Bobby Ball

Bobby Ball
Bobby Ball.jpg
Bobby Ball in February 2013
Robert Harper

(1944-01-28)28 January 1944
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died28 October 2020(2020-10-28) (aged 76)
Blackpool, Lancashire, England[1]
OccupationComedian and Actor
Years active1972–2020
Joan Lynn
(m. 1964; div. 1970)
(2 children)
Yvonne Nugent
(m. 1974)
(1 child)

Robert Harper (28 January 1944 – 28 October 2020), known professionally as Bobby Ball, was a British comic, actor, singer and television host. He was best known as a member of the comic double act Cannon and Ball, with Tommy Cannon (real name Thomas Derbyshire).

They hosted their own ITV show, The Cannon and Ball Show, for nine years between 1979 and 1988. Ball then went on to star in various sitcoms and dramas including Last of the Summer Wine, Heartbeat and Not Going Out. In 2005, Ball took part in the fifth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!.

Early life

Ball was born at Boundary Park General Hospital in Oldham, Lancashire, on 28 January 1944,[2] to May (née Savage) and Bob Harper.[3][4] He attended Crompton House C of E school, Shaw, Oldham, and briefly studied Shipping Management at Wigan Mining & Technical College[2] before going to work in a factory as a welder, where he also met his future partner in comedy, Thomas Derbyshire (Tommy Cannon).[5]


Cannon and Ball

Ball was one half of comedy duo Cannon and Ball, opposite his friend and colleague Tommy Cannon.[6] The duo's primetime Saturday night television series The Cannon and Ball Show, was one of LWT's most successful series, with consistently high viewing ratings that lasted for twelve years.[7] They starred in the film The Boys in Blue together in 1982 and guest starred in the Eric Sykes slapstick film, Mr H Is Late, in 1988.[6][8] Other notable guest appearances were The Kenny Everett Television Show in 1982 and Shooting Stars in 1996.

Cannon and Ball competed in the fifth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!,[9] and in 2011, Cannon and Ball were guest judges on one episode of ITV's Show Me the Funny.[10]


Ball was the creator of the ITV children's cartoon series Military Style!, which aired in 1990,[6] and the BBC children's cartoon series Juniper Jungle, which aired in 1992.[11] He played Mr. Turner (also known as Topsy Turner) in the ITV drama series Heartbeat from 2005–2006.[12] From 2005–2008, he played Lenny in the BBC series Last of the Summer Wine.[13] In 2009, Ball starred in the comedy The Fattest Man in Britain playing Morris Morrissey.[14]

In 2009, Ball was cast as Frank in the long-running BBC One Sitcom Not Going Out.[15] He first made a guest appearance in 2009 and two further guest appearances in 2011 (Series 4) and 2012 (Series 5), and became a recurring fixture from series 6 onwards. He appeared in the 2015 Christmas special, and returned alongside the cast for the eighth series in 2017, the ninth series in 2018 and the tenth series in 2019. Ball made his final appearance as Frank in the eleventh season, which began airing in January 2021, and was filmed a few weeks before his death.

From 2011, Ball played Barry in the Sky1 sitcom series Mount Pleasant.[16] The following year, he took part in BBC One's Pointless Celebrities alongside Cannon.[17] His second appearance on the show was for a Children in Need special in November 2013 with Lee Mack.[18]

In 2013, Ball played the role of Duckers in the ITV sitcom pilot The Security Men, starring alongside the likes of Brendan O'Carroll and Paddy McGuinness.[19] The episode, written by Caroline Aherne and Jeff Pope, was later not picked up for a full series. Cannon and Ball appeared in ITV's Last Laugh in Vegas in 2018. Cannon and Ball have also previously starred in the Safestyle UK television advertisements.[20]

In November 2019 he played the regular character Ray, stepdad to Joe Wilkinson's character Simon, in The Cockfields.[21]

Personal life

Ball married his first wife, Joan Lynn, in 1964,[22][23] with whom he had two sons, Robert (born 1965) and Darren (born 1969), who are now a comedy double act in their own right, performing under their surname 'Harper'. Ball and Lynn separated in 1970.

Ball married his second wife, Yvonne Nugent,[24] in 1974.[25][26] In an interview on BBC Tees on 28 June 2016, Ball said that he met Yvonne while performing with Cannon at a club in Norton, County Durham: "We were playing there ... she came downstairs in a little mini skirt, looked at me and Tommy, shook her head and walked away. I thought, 'I'd spend my life with her.'"

Ball and his wife lived in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Together they had a daughter Joanne born in 1972.[27][28]

By 1983, Ball's friendship with Cannon had deteriorated and the pair did not speak to each other outside of rehearsals and performances. In 1986, while working at the Bradford Alhambra, Ball began talking with chaplain Max Wrigley. Ball said: "I got talking to him and attacked him verbally about God. But he had a peace about him. I can't explain exactly what he had but he had something that I didn't have. One day I asked to speak to him and after a while he said, 'Let's pray.' I'd never prayed in my life but we prayed and it just changed my life – like that [he snaps his fingers]."[29] Shortly afterward Ball became a Christian,[30] which helped re-kindle his broken friendship with Cannon.[31] Cannon became a Christian in 1992, with the pair publishing a book called Christianity for Beginners.[32] They regularly featured in their own gospel and "An audience with..." show in churches around the country. He also taught vicars and clergy how to incorporate humor in sermons.[33]

He published an autobiography, entitled My Life, in 1993.[34]

He was a supporter of the Variety Children's Charity, presiding over the organization's ceremonies and appearing in fundraising events.[35] He received a lifetime achievement honor from Variety, in 2018.[36]

Ball died at the Victoria Hospital in Blackpool on 28 October 2020 at the age of 76, from COVID-19 complications.[37][1] A small tribute was paid to Ball after the closing credits of the 2021 New Year’s special of Not Going Out, which was the first episode broadcast after his death. A longer tribute of about 2 minutes was broadcast at the end of Series 11 Episode 5 entitled War, his last television performance, which was first aired on 5 February 2021.


Year Show Role
1982 The Boys in Blue PC. Bobby Ball
1988 Mr H Is Late Driver's mate
Year Show Role
1972 Opportunity Knocks[38]
1974 Win, Place or Steal Professor
1979–1988 The Cannon and Ball Show Himself (co-star)
1980 Summer Royal Himself[citation needed]
1982 The Kenny Everett Show Himself (guest)[citation needed]
The Children's Royal Variety Performance Cast member
1983 The Boys in Blue Police Constable Bobby Ball
1986 Tommy Cooper
1987 Prisoners in Park Lane
Anything but the Truth
Slightly Overweight
1988 A Night of Comic Relief
Mr. H. is Late
1990 Day out with Dana
Casino Host (3 episodes)
1991 Plaza Patrol Trevor Purvis (6 episodes)
1993 Gloria!
1996 Shooting Stars Himself (guest)
1997 Surprise, Surprise
Babies Sam Clarington
2004 Revolver Various characters[citation needed]
The Royal John Wilson[citation needed]
2005 I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Himself (contestant)
2005–2008 Last of the Summer Wine Lenny[citation needed]
2005–2006 Heartbeat Mr. Turner/Topsy Turner[citation needed]
2006 It's Behind You...
2007 The Afternoon Play Bingo Manager[citation needed]
2009 The Fattest Man in Britain Morris
2009–2021 Not Going Out Frank (Lee's Dad)
2010 All Star Mr & Mrs Himself (contestant)[citation needed]
2011 Show Me the Funny Himself (guest judge)[citation needed]
2012 Blackpool: Big Night Out
Coach Trip Himself (guest)[39]
Casualty Gerry Davies[citation needed]
Strictly Come Dancing: Christmas Special Himself (contestant)[40]
2013 Mount Pleasant Barry (3 episodes)
Success and Television
The Security Men Duckers
2018 Last Laugh in Vegas Himself [41]
2018 Benidorm Ron Pickford
2019 The Cockfields Ray


  1. ^ a b "Bobby Ball: Cannon & Ball star dies aged 76 after Covid-19 diagnosis". BBC News. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Cannon and Ball Biographies". Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Pay as you go".
  4. ^ "Bobby Ball obituary". The Times. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  5. ^ "How we met: Tommy Cannon & Bobby Ball". The Independent. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Bobby Ball: Cannon & Ball star dies aged 76 after Covid-19 diagnosis". BBC News. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  7. ^ Hayward, Anthony (29 October 2020). "Bobby Ball obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Mr H Is Late". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Ant and Dec share poignant tribute to I'm A Celebrity hero Bobby Ball". Metro. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  10. ^ Davies, Hannah J. (29 October 2020). "Comedian Bobby Ball dies aged 76 after testing positive for Covid". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  11. ^ "Juniper Jungle series". Comedy Kings. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  12. ^ "Cannon & Ball star Bobby Ball dies aged 76 after testing positive for coronavirus". Heart. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  13. ^ "Bobby Ball: Cannon & Ball star dies aged 76 after Covid-19 diagnosis". BBC News. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  14. ^ "The Fattest Man In Britain – ITV Comedy Drama". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Not Going Out fans remember the late Bobby Ball's scene-stealing role as Frank". The Independent. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  16. ^ Fitzpatrick, Katie (29 September 2015). "TV legends Bobby Ball and Paula Wilcox delighted to be back on Mount Pleasant". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  17. ^ "Bobby Ball and Lee Mack's disastrous appearance on Pointless remembered by fans". Metro. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  18. ^ Jamie Harris (14 November 2013). "McFly, Lee Mack, Terry Wogan for 'Pointless' Children in Need special". Digital Spy.
  19. ^ "The Security Men – ITV Comedy Drama". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Safestyle UK – Cannon & Ball". Telly Ads. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  21. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "The Cockfields – Gold Sitcom". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  22. ^ "Pay as you go".
  23. ^ "Comedian Bobby Ball (76), of Cannon & Ball fame, dies after testing positive for Covid-19". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  24. ^ "Bobby Ball's wife Yvonne pays tribute following the shock death of the beloved comedian". Entertainment Daily. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Pay as you go".
  26. ^ Marriages – – Robert Harper – Middleton January, February, March 1974
  27. ^ "Here's how Bobby Ball made his name as one of the UK's best loved comics". The Guide Liverpool. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  28. ^ "How we met: Tommy Cannon & Bobby Ball – Profiles – News – The Independent". The Independent. 24 December 2006.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "'He could not hold back talking about his faith': friends pay tribute to Bobby Ball's unashamed Christian faith – Premier Christian News | Headlines, Breaking News, Comment & Analysis". Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  31. ^ "How we met: Tommy Cannon & Bobby Ball – Profiles – People". The Independent. 24 December 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  32. ^ "Christianity for Beginners". Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  33. ^ McCarthy, Nick (8 September 2015). "Churches hire Bobby Ball and Don Maclean to teach vicars comedy to boost dwindling congregations". BirminghamLive. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Bobby Ball obituary". The Guardian. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  35. ^ "Variety pays tribute to comedian Bobby Ball". Variety, the Children's Charity. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  36. ^ "Last Laugh star Bobby has a Ball in aid of children's charity". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  37. ^ Needham, Lucy (29 October 2020). "Cannon & Ball star Bobby Ball dies at 76". Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  38. ^ "Opportunity Knocks: Cannon & Ball". Memorable TV. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  39. ^ Fletcher, Alex (5 January 2012). "'Celebrity Coach Trip' lineup revealed". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  40. ^ "Bobby Ball and Katya Virshilas dance the American Smooth to 'White Christmas'". Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  41. ^ "Press Releases". Retrieved 29 October 2020.

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