Billy Connolly Tells Just About the Funniest Story Ever
One of the most perfect moments, and biggest laughs, in the history of TV talk shows. From ‘The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder’ in 1998. More info below –
Back story, for those who are interested:
I was a fan of Tom Snyder all through his stint on ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS in the 1990s, and even back when he did NBC’s ‘Tomorrow Show’ in the 1970s. The context here is that, during all that stretch of time (and even today), flatulence was a subject well beyond the bounds of acceptable taste for mainstream American TV, even in late night — most shows and most performers, even lowbrow types, are too leery of being pegged as grossly sophomoric to ever touch it. Notice that at no time does Tom ever let the word ‘fart’ slip his own lips — this is not normally something you’d see brought up on TV at all, let alone with the bluntness in play in this clip.
But Tom did have a soft spot for fart humor, and he was unusual in having the self-confidence and trust in his audience to let it be revealed now and then. Very occasionally, he might make an amused reference to backstage happenings involving a crew member ‘breaking wind’ — or to his appreciation for the now-little-remembered Belle-Epoque ‘fartiste’ Le Petomane — but he always did so with the extra dollop of caution you might affect when touching on such a hugely unclassy subject.
Then on this particular night, along came Billy Connolly, and with his total lack of inhibition, he blew the lid off this guilty pleasure.
Tom’s stage manager was a guy named Mark Kennedy, who is the dude you can hear cracking up in the background. His off-camera cackles and interactions with Tom were part of the show’s charm. As Billy strolls so offhandedly and fearlessly into this subject, you can see Tom sharing sideways glances again and again with Kennedy — as if acknowledging that this is something they’ve always had fun joking about crudely between themselves, but never with such disregard for decorum on network TV.
In the course of these magical three minutes, Tom winds up momentarily casting aside his concern for decorum (Ah, the hell with it, this is just too much fun!) — and by the end, he’s telling a fart joke himself, and leaning forward in anticipation as Billy tells the coronation story.