Love Sunday, 23rd August 2015

Love Sunday magazine cover

Article in Love Sunday magazine from the Sunday People Newspaper, 23rd August 2015

Did you know…

Bobby Ball first met his comedy partner Tommy Cannon (real name Thomas Derbyshire), when they worked together in the same welding factory. 


People See me as a Lovable Little Fat Man

Comedy legend Bobby Ball, 71, on the highs and lows of being in showbiz, domestic bliss and why he just wants to be a baddie….


It’s a glorious summer’s day in Blackpool and Love Sunday is riding shotgun as Bobby Ball cruises down the Golden Mile in his snazzy Chrysler luxury car. The seaside resort is hosting an airshow today and, overhead, a huge B17 Flying Fortress bomber soars above the famous Tower. But the real main attraction on the promenade is the arrival of showbiz royalty.

Cannon and Ball comedy legend Bobby is a hometown hero in the ‘Las Vegas of the North’. As he slows down to let an elderly gentleman cross the road, the old-timer gives Bobby a friendly thumbs up and shouts, ‘Rock on, Tommy!’

The funnyman admits he hears his iconic catchphrase at least 20 to 30 times a day, but is always thrilled the public still make the connection.

‘I just love people,’ beams Bobby. ‘I have a great relationship with our fans and they don’t see me as a superstar – I’m accessible, so people are always asking for selfies with me.’

We arrive at the Grand Hotel in Lytham St. Annes for our afternoon chat. On the Fylde Coast, this leafy town is considered a retirement mecca, but Bobby isn’t planning to hang up his red braces just yet.

‘I could never call it quits,’ the sprightly 71-year-old insists. ‘If no promoters booked me, I’d be out there busking. I’m a ham and love to make people laugh, it’s a fantastic job.’ Indeed, Bobby is getting a second wind thanks to his impressive re-invention as an actor. Having guested in the likes of Last Of The Summer Wine and Not Going Out, Bobby has recently completed filming on the fifth series of Sky One’s popular comedy drama, Mount Pleasant.

Filmed in Manchester, starring Sally Lindsay and Daniel Ryan, it’s a warm family show about neighbours in a suburban cul-de-sac. Bobby plays Barry, Sally’s on-screen father, who’s prone to breaking out into hilarious song-and-dance routines and shouting urban slang such as, ‘What’s crack-a-lackin?’

‘Mount Pleasant just gets better and better,’ explains Bobby.

‘The cast are like a big family. I’ve really caught the acting bug – my dream role is to play a baddie in a drama, because people tend to see me as this lovable little fat man.’

Bobby’s acting skills were tested to the max in this series, when grief-stricken Barry breaks down in tears while mourning his late wife, Sue. ‘It’s an emotional storyline,’ says Bobby, suddenly serious. ‘I thought about losing my own wife Yvonne for that scene. I couldn’t cope without her at all. We’ve been together 42 years and are like two peas in a pod. I’m totally dependent on her. Even when I was a contestant on I’m A Celebrity… in 2005, I endured starvation, sickness and spider bites – but I missed Yvonne like crazy.’ The couple are so inseperable, Yvonne sits in on our interview, orders us coffee and shortbread biscuits – then pokes affectionate fun at her famous hubby with some choice anecdotes.

She was a 19-year-old bunny-girl waitress in a Lancashire nightclub when they first met. Bobby cringes as she recalls his attempts to woo her. ‘He had some horrendous chat-up lines,’ Yvonne chuckles. ‘He told me, “There’s a rose in bloom at the bottom of my garden, but you’re far lovelier,” – I almost vomited.’

The 5ft 4ins entertainer must have been doing something right, though, because she stuck with him in the lean years before he hit the big time.

From 1979 to 1988, Bobby and partner Tommy Cannon starred in The Cannon And Ball Show – a variety show which attracted huge audiences of up to 20 million viewers on Saturday night primetime TV. The humble double-act from Oldham, Lancashire, made millions and relished the spoils of success.

‘We climbed to the top of the tree and wore the T-shirt,’ smiles Bobby. ‘There were so many golden moments – meeting The Queen, befriending my hero Eric Clapton and being the subject of a This Is Your Life show. There was a party every night and I made big money. We spent it on flash cars, a holiday home in Gran Canaria and a 42ft cabin cruiser. I’d never skippered in my life – the first time we took the boat out to sea, Yvonne shouted to me, “Can you slow down? The TV has fallen off the ledge.” I replied, “We’re in a Force 12 storm, love!” We had to call the coastguard, but it was fun.

‘Of course, there were some bad times too. There was a three-year period where Tommy and I weren’t getting on at all, I drank excessively and liked to get into a fight.’

It’s hard to imagine this jovial little chap – dressed down in polo shirt and jeans – having once been a boozy brawler. Bobby is now an altogether mellower character, having embraced his Christian faith and the simple pleasures of family life.

‘I’ve got three kids and nine grandkids, who all think I’m loud and eccentric,’ chuckles Bobby.

‘My sons Robert, 49, and Darren, 47, have their own comedy double act. I give them routines and feel very proud when I see them perform. And my only daughter Joanne is very special to me. She’s a teacher who modelled when she was younger and sings like a bird. At the height of my success in the 80s, I didn’t have much time off for family, which I regret, but I’m making up for it now.’

With that, we round up the lively conversation by asking Bobby to contemplate his life’s legacy.

‘It’s been a massive honour to entertain people,’ he concludes. ‘That’s all I want written on my gravestone – “He gave us a laugh!”‘

How do you spend your Sunday?

Weekend away or at home?
Me and Yvonne like to look round different places, so I’d say a weekend away.

Lazy lie-in or up with the lark?
I often had to get up at 5.30am filming Mount Pleasant, so I’ve become a morning person now.

Hungover or fresh as a daisy?
I do enjoy a couple of glasses of a nice Chardonnay or Shiraz with my dinner, but I wake up the next day pretty fresh.

Sunday lunch at home or pub roast?
Yvonne is a great cook – that’s why I married her! She makes a roast every week and our daughter comes round with her kids.

Night on the tiles, or a night in?
I like to go out and have a bit of a laugh, but I couldn’t do it every night.

I can’t get through the weekend without…
Music. I’ve got my own studio at home, so I go in there to play some rock guitar riffs.