You can't say that Billy Connolly doesn't warn you. Early on in tonight's new "HBO Comedy Hour" on the premium cable network, the comedian says, "there's a bit of profanity [in his act] and I like that, and I'm rather good at it, too. . . . I personally use it like a comma, like a punctuation mark."
Boy, does he. Hardly a phrase goes by without his use of one particular word we can't print in a family newspaper -- although, with his Highland brogue it gets such a rounded pronunciation it almost sounds like a different word, like Steve Allen's old "smock! smock!"
But in "Billy Connolly: Pale Blue Scottish Person" (at 11 tonight), just as in an earlier HBO special with Whoopi Goldberg, Mr. Connolly manages to be inoffensive and hilarious while dealing with decidedly earthy topics.
Most viewers will recognize Mr. Connolly as the actor who last fall took over the gifted kids' class in the final season of ABC's "Head of the Class."
His foreign roots provide ground for some of his comedy -- such as when he says "it's nice to be in America, but it's the weirdest place on Earth. There are so many . . . people as weird as me."
In a stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of Robin Williams, Mr. Connolly does a lot of barbed humor that is universal, such as his observations on the Persian Gulf war and its puzzling new terms, "smart bombs" and "friendly fire."
"Some people come to see me and find me a major irritant. That's my style," he says at one point, adding later, "All my life I've laughed at awful things."
Mr. Connolly talks about some awful things here, or at least a lot of things the prudish might consider awful. But he makes you laugh, too.
THE SPORTING SCENE -- We are about one year and counting from the next Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain, which is the reason that gymnastics competition is getting a prime-time airing tonight on ABC.
It's the World Championships from Indianapolis, covered live at 8 p.m. (Channel 13).
MORE LAUGHS -- Basic cable's VH-1 service is taking time out from its usual music videos tomorrow for an all-day stand-up comedy marathon.
"Stand Up Sunday" begins at 7 a.m. and includes continuous JTC screenings of "Stand Up Spotlight," the weekly comedy series whose host is Rosie O'Donnell.