I’ve been an admirer of Billy Connolly’s ever since – aged 9 – I opened a copy of Gullible’s Travels and saw a picture of Mr Turd shouting ‘Now wash your hands’.
I just found it on the internet. Here he is on the top left.
I can’t remember anything else about the book, but I was deeply impressed by the first episode in Billy’s TV series, Route 66, which aired last week.
He’s following America’s most famous highway on a massive and ridiculous motorbike, showing us wonderful things and listening to interesting people.
And as I listen to his narrative, I just wish I could bottle some of it and use it in sales copy.
Take a look at him in this clip. There’s a good bit about 4 minutes and 10 seconds in.
It’s worth typing out, in case you’ve not got time to watch. Billy’s talking about a huge statue of a spaceman positioned outside a diner.
Now, if you’ve never seen a giant, you’re about to see one now. He lives just up the road here. It’s the silliest story you’ve ever heard.
There he is.
I’d like you to meet Gemini the Giant. He came here in 1965. The guy who owned this place – The Launching Pad (I don’t know if this place is called The Launching Pad because of Gemini, or if Gemini is called Gemini because of The Launching Pad) but there was a restaurant convention and the guy went to the convention and found this.
He’s 28 feet high and he bought him for $3,000. I wonder what his wife said when he brought him home? “Darling, I’ve got you a present.”
Look at the size of him. I absolutely love him, and I wish there was many, many more of them. Originally the idea of these big guys on Route 66 was to attract people off the interstate highway. But you can’t see the interstate highway from here. I don’t know how many people he attracts, but he certainly wouldn’t attract me to eat. But that’s Gemini the Giant.
Sure, it doesn’t have the same power when you see it in print (not least because I’ve chickened out of transcribing Billy’s Glesga accent).
But even so, you can see how Billy’s brilliant at getting alongside you and sharing the enthusiasm. He’s conversational, he tells stories, he chucks his opinions into the mix.
And it’s all these things that make you listen, and laugh and believe in him.
It’s almost as thought you’re there with him.
Now imagine Billy had said:
Here you can see a giant called Gemini. The owner paid $3,000 for him in 1965. He’s 28 feet high, but you can’t see the highway from here – so he probably didn’t attract many customers.
You’d be bored, wouldn’t you?
Sadly it’s the sort of copy you could easily write if you were a copywriter sticking rigidly to the so-called formulas (address the reader as ‘you’/ use short sentences/ keep to the point etc).
But as Billy knows, the real power in the word ‘you’ doesn’t come from knowing when to use it – it comes from knowing how to use it.
It’s about taking an interest in other people. If you don’t give a toss about your readers, no amount of using the word ‘you’ will help you connect with them.