DAVID LEAFE looks back on Bobby Ball's life after the funny man died at the age of 76

Although Her Majesty the Queen is not known for joking in public, she couldn't resist a lighthearted exchange with comedy duo Cannon and Ball after the 1987 Royal Variety Performance.

They had been introduced to the Duke of Edinburgh at a charity dinner last week.

"We were asked to address him as 'Majesty' when we were introduced," recalled Bobby Ball. "But I said," Ow are you Cocker? Good? & # 39;

"When we were queuing to shake hands with the queen after the order was given, she came up to me and said, 'Hi Cocker, how are you? "It was great. & # 39;

The Royals were among the many fans of a comedy partnership that ended with news of Bobby Ball's death in a Blackpool hospital at the age of 76. He had been admitted with a chest infection but tested positive for Covid-19.

In their prime, comedy duo Bobby Ball (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) brought home £ 200,000 a month. The couple met in the 1960s as tractor welders

At its peak, the Cannon And Ball Show was one of ITV's most successful entertainment programs, drawing audiences of up to 20 million people on Saturday night.

When catchphrases like "Rock on Tommy" and "You little liar" entered the everyday conversation and no less an authority than Eric Morecambe called them "the next Morecambe and Wise", their 1985 summer tour was surpassed by Bruce Springsteen.

Although they continued to tour after TV managers decided that middle-aged comics from the north were their day, Bobby Ball's career took a different direction in later life – he starred in popular TV series like Last Of The Summer Wine, Heartbeat, Benidorm and The Cockfields.

One of Ball's most famous roles was Lee Mack's father in need. Pictured: Ball (right) with comedian Lee Mack (left)

One of Ball's most famous roles was Lee Mack's father in need. Pictured: Ball (right) with comedian Lee Mack (left)

He's also appeared on I'm A Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing, but one of his most famous roles was Lee Mack's dad in Not Going Out. Mack – pictured below right with ball – once described him as his real "comedy father".

"The first thing I can remember as a kind of performance was getting Bobby Ball impressions in the playground at school," he said.

"He has a magical sense of comedy that nobody could replicate."

That gift was key to a plot that followed the traditions of Laurel and Hardy, with Tommy being the straight man who got upset by his goofy buddy Bobby.

A typical sketch looked like this:

Tommy: Tell them about what you did last week when you went to British Home Stores to buy a house.

Bobby (to audience) "Yes, he sent me to Homebase to start up."

Tommy: What else did you do? Went to the greyhound trail and sat on the rabbit. & # 39;

Bobby: It won, didn't it?

Such an exchange belied a very real friendship between the two men, both of whom were from Oldham and had mothers who worked in the local cotton mills.

Born Robert Harper in 1944, Bobby originally introduced himself as a singer, as did Tommy Cannon, six years older than Thomas – born Thomas Derbyshire.

They met in the 1960s while working as welders in a tractor factory, and in their spare time touring workers' clubs as singing doppelgangers until they discovered comedians were paid £ 3 a night more than they were. They duly added an element of comedy to the act, with Bobby sitting in the audience molesting Tommy.

Everything went well until Bobby's pants fell off on the way to the stage. He then wore the trademarked suspenders, which from then on became a fun effect.

After years on the North Club circuit, they had great success – ITV gave them their own show after their guest appearance on Bruce Forsyth's Big Night Out – and suddenly the welders were taking home £ 200,000 a month at £ 20 a week. They bought matching Rolls-Royces, Canary Islands beachfront homes, and even yachts. But fame and fortune soon took their toll.

Bobby Ball (left), who is survived by his second wife Yvonne (right), became a Christian in later life, as did his comedy partner Tommy Cannon

Bobby Ball (left), who is survived by his second wife Yvonne (right), became a Christian in later life, as did his comedy partner Tommy Cannon

Bobby, who was now married to his second wife Yvonne, began to effeminate, drank a bottle of whiskey a day and often got into arguments.

He and Tommy dropped out, refused to be to each other more than necessary, and did not speak offstage for three years.

A turning point came in 1986 when they mime together in Bradford. There Bobby's conversations with the Alhambra Theater chaplain turned to Christ, and he made amends with Tommy, who followed suit and became a Christian seven years later.

They later paused their comedy tours with gospel shows and together wrote one of the most unlikely releases of the 1990s, Christianity for Beginners: Faith, God and All That, by Cannon and Ball.

Their shared beliefs helped cement a bond that lasted well beyond the height of their fame.

82-year-old Tommy Cannon said yesterday that he was "devastated" for losing "my partner, my best friend."

He also described Ball as "the funniest man I know," a sentiment borne out by his millions of fans – including undoubtedly those royal "cockers" more formally known as Prince Philip and the Queen.

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