A comedy duo for 55 years, Cannon and Ball fulfill a lifelong dream next week when they perform in a one-off show in Sin City for ITV's Last Laugh in Vegas. Here, they talk about their big Vegas show and reveal why they'll never stop touring...
Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball – aka comedy duo Cannon and Ball – on their one-night only performance in Las Vegas…
"We're going to Vegas!' cried a jubilant Bobby Ball in the opening scenes of ITV’s Last Laugh in Vegas, when he received a phone call to say that he and his comedy partner, Tommy Cannon, would be joining seven other British showbiz legends to perform a spectacular one-off show in the variety capital of the world.
Cannon & Ball have enjoyed a stage and screen career spanning some 55 years, their heyday being in the Eighties when they appeared on Sunday Night Live at The London Palladium, the 1987 Royal Variety Performance (also at the Palladium) and fronted The Cannon & Ball Show for ITV.
In 2005, the duo appeared on ITV's I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and they've been in more pantomimes than you can shake a stick at ('Oh, yes they have!') But they've never performed in Vegas, until now…
"I suppose deep down it's always been a dream but we never thought we'd ever do it, so this show was a big deal," says Tommy, 79, with Bobby, 74, adding: "It's the crème de la crème in anybody's career to work in Vegas!"
Last Laugh in Vegas has given us pure entertainment, non-stop laughs and even some poignant moments as our legends prepare for their one-night only variety show. Alongside Cannon & Ball are entertainer Bernie Clifton, comedian Mick Miller, pianist Bobby Crush, singer Kenny Lynch, Sixties' idol Jess Conrad, singer Anita Harris, and actress and comedienne Su Pollard.
After weeks of rehearsals, the series concludes this week with our famous faces putting the finishing touches to their performances. Then, after the main show on ITV, viewers can switch over to ITV3 and watch as our brave stars finally take to the stage at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
As they all prepare for 'curtain up', we chatted to Tommy and Bobby all about their big Vegas show and their life in showbiz…
Did you enjoy getting to work with the other stars on Last Laugh in Vegas?
Bobby: "Well, we knew of everybody and we all got on, so it was nice. We'd worked with Bernie Clifton 40 years ago." Tommy: "Yeah, he was the compere at The Aquarius in Chesterfield and in 1973 he introduced us as top of the bill in the cabaret club." Bobby: "Su Pollard's been to my house! And Mick's an old friend; he lives not far from me."
In this week's final ITV episode of Last Laugh in Vegas, we see you all rehearsing one final time for the big show…
Tommy: "That was one of those really long, drawn-out days. It was all very stop/start; we had dancers who had to come down some steps and they had to do it right. We rehearsed for the whole day and it took about seven or eight hours to get the show 'in the can' – it took forever!"
Making 'em laugh: Tommy and Bobby on The Cannon and Ball Show (1979)
Following that episode, the 'big performance' will air on ITV3. How nervous were you on the night?
Bobby: "We've been a comedy duo for 55 years now, so we don't really get nervous but we were quite nervous there because of all the other acts. But the minute we got onto the stage at The Orleans the atmosphere from the crowd was unbelievable – it really lifted us." Tommy: "When we first started out as a duo, Bob would crouch down in the corner in the wings of the stage waiting to go on and I would prowl about like a mad lion trapped in a cage. We were complete opposites!"
What teasers can you give us about your 'act' in the big show?
Bobby: "I think people can just expect Cannon & Ball. If they know what we do then they can expect a good time and a right good laugh! As well as our own act, we also do a sketch with Mick Miller as The Three Elvises. It's really good."
A laugh a minute: Cannon and Ball with fellow showbiz legend Mick Miller
Did you have a 'pinch me' moment where you thought: 'We're actually performing in Las Vegas’?
Bobby: "I think if we'd thought 'We're in Vegas!' while we were on stage, it would have overwhelmed us. At the time, you're just thinking about doing the act. But when we'd finished and got back to the house, that's when I thought: 'Blimey, we've just done Vegas!’ We've done nearly everything in our career but Vegas has definitely been the highlight!" Tommy: "I don’t think we’ll ever experience anything like it again. It was fabulous!"
Before doing the Vegas show, what would you say had been the highlight of your 55-year career in showbusiness?
Tommy: "I'd say when we first performed at the London Palladium. That was memorable because of all the greats who've performed on that stage. We'd love to do another Royal Variety!" Bobby: "A major highlight would be The Cannon & Ball Show, which ran on ITV for 11 years. And, more recently, doing I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. I just loved the jungle, I'd go back tomorrow." Tommy: "Yep, so would I. You've got to do things, haven't you? That's what life's about."
Witchetty grub, anyone? Cannon and Ball on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here in 2005
Is that what keeps you touring and performing after all these years?
Tommy: "Yes. My father-in-law retired very young and, within two years, he was dead! He’d worked six days a week, saw his pals every day then suddenly he had nothing to get up for. Life is for living." Bobby: "I don’t know what we'd do if we retired. Besides, I've got to keep working because my wife keeps buying dresses!"
Do you get recognised out and about in the UK? And do people shout your catchphrases at you?
Bobby: "Yeah, all the time. People say to me: 'Rock on Tommy'. And I say: 'I'm not Tommy, I’m Bobby!'" Tommy: "Oh, people always get us mixed up. Also, I was in a hardware store a few months back and this guy looked over at me then said in a real loud voice: 'I've just seen all my life pass me by. I've grown up watching you from being this big. You and Bobby are phenomenal.' So people are lovely."
What's next for you?
Bobby: "We've just started doing a play I wrote called The Dressing Room and we'll be touring the country with that this year. Oh, and pantomime's booked! We're doing Jack & The Beanstalk in Crewe. And, no, I'm not playing the giant!" Tommy: "I love doing panto, mainly because it means kids who've never seen Cannon & Ball on TV can come and see us. We've never felt the need to change our act. Cannon & Ball will always be Cannon & Ball."
The final episode of Last Laugh in Vegas can be seen on Tuesday April 24 at 9pm on ITV, with the big performance following at 10pm on ITV3.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!