backstage glimpse into what it takes to keep an audience laughing for well over 50 years.
With insights and callbacks from across Billy’s sweeping comedy career, Billy has created lessons dedicated to Preparing and Going on Stage, Audiences, Developing Material, Life on the Road, and the all-important Getting a Break.
“There’s a great starvation for original comedy. You mustn’t look at the field and say, ‘I’ll never make it. There’s all those guys doing it before me,'” he explained. “Good material gets done; good performers get booked. People can’t wait to book original people. And you’ll find that as you go through your career, original people pass you until you become original yourself.”
The BBC Maestro platform offers a series of extended, in-depth lessons, filmed in 4K, featuring an eclectic mix of prestigious experts, to allow you to discover exciting new learning opportunities from the comfort of their own home, with individual courses for £80 at bbcmaestro.com.
Now, this new BBC Maestro course offers aspiring comedians and fans of Sir Billy Connolly the opportunity to gain unique insights from a BAFTA Fellowship recipient. He shares everything from guidance on facing those first line fears to hard-won advice on how to best handle unwanted hecklers.
“I used to have lines that dealt with them, but you get bored with the same old line, and so do your audience. If they’ve seen you before and they hear you doing these old tired lines, they don’t like it so much. You have to deal with it as it comes. It’s hard, but you begin to look forward to it.”
Throughout his course, Billy shares highlights from across his extensive career, pinpointing key jokes and practical decisions that helped to establish him as a giant in the world of standup.
“I wouldn’t advise people to watch themself on video. Because you look like a twerp. If you’re looking at yourself, you’re looking the wrong way. It’s the same as practising in a mirror. When you practise in a mirror, you’re looking the wrong way. You shouldn’t be looking at yourself, you should be looking at your audience.”
Billy’s BBC Maestro course, Comedy is a celebration of the power of laughter for the audience and comedian alike, even offering the invaluable reassurance that even The Big Yin had ‘off’ nights.
“I’ve died a death many times, especially at the beginning of my career. The good thing is you get the bad bit first, then the good bit. You’ll die the death a lot in the beginning of your career, and then as you get better that becomes less and less until you don’t even think about it.”
Sir Billy Connolly has won numerous awards, was knighted for Services to Entertainment and Charity in 2017, and was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship in 2022.
The latest addition to BBC Maestro’s selection of world-class courses, Comedy is the ideal supplement to any comedian’s toolkit. Billy’s course consists of 19 lessons and is designed for viewers to learn at their own pace. Lessons are accompanied by extensive course notes filled with breakdowns of moments from Billy’s career as well as practical exercises to help develop existing material, sharpen comedic timing and nail delivery.
“Go up on stage and do your best. And remember that you have the best job in the world. You make people happy for a living, nobody can say that. It’s just a joy. It’s a blessing. You’ve got the tools on you to make people happy – happier than when they came in. It’s a great thing. Remember that, instead of your wee notes.”
About Billy Connolly
Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Billy Connolly developed an early interest in folk music, and became an accomplished banjo player and a member of the band Humblebums. However, soon the jokes he told between the songs eventually took over the act, and soon he became a full-time comedian.
Already a big star in Scotland, he became a household name in the UK after appearing on Parkinson in 1971. Billy has released many recordings and videos of his concert performances over the years, and has expanded his repertoire to include acting, appearing in a number of television dramas and films.
In the 90s he made two documentary series for the BBC, about Scotland and Australia respectively, and in 1997 he starred in the award-winning film Mrs Brown. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to Entertainment. He is one of the UK’s top comedians.
About BBC Maestro
BBC Maestro launched in October 2020 to phenomenal success. The first four courses attracted more than one million people to the service, with thousands signing up to learn from their favourite Maestro. Whether you are a novice or an amateur enthusiast, BBC Maestro allows you to indulge in your area of passion from the comfort of your own home and learn from the experts. Each course is beautifully filmed in 4K and offers several hours of content, broken down into 14 to 40 easily digested lessons accompanied by downloadable course notes filled with hints, tips and a breakdown of each lesson. Billy Connolly is the latest Maestro, joining Lee Child, Doreen Lawrence, Edgar Wright, Mark Ronson, Alan Moore, Jancis Robinson, Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Peter Jones, David Walliams, Gary Barlow, Marco Pierre White, Vineet Bhatia, Pierre Koffmann, Richard Bertinet and Line of Duty creator, Jed Mercurio. And coming soon are Carol Ann Duffy, Sir Tim Rice and more – all imparting wisdom, expertise and industry secrets.
BBC Maestro taps into the fast-growing space of e-learning – because of the way technology has revolutionised teaching and learning, lessons no longer need to be confined to the classroom. In 2020, the number of people using online learning videos rose dramatically, with an estimated 200 million users worldwide. The global ‘Mass Open Online Courses’ market size is expected to increase from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $20.8 billion by 2023.
BBC Maestro is a commercial platform developed and operated by Maestro Media Ltd under license from BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. BBC is a trademark of the British Broadcasting Corporation and is used under license.
Find more from BBC Maestro now:
- Comedy is available from 17th November on www.bbcmaestro.com
- The course costs £80 for lifetime access to Billy’s 19 lessons and comprehensive downloadable notes
- The 19 lessons include – Becoming a Comedian, Preparing and Going on Stage, Observation, Developing Material, Hecklers, Audiences, Getting a Break, and Comedy for the Soul
- A select number of course extracts are available on request
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