Cannon and Ball

Tommy Cannon (born Thomas Derbyshire, 27 June 1938) and Bobby Ball (born Robert Harper, 28 January 1944 – 28 October 2020), known collectively as Cannon and Ball, were an English comedy double act best known for their comedy variety show The Cannon and Ball Show, which lasted for nine years on ITV.[1] The duo met in the early 1960s while working as welders in Oldham, Lancashire.[2] They started out as singers working the pubs and clubs of Greater Manchester and switched to comedy after being told comics earned an extra £3 a night. They continued to work as a comic duo on television and in theatre and pantomime. Ball died on 28 October 2020 following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Cannon and Ball
Cannon and Ball.jpg
Cannon (left) and Ball (right)
BornThomas Derbyshire (Cannon)
(1938-06-27) 27 June 1938 (age 82)
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Robert Harper (Ball)
(1944-01-28)28 January 1944
Oldham, Lancashire, England
28 October 2020(2020-10-28) (aged 76)
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
MediumFilm, television, stand-up, music, books
Years active1974–2020
GenresObservational comedy, musical comedy, satire,
Subject(s)Marriage, everyday life, current events, pop culture

TV and filmEdit

Their first TV appearance was as contestants in talent show Opportunity Knocks. In 1974 they appeared in variety series The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club before, in 1978, landing slots on Bruce Forsyth's Big Night. In 1979, LWT offered them their own series, The Cannon and Ball Show,[3] which premiered on ITV on 28 July 1979. Further series followed each year through to 1988, along with Christmas and Easter specials.

They were the subjects of This Is Your Life in 1981 when they were surprised by Eamonn Andrews.[4]

In 1982, they appeared in a feature film, The Boys in Blue, based loosely on the Will Hay film Ask a Policeman. The Boys in Blue was regarded critically as weak in comparison, and was their only cinema outing.[citation needed]

They also featured in a comic strip, Rock On, Tommy (titled after Ball's onstage catchphrase), published in the magazine Look-in.[citation needed]

Their popularity coincided with the rise of alternative comedy, with its emphasis on more socially relevant and political concerns. Cannon and Ball's popularity began to decline, though they were not the only comedy act to suffer as comic tastes shifted. During the 1980s, Greg Dyke, then Head of Programming at ITV station TVS and later to hold a similar position at LWT, expressed a concern that northern comedy shows may not suit southern tastes.

By the 1990s, the duo were seeking a change in direction and appeared in their own sitcom Cannon and Ball's Playhouse, the spin-off series Plaza Patrol[5] and their game show Cannon and Ball's Casino. Plaza Patrol saw them play security guards in a shopping mall.

Later yearsEdit

The Theatre Royal in Windsor in July 2008, with a production of Big Bad Mouse starring Cannon and Ball

In the later years of their career, they continued to find success as a comic duo in theatre and pantomime, along with numerous cameo appearances on TV.[6] In late 2005, they appeared in the British reality TV series I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!.

They admitted that, during their hey-day of huge popularity in the 1980s, they were barely on speaking terms and would avoid each other completely when not on stage or rehearsing.[7] These tensions—which lasted for years—were later resolved and the two became very close once again.[7]

In 2010, they were panellists on BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show Act Your Age radio series. They appeared in a celebrity edition of Coach Trip on Channel 4 in 2012.[8] In 2018 they appeared in ITV's Last Laugh in Vegas.


The pair revived a touring version of the theatrical farce Big Bad Mouse, originally a highly successful vehicle for Jimmy Edwards and Eric Sykes in the 1960s and 1970s. This incarnation of the show featured Cannon and Ball in the starring roles. The show opened in Hull during May 2008 and toured six other cities, before ending in August at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, to mixed reviews.


The pair became devout Christians and published a book called Christianity for Beginners.[9] Ball became a born-again Christian in 1986 and Cannon in 1992, their conversions having a lot to do with the re-kindling of their broken friendship. They regularly featured in their own gospel and "an audience with..." show in churches around the country.[10][11]

Other workEdit

Also in 2008, the pair's career continued as they appeared on television as the faces of Safestyle UK, a Bradford-based double glazing firm. The pair starred in pantomimes at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln including Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Cinderella and in 2014 appeared in Jack and the Beanstalk. They also made several appearances in the sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.


  1. ^ "Cannon & Ball's Humor Is The Old-fashioned Kind". Orlando Sentinel. 20 August 1993. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  2. ^ Jim White (30 April 1993). "The canonisation of Cannon and Ball: Tommy and Bobby don't do blue any more. They say they're on a mission from God. What's so funny about that? Ask their fans". The Independent. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  3. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | CANNON AND BALL". Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  4. ^ "Cannon and Ball". Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Preview: Cannon and Ball at Princess Royal, Port Talbot". Wales Online. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Cannon and Ball return to Lincoln for Theatre Royal panto". The Linc. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  7. ^ a b "How we met: Tommy Cannon & Bobby Ball – Profiles – People". The Independent. 24 December 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Cannon and Ball join jungle show". BBC News. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Ask: Bobby Ball – Chronicle Live". 16 September 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Cannon & Ball back at the Futurist – Entertainment". The Scarborough News. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  11. ^ "'Being a Christian is not boring,' says Bobby Ball". Larne Times. Retrieved 4 November 2020.

External linksEdit