Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball (real names: Thomas Derbyshire and Robert Harper) are a British comedy duo
whose greatest fame was during the 1970s
(clubs) and the 1980s
(television). They were part of the last generation of comedians to emerge from constant live performance in working men's clubs
; with a few exceptions (such as Hale & Pace
and, curiously in this company, Vic Reeves
), any new comedians who show promise on the live circuit tend to be quickly snapped up by television. After coming last in 1968
's season of Opportunity Knocks
, the duo - who had been performing together since the early 1960s - slowly built up a following over the next decade before ITV found them.
Of the two Bobby Ball was short, and had a moustache and curly hair, and Yuppie-style braces which he would 'twang' whilst saying 'Rock on, Tommy!', his catchphrase. Tommy Cannon did not have much hair and always seemed miserable but otherwise had no comedic mannerisms.
As 'Cannon and Ball' - thus making them one of the few comedy double acts to be named after medieval military equipment - they were extremely popular in the 1980s, selling out the London Palladium several times and appearing in a top-rated ITV variety show from 1979 to 1988, filling a gap vacated by Morcambe and Wise, to whom they were often compared (unfavourably, most of the time; as with Keith Harris, Cannon and Ball were often held as one of the reasons for the success of alternative comedy). There was even a film, 'The Boys in Blue', which received very bad reviews. (Leslie Halliwell: "Village policemen catch art thieves. Horribly incompetent remake of 'Ask a Policeman' with a totally untalented star team.")
After a hyped, expensive and disastrous game show ('Cannon and Ball's Casino') and an equally short-lived sitcom called 'Plaza Patrol' (in which our heroes were security guards at a shopping centre), they vanished from television into the world of pantomime, where apparently they both discovered God and became born-again Christians. As with The Krankies, they are still there... lurking... waiting...
Along with Bruce Forsyth, Little and Large, the aforementioned Keith Harris, Richard Digance, Paul Daniels, The Krankies and Russ Abbott, Cannon and Ball were one of the key British televisual light entertainment acts from the 1980s; for a variety of reasons they don't really have a modern equivalent.