Billy Connolly, Black Squirrel – What’s Hot and What’s Trending 30 January 2012

30 Jan

Billy Connolly – the Big Yin has been voted the UK’s most influential stand-up comedian of all time.

The poll was organised by satellite comedy channel Dave and after a shortlist had been compiled by a panel of comics, including Miranda Hart, Stephen Merchant and Jack Dee, 2000 members of the public voted for their favourite comic.

The poll had a large number of the expected comics but also sprung a few surprises. The top placed Monty Python comic was not John Cleese as you might expect but all-round nice guy and travel expert, Michael Palin. One other name on the list which is not that well-known to the public but a big favourite amongst comics (we at WHWTN can also vouch for his brilliance)  is Daniel Kitson.

Other expected names include Morecambe & Wise in 2nd place, Victoria Wood in 3rd place, Eddie Izzard in 4th place and Ben Elton making up the last place in the top 5. Other comics included in the top 10 include Peter Cook and the maestro of the piano Les Dawson. and in case you wondered where Spike Milligan is on the list he counts as an international comedian as he refused to swear the oath of allegiance required to obtain a British passport.

69-year old Billy Connolly’s first career was as a welder in his native Glasgow. He then moved to work as a folk singer, firstly in the group The Humblebums (the group also included Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street fame) and then on his own. It was not until the early 1970’s that he started to work as a stand-up comic with his big break coming in 1975 with an appearance on the prime-time Saturday night show Parkinson. Despite being warned by his manager not to, he told a joke about a man who murders his wife and buries her in the ground with her bottom sticking out the ground so he has somewhere to park his bike. By the time he delivered the punchline both he and Parkinson were laughing so much they could barely speak. The two became good friends and Connolly ended up appearing more times on Parkinson’s show than any other guest with 15 appearances on the show.

His career carried on successfully from this first appearance on the Parkinson show and as well as comedy he has made dramatic movies such as Mrs Brown, where he appeared opposite Dame Judi Dench. Connolly boasts that he is the only person to die in a Muppet movie (Muppet Treasure Island). He has also appeared in a number of tv travel shows mostly travelling round on his motor trike.

Connolly has been married to former comic and star of Not The Nine O’Clock News, Pamela Stephenson since 1989 and they now live mostly in New York City, although they have other properties around the world including Scotland.

Black Squirrel – it is now thought that this genetic variant of the grey squirrel may outnumber its red cousins in the UK.

The news comes on the 100th anniversary of the first sighting of the black squirrel in the UK in Woburn, Bedfordshire in 1912. The squirrel is the same species as the grey squirrel which has almost wiped out the red squirrel and it is thought that the population of black squirrels now stands at 25k in the East of England. The black squirrel population in the UK is thought to have started after around a dozen squirrels were released from the Duke of Bedford’s collection at Woburn.

To find out more about the population and habits of black squirrels, Helen McRobie, Lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences at Anglia Ruskin, has launched a survey to find out how widespread the black squirrels have become. She said that the black squirrels are still far away from any population of red squirrels but the research will also show how much of a risk they are to the native species.

“The aim of the Black Squirrel Project is to gather data on the geographical range of the grey and black squirrel in the British Isles, and the data may help explain why the grey squirrel has proved to be such a successful invader in the UK. Therefore it would be great if as many people as possible can visit the website and submit their sightings,” she said. “As it stands we know that the black squirrel gene has travelled approximately 50 miles in the last 100 years.”

To report a sighting of a black squirrel go to to help with the research of this invading species.

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