YOU have to laugh at the claim Sir Billy Connolly has gone all soft and his brain sanitised by BBC Scotland. “Our Big Yin is being used (yes, by the usual suspect, the Beeb) to disavow and somehow distance himself from the things that so endeared him to Glasgow’s (and Scotland’s) working class,” wrote Herald reader John McInnes on our Letters Pages, after viewing the recent Connolly documentaries. “They’re trying to sanitise him.”

Recently, a Sydney Morning Herald columnist wrote; “At the age of 77 the firebrand has inevitably mellowed, distilling his manic energy into the kind of algorithms that see the best in everything.”

There is little doubt Connolly has moderated his attitudes over the years. On the subject of knighthood, for example, he said: “Years ago I would have thought it was all nonsense. But I’ve mellowed as I’ve got older – and to turn it down would have been churlish.”

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His political overview has altered. When Devolution was debated he spoke of Scotland’s “Wee pretendy parliament.” In the 2014 referendum he refused to back Yes, saying he was “deeply suspicious of patriotism”.

But last year, when asked if he would like to see Scotland independent, he replied: “I don’t know. If Scotland would like it, I would like it.”

When I interviewed the comedy legend in March we chatted about why school teachers hadn’t spotted his potential. You just know that 20 years ago he’d have been caustic in his reply. Instead, he said: “They were great, though. They were kind to me.”

But the change in outlook of our greatest living talent begs a bigger question; should we be allowed to become more circumspect with each passing year? “Any man who is under 30, who doesn’t wish to change the world has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and still wants to change it has no brains, runs the old maxim, paraphrased and re-originated by David Mame (sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill).

It appears that our changing physiology promotes circumspection. The New Scientist explains a region in the brain has been identified in elderly people, the medial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with emotion control.

Yet, as well as natural changes in our heads, there could be another justification for Connolly mellowing a little, other than BBC brainwashing; isn’t it bonkers to act way outside your age?

This week, Sir Ian McKellen prompted that literal question, given his announcement he’s set to take the stage as Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark was of course barely 30, and a student. McKellen is 81, and Shakespeare must be madder than all three of Macbeth’s witches at the very idea of it. (Will his Ophelia appear wearing Tena Lady pants and an Alice band?)

Surely it can’t be ageist to suggest it’s daft to streak through Piccadilly Circus in your seventies, as Connolly once did. It’s about aesthetics. And weather.

And let’s remember Connolly’s activist comedy had been breaking the stained glass windows of propriety for over 50 years. He’s tackled incontinence, abuse, religion, marriage, Parkinson’s Disease and royalty. He had the audacity to suggest a dead woman’s bum could be used as a bicycle stand. He even had the nerve to say SNP supporter and Bahamian exile Sir Sean Connery “couldn’t find his way to Scotland in a taxi”.

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We also have to factor in how much of Connolly’s earlier comedy was grown in the petri dish that was his tenement close in Partick, a world in which homosexuality was illegal, abortion largely illegal, and domestic and sexual abuse rife. And bigotry as he has said, was a weekend hobby.

Connolly was formed from his circumstances. And those have changed dramatically. He’s almost 78 and living in Florida and contending with Parkinson’s. By his own admission he’s currently “waiting in the departure lounge”.

But that’s not to agree that he’s been sanitised, by the BBC – or anyone. On the day he heard he had Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer Connolly responded by blowing a raspberry. You can’t get any more outrageous than that.

In our recent chat I asked: had Elton bought one of his drawings, given he was the inspiration behind Connolly’s Piano Player sketch? “He likes photographs,” said the comedian, by way of explaining why the pop legend had not indicated an interest, before breaking into a laugh and adding; “So f*** him.”

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Read more: Letters: Will the real Billy Connolly please stand up?