British Comedy Guide

Billy Connolly named 'most influential comic'

Monday 30th January 2012, 2:20pm

Billy Connolly.Billy Connolly has been named the most influential British stand-up comedian of all time in a new poll.

Research involving over 2,000 comedy fans and 100 of the UK's top stand-up comedians has concluded that the Scottish comedian - who is famed for his observational comedy and autobiographical stories - is the British person who has exerted the most influence on the stand-up comedy genre.

Connolly, who initially found fame during the 1970s, emerged triumphant from the poll with over a quarter of the vote (26%). Double act Morecambe & Wise were in second place, and Victoria Wood third.

The research was commissioned by digital channel Dave as part of a campaign to promote Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival, the 17 day run of live comedy shows in Leicester that the channel is now sponsoring. Comedians such as Miranda Hart, Jo Brand, Rhod Gilbert, Jason Manford, Stewart Lee, Barry Cryer and Stephen Merchant were involved in helping to shape the shortlist.

The organisers say: "Blending stark observational humour and edgy stand-up routines, Connolly has tickled the nation pink for over 40 years and is often cited as the comic most comedians look up to. His free use of language and unorthodox topics often landed him in controversy but he never fails to keep his audience laughing."

The poll also looked at international comedians, with Robin Williams, Spike Milligan (an Irish citizen who was born in India to Irish and English parents) and Dave Allen coming out top of that list.

Steve North, the boss of Dave, part of the UKTV network, comments: "British stand-up is up there with the best in the world and this is reflected by the fact that audiences for live comedy are at an all-time high with places like Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival nurturing an ever expanding pool of talent. It is great to see trailblazing stand-ups such as Connolly and Robin Williams get the respect they deserve. Both Connolly and Williams have consistently pushed the comedy envelope and whilst they may have over 40 years of experience between them, they are still the funniest men on the planet."

Billy Connolly also came top of The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, a Channel 4 countdown show first broadcast in 2007. In that poll Richard Pryor was second, Ricky Gervais third, Bill Hicks fourth, and Eddie Izzard fifth.

Below is the full list of results from the new poll, with example jokes, and more details on who voted in the survey:

Top 10 UK Comedians

1 (26%): Billy Connolly: "Who discovered we could get milk from cows, and what did he think he was doing at the time?"

2 (15%): Morecambe & Wise: "I always take my wife morning tea in my pyjamas. But is she grateful? No, she says she'd rather have it in a cup."

3 (7.4%): Victoria Wood: "My boyfriend had a sex manual but he was dyslexic. I was lying there and he was looking for my vinegar."

4 (7.2%): Eddie Izzard: "They say that guns don't kill people, people kill people. But I think the guns help."

5 (7%): Ben Elton: "Catford? Why didn't we call it crap river and admit it."

6 (6.8%): Peter Cook: "I go to the theatre to be entertained... I don't want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction... I can get all that at home."

7 (6.4%): Les Dawson: "My wife is a sex object - every time I ask for sex, she objects."

8 (4%): Lenny Henry: "When you do a press day, sometimes you're tired and you say things in the morning you spend the rest of the day trying to correct."

9 (3.5%): Sean Lock: "How do you get a fat bird into bed? Piece of cake."

10 (3.2%): Rik Mayall: "I don't consider myself a comedian... more of a phenomenon."

Top 10 International Comedians

1 (15%): Robin Williams (USA): "My God. We've had cloning in the South for years. It's called cousins."

2 (14%): Spike Milligan (India/Ireland): "Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion."

3 (11%): Dave Allen (Ireland): "I am an atheist, thank God."

4 (10%): Richard Pryor (USA): "Marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings ... and lawyers."

5 (8%): Eddie Murphy (USA): "A man is only as faithful as his options."

6 (7%): Chris Rock (USA): "My mother is the kind of woman you don't want to be in line behind at the supermarket. She has coupons for coupons."

7 (5.4%): Woody Allen (USA): "I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick, not wounded; dead."

8 (5%): Steve Martin (USA): "A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."

9 (4.8%): Joan Rivers (USA): "I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I'd look like without plastic surgery."

10 (4.2%): Tim Minchin (Australia): "Love without evidence is stalking."

How the poll was conducted

The research team, led by comedy expert and critic Bruce Dessau, asked 100 comedians to nominate the acts which they believed had exerted the most influence on the stand-up comedy genre. A shortlist of 40 was then put to the public vote via the Dave website.

The comedians who took part in the poll were: Tim Key, Joe Bor, Mary Bourke, Mark Thomas, Alex Horne, Miranda Hart, Josh Widdicombe, Alexei Sayle, Andre Vincent, Papa CJ, Matt Grantham, Pete Johannson, JJ Whitehead, Jim Jefferies, Ian Stone, Dana Alexander, Marty McLean, Tim Fitzhigham, Mat Reed, Wes Packer, Tiernan Douieb, Glenn Wool, Henning When, Bennett Arron, Mitch Benn, Adam Riches, Grainne Maguire, Doug Segal, Richard Herring, Mike Belgrave, Henry Widdecombe, Carl Donnelly, Jo Brand, Stuart Goldsmith, Holly Walsh, Joe Lycett, Milo McCabe, Helen Arney, Rhod Gilbert, Lewis Schaffer, Kate Smurthwaite, Sarah Bennetto, Alice Lowe, Dwayne Perkins, Miles Jupp, Justin Moorhouse, John Hegley, John Moloney, Chris Cox, Jason Manford, Stewart Lee, Adam Bloom, James Mullinger, Trevor Lock, David O'Doherty, Andrew Lederer, Arthur Smith, Chris Martin, Mark Olver, Phil Kay, Barry Cryer, Hal Cruttenden, James Acaster, Isy Suttie, Jessica Fostekew, Micky Flanagan, Caroline Mabey, Jack Dee, Clive Anderson, Tom Webb, Maff Brown, Sean Brightman, Alex Lowe, Kevin Eldon, Stephen Merchant, Vikki Stone, James Dowdeswell, Rosie Wilby, Lee Hurst, Jo Enright, Lee Simpson, Suki Webster, Tiffany Stevenson, Craig Hill, Andi Osho, Jimeoin, Tom Price, Gemma Goggins, Juliet Meyers, Holly Burn, Stephen Grant, Meryl O'Rourke, Dave Fulton, Graham Fellows, Norman Lovett, Dan Atkinson, Brian Damage, Martin Mor, Simon Lipson and Greg Davies.

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival

The Leicester Comedy Festival has been running since 1994, with this year UKTV Dave coming on board as title sponsor. Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival will take place 3rd - 19th February 2012, with over 60,000 people expected to watch the live comedy shows on offer.

To find out more visit

Below is a promotional video for the festival:

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