Lee Mack has said he is “utterly shocked and devastated” by the loss of his Not Going Out co-star Bobby Ball.
The Cannon & Ball comedian died at the age of 76 after testing positive for Covid-19.
He found fame as part of the double act with his comedy partner Tommy Cannon in the 1970s and 80s but won over new fans playing Mack’s troublesome father Frank in the BBC One sitcom Not Going Out from 2009.
The TV star said in a statement: “I’m utterly shocked and devastated to lose my mate Bobby like this.
“I filmed with him just a few weeks ago and he was his usual funny and cheeky self.
“My thoughts are with Yvonne and his family, and of course Tommy.
“To get to work with one of my childhood comedy heroes was great. But to call him a friend was even better. Rest In Peace Bobby x.”
Ball died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on October 28 at around 9.30pm.
A statement from his manager Phil Dale said: “Bobby had been taken to the hospital for tests as he started with breathing problems.
“At first it was thought to be a chest infection but a test proved positive for Covid-19.
“His wife Yvonne said the hospital and staff could not have been more wonderful, as they were outstanding in their care of duty and they did everything possible for him and she cannot praise them enough.
“She said that the family and Tommy would like to express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel.
“Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.”
Dale added: “Bobby was a true comedy star who loved entertaining people and he loved life itself. I spoke to him every day and it would always end in laughter!”
The Cannon And Ball Show ran from 1979 to 1988 and Cannon said: “Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated.”
He later wrote on Twitter: “I’m absolutely devastated, I’ve lost my partner, my best friend and the funniest man I know. Thank you for your messages, prayers and love.”
In an interview with Times Radio, he added: “I suppose at the end of the day, things are meant to be but I just hope he’s up there now with all his pals who passed away and they’re having a great time and looking down on me and saying, ‘Tommy, rock on pal and don’t be so damn soft’.”
He added that they “always got on”.
“Yeah, of course there were the odd time… I mean a double act is like a marriage, of course you fall out.
“Never ever did it come to the stages of where ‘we’re gonna finish now, I don’t like you’.
“We’ve always liked one another. Even when we’re not working we used to phone one another regularly.”
The duo also starred in the films The Boys in Blue 1982 and Mr H Is Late in 1988, and appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2005.
Yvonne added: “I will always miss him, he was so joyful, full of fun and mischievous.”
Ball was born Robert Harper on January 28 1944 in Oldham, Lancashire and met Cannon, real name Thomas Derbyshire, while he was working in a factory as a welder.
After the success of The Cannon And Ball Show he appeared in a string of TV series including as Lenny in Last Of The Summer Wine from 2005 to 2008.
He also played Topsy Turner in Heartbeat and appeared in Mount Pleasant, Benidorm and The Cockfields.
Ball competed in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special in 2012.
He is survived by two sons, Robert and Darren, with his first wife Joan Lynn, as well as his daughter Joanne with Yvonne Nugent.
The couple, who were living in Lytham, Lancashire, and were married for 46 years, had 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Ball was patron of the local NHS Blue Skies charity and the couple recently organised a variety event which raised £30,000 towards the development of the dementia garden at Clifton Hospital, Lytham, Lancashire.
In March, he starred in a video posted on the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s YouTube channel singing the Cannon and Ball theme song Together We’ll Be OK.
The trust wrote that the video aimed to unite everyone in the earliest days of the pandemic, with medical staff also featuring.
At the end of the song, in a now poignant message, Ball said: “Now I mean that – together we’ll all be OK if we pull together. See you later!”
The BBC’s controller of comedy, Shane Allen, said: “We are devastated to hear the sad news of Bobby Ball passing away.
“He was a powder keg of comedy who entertained audiences of all ages for decades.
“He was funny to the end, having just completed his work on the forthcoming Not Going Out series and we all feel immensely privileged to have enjoyed the benefit of his talents.
“Our thoughts are with family and friends at this sad time.”