Cannon And Ball (At Last)

I don’t know why I can’t enjoy Cannon and Ball to be honest, but I struggle to watch them. This is a good appearance, with some great timing, and some brilliant physical comedy, and yet. Look out for Bobby accidentally dropping at F-bomb near the beginning, and pay attention to Tommy’s exasperated ‘at last’ as he takes the microphone.

There’s a story behind that exasperation.

Bruce’s Big Night was Forsyth’s first vehicle for LWT after his big money move from the BBC. After a bumper first edition, viewership began to wane, and they were constantly tinkering with the format.

The biggest victims of that tinkering were Cannon and Ball.

Thomas Derybshire and Robert Harper had met whilst they were welders, and had been touring the clubs in the 1960s as The Harper Brothers. They started as singers, but kept adding more and more comedy to their routine, until they changed their name in 1968. Cannon and Ball appeared on Opportunity Knocks, and came dead last. By 1974 they were appearing regularly on The Wheeltappers And Shunters.

It was producer Humphrey Barclay who, having seen their first Blackpool show, offered them the chance to make some sketches for Bruce’s Big Night.

The whole scene was straight from some ‘unknown shot to stardom’ movie, and Tommy and I went home as high as kites.


They recorded the sketches, and even saw their names in the Radio Times, but come the end of the first show, on 7th October 1978, they found their sketch had been cut.

This happened week after week, until nearly the end of the show’s run. I assume this live appearance was by way of apology to the duo.

On the strength of this appearance, and the quality of their unbroadcast sketches, Michael Grade offered them their own show on LWT. It began in July of 1979, and ran for ten years.

Here’s Bruce appearing on their show in the fourth series.

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