Comedian Billy Connolly has been criticised after making a joke about the plight of the British hostage in Iraq, Kenneth Bigley.
The Scotsman made remarks about Bigley's Thai wife and about his situation as a hostage while on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo, London.
During his performance, Connolly reportedly asked the audience: "Aren't you the same as me, don't you wish they would just get on with it?"
What is your opinion about Billy Connolly's joke? Would you get upset about that kind of humour? What should he do now? How far is it acceptable to go? Send us your comments and reaction:
This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.
Joking about such a matter is bad taste once the incident being referred to is over. In a situation like this, where a man's life is still at stake, it was downright dangerous.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK
Not only is Billy very funny stand-up comic he is also an intelligent man with his own views on lots of matters. If the PC brigade had there way people would not be allowed to think what they want. Please stop telling me what is right and wrong. Like Billy I am able to make my own mind up about what is funny and what is not.
Dacid Kenny, Yorkshire
It may not be acceptable to say whatever you want, but it certainly shouldn't be illegal. As regards Connolly, he's a national treasure. He is naturally extremely funny, and there's never any malice behind what he says. As usual, the PC warriors miss the point.
Ben , England
A tricky subject to approach, but it was a joke. Everyone who went to see him must have known his style of humour. I'm not really a fan of Connolly, but the reaction does seem a little over the top.
David Fovargue, Birmingham, England
Does anyone actually believe Billy C. really cares what we think? The guy is a multi-millionaire and I'm quite sure the rest of his performances at the Apollo are sell outs.
Joe, Portsmouth, England
I was there - Billy was his inimitable self, absolutely brilliant and the audience loved him! There was no booing either because, we took his act for what it is. He took the proverbial out of everyone, black, white, Muslims, Christians, himself, EVERYONE! You had to be there to appreciate what he was saying. Yes, he does push the boundaries but it is down to Billy that Ken Bigley is back on the front pages - the press in this country has a lot to answer for. Keep on going Big Yin!
I've always adored Billy Connolly and am very disappointed in his cheap stab at Ken Bigley's plight. He got a lot of sympathy and support when he told the tale of his childhood abuse, pity he couldn't extend that level of respect towards a fellow human being. I'm frankly sickened by him and his lack of responsibility.
LB, Oxfordshire, UK
The sad thing about Mr Connolly's joke is the horror for Ken Bigley is not over. The torment of his wife, mother and whole family is not over. If Mr Connolly could swap places with Mr Bigley, and spend two weeks pleading for his life, do you think we should have a laugh at his expense?
No matter how bad a situation... a joke will emerge. This is the irony and the nature of joke telling. The psychology behind the human being's need to tell jokes is deeply rooted and sometimes hard to understand. But it is human nature and God forbid that we should ever lose the art. Political correctness - that ridiculous arena for the weak and pathetic - will probably rob humanity of the right to joke about anything one day! You go Billy!
As it happens I live in the same road as the Bigley family in Liverpool. And I too am out working in Iraq. To make it a hat-trick I am also a big fan of Billy and always have been. I have just broke my hat-trick! I find the comments, offensive, upsetting and totally unnecessary. There are many other things Billy to make fun of in this world, but you have overstepped the mark on this one. God knows what that family is going through. Shame big man, not funny at all.
There was once a time when Billy was thought of as a 'dangerous', 'outrageous' and 'Topical comedian'. He proved he still is! The world has gone 'PC' crazy. He's not past it. What he is, is FUNNY, people have forgotten what comedy is, its making light of what is going on in the world. Keep up the good work Billy.
Steve , Stockport, England.
Thank you Billy. You proved what I have been saying to friends for years. You are not funny.
Martin, Manchester, England
Never liked him since he sold his working class roots, became a laird and started mixing with the royals
I'm not a fan of Billy Connolly, but for goodness' sake - lighten up! All the best jokes poke fun at someone or something - if it happens to offend you, shut your ears and just wait for the next joke. Otherwise we'll all be reduced to telling innocuous but deeply unfunny Knock Knock jokes!
Billy to me is not so much a comedian as a social commentator. He can stop all of us and make us think about the futility or at times the absurdity of a situation. Like many I assume that Billy meant for the people of the region to move on and build on opportunity instead of harking back to the old days of hostage taking, especially someone who has worked hard to help the people of the region. Such acts are both futile and absurd, the time is here for Iraq to move forward, i.e. get on with it. And that is not meant in a flippant way, I feel the same way about my home town, Belfast.
Phil, Ipswich, Suffolk
It is the nature of the comedian to make light of serious situations. Whilst Billy may regret his remark, I think there was no malice meant.
Jim Neil, Ayr
The crowd did not boo Connolly when he made these comments. I know. I was there. The context has been removed completely, and the press have made this a mountain out of molehill.
Kirk, London, UK
What do you expect from a comedian with an over bloated ego. No doubt he'd be the first to whinge if some other comedian used his family for a cheap joke.
Neil, Lochwinnoch, Scotland
Connolly has spent a lifetime straddling the borders of good taste. I must say I have enjoyed his humour for many years. On this occasion I am at a loss for words to seek justification for such questionable taste. I have a sense that he will come to regret ever raising such a delicate subject under the umbrella of comedy.
Frank Hanna, Scottsdale, Arizona
Should be a good excuse for another appearance on the mutual appreciation show, in other words - Parkinson.
A joke is a joke is a joke. Be it racial, religious or in any other form. It surely is a sensitive issue, the kidnappings, but so is Racism and anti-Semitism. He was booed by his audience, he must have realised it is still ripe in the minds of people. I don't think he meant any harm, just like racist jokes shouldn't but we all know different. Let the comedian be
Ray Ananenu, Sheffield, UK
Never been able to stand the sight or sound of the bloke. Knew one day he'd put his foot in it!
Billy Connolly has and continues to bring much more humour and happiness to people's lives than any PC campaigners or nanny state can do
Matt Davidson, UK
I love Billy Connolly and everyone knows he can be controversial. I think his comment was slightly insensitive but in a certain why I can see what he meant (without the humour). The hostage situation seems to be dragging on - you just wish they would release Ken Bigley. I like to think that's what Billy Connolly meant. It's up to Billy if he wants to apologise but I don't think he will. The bottom line is Billy is entitled to his opinion and if you're easily offended don't go to see him.
Marie, Glasgow, Scotland
I was at the show last week, and the audience didn't "boo" Connolly, as reported. It was a sensitive joke at a sensitive time, but Connolly's comments reflected a lot of the comments written on this site under the question; "Should Blair negotiate for Bigley's release?"
I might be biased here as I love Billy and I think he's a comical genius, but why are people getting the zig about his comments? Members of his audience know that Billy tells it how it is, otherwise they wouldn't have 'queued in the rain' to see him! If you think about it the media has already taken Mr Bigley off of the front page because this terrible situation has dragged on long enough in their eyes and is no longer worth mentioning. Billy, by saying that he has said, has brought it back to light. Maybe his comments were a little 'ill-advised' but at the end of they day the Bigley family have Ken's plight back in the news.
Sarah Edwards, Guildford
A despicable comment from a "comedian' who is well beyond his "sell by". Stick to earning your pocket money from the Lotto ads or, better still, give up altogether.
Andy D, Oxford UK
I've seen Billy live a couple of times and he is the ultimate stand up comedian. His timing is impeccable, his act is forever evolving and he is still as much a force today as he was 30 years ago. His edgy and challenging style has always pushed the boundaries and anyone that pays to sit in front of him should know this. It's no good having an attack of conscience half way through a show by the Big Yin. As for the comments themselves - perhaps they were ill advised but he is entitled to say what he wishes to say.
Richard White, London, UK
The joke is very funny and, like all great comedians, he has shown insight into what people are thinking. It can be interpreted as either 'kill him or let him go free - just make up your minds'.
Alan, Perth, Scotland
PC Pointless Conversation (too scared to face reality). Good on yer Billy. Only the audience know exactly what he said and how he said it. Someone has to push the boundaries, and you've been doing it for years!
Yes! This was downright offensive and in terrible taste, but I would defend to the death his right to say it!
Stewart, Exeter, UK
A very unpopular move. He would have done better to make fun of the terrorists.
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK
It's his view and he is a comedian looking at what he thinks is funny. If you do not like what he is saying get up and walk out, or turn the TV over. There is comedy in every situation live with it or don't listen to it.
I think he went too far this time. I would like to think he meant get on with releasing him but I fear this may be allowing him undue credit.
Bill, Newbury England
People seem sadly to have lost the ability to laugh and have become so politically correct that nothing is funny any more. I applaud Billy for being a comic first. Every disaster or bad turn has jokes made about it, it is a psychological fact that it is a coping mechanism for things we don't find bearable. Lighten up folks, it is OK to smile. Nothing Billy or any other comic says is going to harm the poor fellow's chances of being freed.
Diane Cavallero, Antwerp Belgium
Billy Connolly. Not Funny.
It absolutely amazes me that some people in this discussion can justify this sick joke as just being satirical and no worse than a 'sexist' joke. Do these people really think the agony of having a loved one in a position like this, hoping against hope that their loved one doesn't face this horrific end equates to the upset caused by a sexist joke. I urge them to really think of what it would be like to be in this situation. To Billy I say: You ought to be ashamed of yourself and apologise profusely to all concerned.
Sean, Halifax, England
I think in the heat of the moment he probably went a bit too far this time. We do not know the full text of what he said.
Ian Hallsworth, Derby UK
Humour has always been used to help people accept what is happening around them when they have no control over it. People involved in these happenings will always find this sick. I'm afraid it can't be helped unless our illusion of free speech is taken away from us. Why should this tragedy be any different?
Adrian Clarke, Coventry, England
I think Billy's comments were humorous. I think if we can't laugh in the face of adversity then the terrorists have already won! Keep up the good work and keep up laughing Billy!!
Billy M, Edinburgh
If Connolly had made jokes about blacks, gays or Muslims, he'd have been taken away in irons, banned from TV and prosecuted. Seems he picked an "easy" target. Obviously Ken Bigley's family and friends don't have the same lobby pressure as other groups to dictate what we can and can't make jokes about in our "free" land. The joke would have been OK if it had been funny, but like the rest of his material it wasn't.
Not the first stand up to cause controversy and won't be the last. Those that think there was any malice in Billy's comments shouldn't be watching a man who has an offensive style of comedy. It's a free country (unlike Iraq), he can say what he wants and it hasn't changed my opinion of him. Top stand up!
Get a grip! So he made a joke about a topical story. Get over it. But think... The PC crowd didn't react quite the same when it was 'comical ali' and his cronies who were the butt of jokes during the war last year. Sometimes I think the world really has gone mad!
Stephen Hannigan, Manama, Bahrain
So Billy has been performing for over 30 years and only now he's non-pc...? Get a grip, you want sanitised comedy buy some Terry & June DVD's, otherwise leave Connolly alone to make us laugh for another 30 years.
R Murray, Glasgow, Scotland
Billy has always flown close to the wire with his humour. You either love him or hate him. We live in a democracy and we are availed freedom of speech. Just like violence on TV and people showing their breasts if you don't like it don't go to see him or watch it on the TV. Dictating to people what they should and shouldn't like is hardly democratic either. Do we honestly want to live in a dictatorship?
Well said Dave in Scotland I agree with you, as an ex Submariner we to enjoyed black humour. Bill just said what a lot of us think. I have to say I feel sorry for Mr. Bigley but ask what the hell was he doing in Iraq in the first place, Iraq needs rebuilding but wait till some sort of normality returns. I have seen Bill in concert on numerous occasions, the tickets quite clearly state "if easily offended stay away" enough said, get a life!
John Young, Chepstow
Billy has lost his touch. He used to be really funny but this was at best untactful and worst a sick joke.
Let's try and get a little perspective here. I'm sure many of us recall the rapidity with which tasteless and offensive 'gags' appeared seemingly worldwide, following many recent shattering world events. I wonder how many of us raised an eyebrow when jokes about 9-11 and Michael Jackson's alleged proclivities were circulating? This statement Billy's supposed to have said is without doubt tasteless and deeply hurtful to Mr. Bigley's family but doesn't anyone recall the furore around Billy's views on Catholicism? This is just another highly personal view from an otherwise brilliantly funny man. I won't stop watching him based on this.
Scott Brown, Edinburgh, UK
It's what he thinks, that's what you paid for, all comedians will upset some one in each show. If it was that bad how many walked out?
Dave, England (London)
Is what Billy Connolly said anymore offensive and upsetting than what Tony Blair or the labour government hasn't said?. Billy is a comic genius and sometimes we all make mistakes. You are forgiven King Billy
I think the Bigley family took Billy's "joke" in the right way. I found the joke offensive, but I often find Billy offensive rather than outrageous. And if he swore when someone in the audience took offence at his joke, then that says more than enough about him.
I would say the population of the UK are split in several directions over Ken Bigley. There are the totally concerned section, the don't care one way or the other section, the apathetic section, the who is he section. No everyone is 100% behind the hostage situation; there may even be some who think it is all over. Billy Connolly has just said what a lot of people are thinking and he is being put down for his remark. Is it not possible that the situation will continue as long as Terry Waite, John McCarthy or Brian Keenan?
If Ken Bigley is not released before Christmas 2004, will the majority of people who are "having a go" at Billy Connolly still feel as outraged if Ken Bigley is still a hostage in 2006 or even 2008. If the hostage situation goes on for months or years, then (sorry) but a lot of people will have conveniently forgotten about him. Only his friends and family will still be concerned about him.
Denise Wilden, Maidenhead, UK
I don't find it funny, but people have a choice about going to see him. They know his humour before they turn up. If they didn't like it, why didn't they leave?
Matt, Coventry, England
Although I don't condone his remarks and think that he should apologise for his remarks, I feel that people have only got upset because the target of his humour was British. Had he said the same about another nation's hostage, I don't think that it would have provoked such a reaction. Most of us are guilty of similar offences - How many of us have repeated tasteless jokes after a disaster or other such incident - Billy's major mistake was to broadcast it to a large audience.
Bad taste, big mistake - but hardly worth the column inches used here. There are more important things to discuss.
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England
Bill Connolly hasn't a mean bone in his body. He would never intentionally hurt anyone. I'm sure he wished he had kept his thoughts to himself though.
I feel that maybe he's overstepped the mark this time. Billy Connolly is not particularly contrived and I think that he can probably get away with it. He is such a natural comedian that speaks his mind - he deserves to let off the hook. I bet he regrets it. We all know that his comedy is delivered impulsively. It's just a misguided joke - he's not that sick you know!
Dean O'Sullivan, Reading, Berks
It's difficult to know if it's in "bad taste" or not as all the quotes are printed in isolation and could easily be taken out of context. There's certainly satirical mileage to be made out of the media saturation and political hype surrounding his abduction, which does play into the hands of the media hungry terrorists to an extent.
Glenn Herbert, Matlock
Whilst I don't find Billy Connolly funny in the slightest, I don't see why people should be stopped from speaking about certain topics. If he wants to try and get a laugh at someone else's expense then it just shows how desperate he is for jokes, but I personally don't have a problem with it. He should be allowed to say anything he wants - it's called freedom of speech and we used to have it in this country.
Chris, West Yorkshire
I like Billy Connolly but didn't find this remark funny. He was quite rightly booed. This doesn't mean he can't say it if he wants to. How do you stop him? You can't ban people for making comments. This is a free country.
In my view Billy Connolly has been getting far too big for his boots for some time now. At some point, it is difficult to judge when, he crossed the line from being a comedian to being a celebrity. The transformation has not been an endearing one. I just hope that his warped sense of humour, perhaps merely a sense of publicity now, holds up should he ever find himself in the same terrible predicament as Kenneth Bigley.
Dennis G Nutting, Leicester - UK
People are too sensitive and mollycoddled these days. It is a joke for goodness sake and he is probably saying something that the silent majority are thinking. It is a sad day if people can't laugh about things.
I can't believe that someone could say things like that. We went to war (again) to make sure that this great country was free, but not so free as allowing someone to say what they think. How dare anyone have an opinion on something that does not agree with the tabloid masses. It's a disgrace! Isn't it?
Kevinjohn Gallagher, London, England
I was a big fan of Connolly's, this just shows that as a fading comedian, he really needs the publicity so badly, I'm no longer a fan!
I just wish the door was firmly banged shut on this kind of humour! There is no place for it in a modern society!
Ken Kelsaw, The Vale of Evesham
He gets less funny by the day and this cheap attempt at humour just shows how desperate he is. Give up you're embarrassing yourself.
This kind of humour is always in bad taste but this is the first time I've ever heard of a comedian speaking of something while its actually happening, its like laughing at the 9/11 terrorist attacks a month after they happened, absolutely disgusting.
Steve Wilson, Nottingham, England
Some people need to lighten up.
Lisa , Scotland
I saw Billy perform this show at the Hammersmith Apollo - and it saddens me that we, as a society, have become so terrified so called "political correctness" that some have forgotten the purpose of humour is yes, to first to make you laugh, but also to make you think. Some comedians are only capable of the first, but the best are capable of both. Billy Connolly's performance made me laugh, and think about issues all too often hidden beneath this all oppressing fear of being labelled un p.c - stand-up comedy is one of the last venues of free speech - to decry it diminishes us all.
Iain Bailey, London UK
I think that Billy Connelly is one of finest comedians that this country has ever produced. But you went too far with this one Bill! You should apologise - that was not humour - that was brutal!
Jason, Shepton Mallet
I went off Billy Connolly's humour years ago because of his gratuitous swearing and enormous ego, not to the mention the way people like Michael Parkinson almost worship at his feet.
Steve, Bristol, UK
I would be careful of taking his words out of context - while they may seem to be unpalatable, the strength of his humour is that he is usually charming enough to say what we are all thinking without being hung in the town square. Compared to the student comedy night in my local pub - his joke would seem quite innocent.
Jokes about other races, sexes, religions etc I have no problem with. However, when human life is involved it's just not funny, how he thought he might get a laugh out of it I do not understand. Surely he could have learned from those comedians that have bombed before with jokes about subjects like Princess Di's crash.
I think he totally misjudged the public's feelings on the matter. He needs to offer an apology to Kenneth Bigley's family as soon as possible and acknowledge he made a big mistake.
Laura, East Sussex
People are only getting hot under the collar because it's a bit too close to the truth. There's far too much false concern in the media and people in general about things like this. One British bloke in the news (why only him?) and all we hear for weeks on end is "it's a disgrace, it's unhumane, etc!...". Yet, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi's (and Afghans) have already been killed and, "well that's the sad truth of war". Some people make me sick!
Steve P, Wakefield, Yorkshire
We should be able to see the tiny line between being funny and being offensive. I think it's immoral to make fun of people's agony.
Hameeda Alshabib, Cardiff, UK
Billy Connolly's comments were an absolute disgrace. Mr Bigley's family are going through hell and he thinks it is a laughing matter. His whole unrepentant attitude further sums up the arrogance of the man.
I normally find Billy Connolly funny but this stab at humour was ill-judged. It will not help the situation and will cause offence to Ken Bigley's family at a delicate time.
Stephen Cook, Borehamwood, England
Billy Connelly far overstepped the mark. Was he so desperate for laughs? If so maybe it is time he retired!
People have made jokes about a lot worse, some will find what he said funny, some won't - that's the simple way of the world.
This is purely bad taste. This man has truly forgotten his origins of being a ship builder on the banks of the river Clyde. He needs to send a personal apology to the families involved.
Douglas M, Glasgow
All humour is cruel - someone is always the butt of the joke. In Billy Connolly's case himself, his own family and his own culture are the targets of the humour in 95% of his jokes. If some unpopular public figures was shot tomorrow and Connolly made a joke about it I doubt there'd be anything like this outrage, yet their family would be suffering the same as Bigley's family. That said the outrage from this joke was predictable and Billy has miscalculated.
Peter, Nottingham (U.K)
I don't see anything wrong with it. At the end of the day it is one joke. As an ex squaddie I and most of the people I know have a very black sense of humour and so did not find it offensive. Also as it says on the tickets if easily offended stay away!
This is typical Billy comedy! But as per usual the uptight PC brigade have shown have completely devoid of a sense of humour they all are.
Chris, Bradford, West Yorkshire
I used to be a huge fan of the Big Yin from a very early age but have found his humour to be very much off the boil over the last few years. He's now 'trying' to be controversial and 'trying' to be over the top when he doesn't need to be. He is a naturally funny man and he's doing himself an injustice by stooping this low.
Kiltie, Staffs, UK
Billy Connolly, like everyone in this country, has a human right to freedom of expression in our so called free democracy. Whether I think his comments are offensive or not is irrelevant. I don't want to see any more censorship in this country than already exists. That's the road to an fascist dictatorship.
Andy, Oxford, UK
I think he's made an error of judgement in airing this joke in public at this time. However, the British sense of humour is amazingly black. I remember the first 9/11 or Diana jokes appearing within 24hrs of the events in question and laughing heartily as a way of coping with these events. I imagine there will be plenty of righteous condemnation from other posters on this debate - but I refuse to be a hypocrite!
Billy Connolly's type of humour is well known, if you don't like, then don't watch it! If he goes OTT then he'll get the message from his fans.
Paul, Truro, Cornwall
Yes, Mr Connolly's remarks are offensive to many, but their shock value also leads us to reflect and explore our own feelings of compassion and sense of unity as human beings.
Alice, London. UK
Billy is only saying in public what many of us are saying down the pub and behind closed doors. Well done to Billy for saying what he thinks rather than hiding behind Political Correctness
Kevin Miller, Warrington, Cheshire
To be honest I think Connolly was making light of a serious situation. Which humour is supposed to sometimes be about. Knowing Connolly's humour, I seriously doubt he really meant it and he has never struck me as a deeply offensive comedian. It strikes me as odd that people can be offended by this satirical type of humour but not be up in arms by the deeply offensive sexist nature of a lot of comedians.
Jock, Blackwood, Gwent
I like Billy Connolly, but I think those particular remarks were insensitive and in bad taste. He should apologise.
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK
I am a huge fan of Billy Connolly, and as a comedian he is allowed to poke fun in unusual places. However he is completely wrong on this one - it's utter bad taste. He should apologise.
I had the misfortune of watching Parkinson the other week and Billy was the guest on it and I was bored by his rambling stories and Parkinson holding him up as some type of national treasure! He is no longer funny and is now a sad desperate has-been who thinks every topic is fair game but misses the whole point of modern humour best demonstrated by your Peter Kays etc.
You have gone too far this time Billy. To make a joke about a man's life is just not funny. I think you should apologise unreservedly.
Darren Drummond, Whitburn, West Lothian
Billy overstepped the mark but he is not the only comedian making jokes about the Iraq hostages - he just happens to be the most well known comedian to do so and has been made a scapegoat. Comedians will always push the boundaries but that's their job.
Sounds like Mr Connolly needs to go to a special clinic for a deep reality check to me, I shall never watch a show where he appears again.
I've always liked Connolly, but I think this was completely irresponsible and unnecessary, if not plain stupid. Comedians have gotten away with making fun of sensitive issues for years. Sometimes the jokes are funny, but they're still unwarranted. This time it wasn't even funny...
Jason Miles, Reading, UK
Billy Connolly has a well deserved reputation as being one of the world's top stand-up comedians and is not a bad actor either! He is also well known for being perhaps a tad "shocking" with some of his material, however I do not believe he truly meant for harm to befall Mr Bigley.
Chris Green, Hagley, Worcs, England