He’s known for his incredible wit and comedy skills on stage, having made a name for himself right across the globe, but now Billy Connolly’s close friend and TV star Michael Parkinson has revealed his battle with Parkinson’s disease has had a devastating impact on his brain.
Connolly, 75, was diagnosed with the disease in 2013 following minor surgery for prostate cancer. He has largely battled it in private ever since, but often appears for awards shows and couldn’t resist joking about his health battle when he received a knighthood from Prince William last year.
Now, Michael, 83, has admitted his “wonderful brain has dulled” and he struggles to recognise close friends. In fact, he even appeared to forget his connection to Michael himself at a recent awards dinner.
“I saw him recently – he’s now living in America – and it was very sad, because I was presenting him with a prize at an award ceremony,” he explained on UK TV show Saturday Morning With James Martin, the Mail Online reports. “We had an awkward dinner together, because I wasn’t quite sure if he knew who I was or not.”
Following the presentation however, Michael said his friend turned and placed his hands on his shoulders – but he’s unsure if it meant he had remembered their long friendship or not.
“To know someone as long as I knew and loved Billy… it was an awful thing to contemplate, that that had been taken from him in a sense,” he added. “He was just a genius and the best thing that happened to me on the show.”
Michael reportedly admitted: “The sadness of Billy now is that wonderful brain is dulled.”
Thousands of people in Australia suffer from Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that appears when the nerve cells in the brain become impaired and reduce their production of dopamine. Dopamine allows smooth, coordinated function of the body’s muscles and movement. When approximately 70 per cent of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear.
Symptoms can differ from person to person but often include a tremor or fine shake while the person is resting, rigidity of muscles, slowness of movement and unsteady balance. Other possible symptoms can include memory loss.
It comes after Connolly was knighted by the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in November last year, and the Scotsman couldn’t resist making a little self-deprecating joke about the disease.
During the ceremony, knighthood recipients have to kneel in order to receive the honour.
“I sighed with relief when I saw the stool had a handle,” Connolly told The Sun, intimating that getting down and back up again may’ve been tricky for him. “It wouldn’t have crossed my mind before.”
That said, he added that he didn’t let Parkinson’s affect him more than absolutely necessary.
“What I do is ignore it completely and get on with my life,” Connolly said, saying he wasn’t entirely comfortable with being a ‘poster boy’ for the condition.”