Tommy Cannon fights back tears at funeral of comedy partner Bobby Ball

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Bobby Ball’s comedy partner of six decades Tommy Cannon today fought back tears at the beloved comic’s funeral after the entertainer died last month aged 76, just weeks after a positive coronavirus test.  

Mourners wearing red braces – a nod to Ball twanging his braces while saying: ‘Rock on, Tommy’ – congregated at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire this morning to honour the entertainer.

Actor and author Ball had been at Blackpool Victoria Hospital with breathing problems after his family initially thought he had a chest infection, before he tested positive with Covid-19 and later died.

Ball’s comedy partner Cannon, 82, said: ‘Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated.’ He later tweeted: ‘I’m absolutely devastated, I’ve lost my partner, my best friend and the funniest man I know.’

Lee Mack, who played Ball’s son in BBC comedy Not Going Out, called the late comic ‘joyful, full of fun and mischievous’, adding: ‘I’m utterly shocked and devastated to lose my mate Bobby like this.’

Ball’s family have discouraged his fans from paying their respects to the icon today amid England’s ongoing shutdown, which prevents funeral gatherings of more than 30 people.  

A statement from his family said that police and council authorities will be enforcing coronavirus restrictions, with Covid wardens out to ‘make sure people adhere to the rules’.

They added: ‘The response to Bob’s funeral announcement has been overwhelming and the love and support from you all has been wonderful and a huge comfort. A heartfelt thank you from us all.’

Comedian Tommy Cannon arrives at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire, ahead of the funeral of Bobby Ball

The coffin of entertainer Bobby Ball is taken into Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire, for his funeral service

The coffin of entertainer Bobby Ball is taken into Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire, for his funeral service

The coffin of entertainer Bobby Ball is taken into Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire, for his funeral service

Bobby Ball's wife Yvonne attends Ball's funeral at the Hope Church after the beloved entertainer died aged 76

Bobby Ball's wife Yvonne attends Ball's funeral at the Hope Church after the beloved entertainer died aged 76

Bobby Ball’s wife Yvonne attends Ball’s funeral at the Hope Church after the beloved entertainer died aged 76 

The funeral cortege of entertainer Bobby Ball arrives at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

The funeral cortege of entertainer Bobby Ball arrives at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

The funeral cortege of entertainer Bobby Ball arrives at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Bobby Ball (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) at the British Soap Awards at MediaCityUK Salford in May 2013

Bobby Ball (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) at the British Soap Awards at MediaCityUK Salford in May 2013

Bobby Ball (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) at the British Soap Awards at MediaCityUK Salford in May 2013

Tommy Ball at the final of Britain's Got Talent in Wembley, North West London, in June 2010

Tommy Ball at the final of Britain's Got Talent in Wembley, North West London, in June 2010

Tommy Ball at the final of Britain’s Got Talent in Wembley, North West London, in June 2010

BBC comedy controller Shane Allen previously said: ‘We are devastated to hear the sad news of Bobby Ball passing away. He was a powder keg of comedy who entertained audiences of all ages for decades.

‘He was funny to the end, having just completed his work on the forthcoming Not Going Out series and we all feel immensely privileged to have enjoyed the benefit of his talents.

‘Our thoughts are with family and friends at this sad time.’

Ball was born Robert Harper on January 28, 1944 and found fame on the The Cannon & Ball Show from 1979 to 1988 opposite his lifelong friend Cannon.

Oldham-born Ball met Cannon, real name Thomas Derbyshire, while he was working in a factory as a welder. 

Bobby Ball’s 40-year career in TV and film 

  • The Cannon & Ball Show (1979–88)
  • Summer Royal (1980)
  • The Boys in Blue, film (1982)
  • The Kenny Everett Show (1982)
  • Mr H Is Late, film (1988)
  • Plaza Patrol (1991)
  • Shooting Stars (1996)
  • The Big Stage (1999)
  • Rex the Runt (2001)
  • Revolver (2004)
  • The Royal (2004)
  • It’s a Boy! (2005)
  • I’m a Celebrity (2005)
  • Last of the Summer Wine (2005-8)
  • Heartbeat (2005–2006)
  • The Afternoon Play (2007)
  • The Fattest Man in Britain (2009)
  • Not Going Out (2009-19)
  • All Star Mr & Mrs (2010)
  • Show Me the Funny (2011)
  • Mount Pleasant (2011–17)
  • Coach Trip (2012)
  • Casualty (2012)
  • Strictly Come Dancing (2012)
  • The Security Men (2013)
  • A Little in Tents (2017)
  • Last Laugh in Vegas (2018)
  • Benidorm (2018)
  • The Cockfields (2019)

After the success of The Cannon & Ball Show, Ball appeared in a string of TV series including as Lenny in Last Of The Summer Wine from 2005 to 2008.

He also played Topsy Turner in Heartbeat and appeared in Mount Pleasant, Benidorm and The Cockfields.

In 2012, Ball competed in a Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. 

He also appeared in TV series including Last Of The Summer Wine, Heartbeat, Mount Pleasant, Benidorm, The Cockfields and Not Going Out.

The duo starred together in the films The Boys in Blue 1982 and Mr H Is Late in 1988, and appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2005.  

He is survived by two sons, Robert and Darren, with his first wife Joan Lynn, as well as his daughter Joanne with Yvonne Nugent.

The couple, who have been living in Lytham, Lancashire, and have been married for 46 years, have 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Ball was patron of the local NHS Blue Skies charity and the couple recently organised a variety event which raised £30,000 towards the development of the dementia garden at Clifton Hospital in Lytham.

In March, he starred in a video posted on the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s YouTube channel singing the Cannon and Ball theme song Together We’ll Be OK.

The trust wrote that the video aimed to unite everyone in the earliest days of the pandemic, with medical staff also featuring.

At the end of the song, in a now poignant message, Ball said: ‘Now I mean that – together we’ll all be OK if we pull together. See you later!’

Ball’s manager Phil Dale said: ‘It is with great personal sadness that on behalf of Yvonne Ball, and the family, and Tommy Cannon, I announce that Bobby Ball passed away at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on October 28, 2020 (at) approximately 9.30pm. 

‘Bobby had been taken to the hospital for tests as he started with breathing problems. At first it was thought to be a chest infection but a test proved positive for Covid-19. 

‘His wife Yvonne said the hospital and staff could not have been more wonderful, as they were outstanding in their care of duty and they did everything possible for him and she cannot praise them enough.

‘She said that the family and Tommy would like to express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel.

‘Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.’

Mr Dale added: ‘Bobby was a true comedy star who loved entertaining people and he loved life itself. I spoke to him every day and it would always end in laughter.’ 

Tommy Cannon arrives with his wife Hazel as mourners pay tribute to the late Bobby Ball at his funeral service today

Tommy Cannon arrives with his wife Hazel as mourners pay tribute to the late Bobby Ball at his funeral service today

Tommy Cannon arrives with his wife Hazel as mourners pay tribute to the late Bobby Ball at his funeral service today 

Actor and author Ball had been at Blackpool Victoria Hospital with breathing problems after his family initially thought he had a chest infection, before he tested positive with Covid-19 and later died

Actor and author Ball had been at Blackpool Victoria Hospital with breathing problems after his family initially thought he had a chest infection, before he tested positive with Covid-19 and later died

Actor and author Ball had been at Blackpool Victoria Hospital with breathing problems after his family initially thought he had a chest infection, before he tested positive with Covid-19 and later died

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

Mourners wearing red braces in honour of comedian Bobby Ball outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes, Lancashire

People sign a book of condolence outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes at Ball's funeral service

People sign a book of condolence outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes at Ball's funeral service

People sign a book of condolence outside Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes at Ball’s funeral service

A person holds a memorial card for comedian Bobby Ball ahead of his funeral at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes

A person holds a memorial card for comedian Bobby Ball ahead of his funeral at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes

A person holds a memorial card for comedian Bobby Ball ahead of his funeral at Hope Church in Lytham Saint Annes

Cannon and Ball sing together at the London Palladium in the West End on ITV in June 1987

Cannon and Ball sing together at the London Palladium in the West End on ITV in June 1987

Cannon and Ball sing together at the London Palladium in the West End on ITV in June 1987

Ball played Frank in Not Going Out, the father of Lee (played by Lee Mack), and Mack paid tribute to him this afternoon

Ball played Frank in Not Going Out, the father of Lee (played by Lee Mack), and Mack paid tribute to him this afternoon

Ball played Frank in Not Going Out, the father of Lee (played by Lee Mack), and Mack paid tribute to him this afternoon

Ball, wife Yvonne and their daughter Joanne are pictured for the Daily Mail in January 2007

Ball, wife Yvonne and their daughter Joanne are pictured for the Daily Mail in January 2007

Ball, wife Yvonne and their daughter Joanne are pictured for the Daily Mail in January 2007

Ball and his wife Yvonne on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in December 2005

Ball and his wife Yvonne on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in December 2005

Ball and his wife Yvonne on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in December 2005

From the cabaret circuit to a household name: How comedian Bobby Ball delighted audiences with slapstick and wordplay for four decades

Bobby Ball – who has died aged 76 after testing positive for Covid-19 – rose from the cabaret circuit of northern England to become a household name.

As part of the duo Cannon & Ball, with long-standing partner Tommy Cannon, he delighted the nation with slapstick and wordplay.

He also forged an acting career with parts in popular TV series including Last Of The Summer Wine, Heartbeat, Mount Pleasant, Benidorm, The Cockfields and Not Going Out.

Long-time comedy partners Cannon and Ball had their own TV show, pictured in June 1980

Long-time comedy partners Cannon and Ball had their own TV show, pictured in June 1980

Long-time comedy partners Cannon and Ball had their own TV show, pictured in June 1980

Bobby Ball appears on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV in London on September 15, 2014

Bobby Ball appears on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV in London on September 15, 2014

Bobby Ball appears on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV in London on September 15, 2014

Ball was born Robert Harper on January 28 1944 at Boundary Park General Hospital in Oldham, Greater Manchester, to Bob and May Harper.

He attended High Crompton Secondary in Oldham and later went to work in a factory as a welder, where he met his long-standing partner in showbusiness, Thomas Derbyshire.

The pair adopted stage names – Bobby Ball and Tommy Cannon – and started out as comics on the cabaret circuit in the north of England.

Ball was known for twanging his braces on stage and declaring: ‘Rock on, Tommy.’ 

Their career took off in earnest after their first big show in 1979. 

Cannon and Ball are pictured in the first year of their comedy TV programme, in June 1979

Cannon and Ball are pictured in the first year of their comedy TV programme, in June 1979

Cannon and Ball are pictured in the first year of their comedy TV programme, in June 1979

Cannon and Ball appear together in series nine of their television show in June 1988

Cannon and Ball appear together in series nine of their television show in June 1988

Cannon and Ball appear together in series nine of their television show in June 1988

Primetime Saturday night series The Cannon & Ball Show ran until 1988 and was one of the London Weekend Television network’s most successful entertainment programmes.

In 1982 they starred in the film The Boys In Blue and guest starred in Eric Sykes slapstick film Mr H Is Late in 1988.

Other notable guest appearances included The Kenny Everett Show in 1982 and Shooting Stars in 1996. 

However, between 1983 and 1986 the pair are reported to have not spoken to each other outside of performances and rehearsals, with Ball later blaming their falling out on ‘gossiping’ assistants.

Nevertheless, when faced with two unsuccessful sitcoms and mounting bills the pair were forced to embark on a gruelling tour schedule and set their differences aside.

Cannon and Ball both appeared in a series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in 2005

Cannon and Ball both appeared in a series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in 2005

Cannon and Ball both appeared in a series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2005

Cannon and Ball pose for a photograph outside the London Palladium in April 1987

Cannon and Ball pose for a photograph outside the London Palladium in April 1987

Cannon and Ball pose for a photograph outside the London Palladium in April 1987

Ball appeared in a string of TV series including as Lenny in Last Of The Summer Wine from 2005 to 2008.

He also played Topsy Turner in Heartbeat and appeared in Mount Pleasant, Benidorm and The Cockfields.

Ball played Lee Mack’s troublesome father Frank in the BBC One sitcom Not Going Out since 2009 and in 2012 competed in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.

During a pantomime in Bradford at Christmas 1986, Ball took the first steps to becoming a born-again Christian, with Cannon following soon after.

Some jokes made by the pair during their early career were criticised as racist, and both later expressed regret over them. 

Ball (centre) with his family including wife Yvonne (second right) and their daughter Joanne (far left) in a picture on his wife's Facebook profile posted in January 2017

Ball (centre) with his family including wife Yvonne (second right) and their daughter Joanne (far left) in a picture on his wife's Facebook profile posted in January 2017

Ball (centre) with his family including wife Yvonne (second right) and their daughter Joanne (far left) in a picture on his wife’s Facebook profile posted in January 2017

Comedy duo Cannon (left) and Ball (right) are pictured together in April 1993

Comedy duo Cannon (left) and Ball (right) are pictured together in April 1993

Comedy duo Cannon (left) and Ball (right) are pictured together in April 1993

In 2005, the pair took part in the fifth series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

He was the sixth contestant to be voted off, after Cannon had left earlier in the show. As he left he said ‘Oh man, that’s fantastic folks, that’s it, I’m off,’ and shouted to his wife: ‘I’m coming home.’

Ball told Ant and Dec of his ten-night stay in the jungle: ‘The first night was very hard, I thought about walking out many times, I thought I wanted to leave and that I could not do this. But the camp mates were very supportive.’ 

Ball’s final TV appearance came in 2019 with The Cockfields, a comedy series set on the Isle of Wight, in which he played Ray.

Cannon and Ball, who had their own show from 1979 to 1988, pose in Manchester in 1980

Cannon and Ball, who had their own show from 1979 to 1988, pose in Manchester in 1980

Cannon and Ball, who had their own show from 1979 to 1988, pose in Manchester in 1980

Cannon (left) and Ball (right) preparing for their first film "Boys In Blue", outside the Dominion Theatre in London in May 1982

Cannon (left) and Ball (right) preparing for their first film "Boys In Blue", outside the Dominion Theatre in London in May 1982

Cannon (left) and Ball (right) preparing for their first film ‘Boys In Blue’, outside the Dominion Theatre in London in May 1982

He married his first wife, Joan Lynn, in 1964, and they had two sons, Robert, born in 1965, and Darren, born 1969.

They separated in 1970 and Ball married Yvonne Nugent in 1974, with daughter Joanne arriving in 1972.

Married for 46 years, the couple lived in Lytham, Lancashire. The couple have 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. 

Ball was patron of the local NHS Blue Skies charity and the couple recently organised a variety event which raised £30,000 towards the development of the dementia garden at Clifton Hospital in Lytham.

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