cover art for Johnny Ball

The Toby Gribben Show

Johnny Ball

Season 2023, Ep. 26

Johnny Ball is an English television personality, a populariser of mathematics and the father of BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball.

Ball was a regular fixture on children's television from the mid-1970s to the 1980s, presenting several series of science and technology programmes intended for children (including Think of a NumberThink AgainThink BackwardsThink...This Way and Johnny Ball Reveals All). He was also one of the hosts of the preschool programme Play School beginning in 1967 and continuing throughout the 1970s and beyond. As well as appearing on screen Ball wrote jokes for some shows including Crackerjack. All these shows (except the ITV programme ...Reveals All) appeared on the BBC. Ball's shows were known for presenting scientific and technological principles in an entertaining and accessible way for young people.

In 2003, he appeared on The Terry and Gaby Show and answered viewers' questions. In July 2004, he was named in the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters. In July 2012, he presented a Horizon special on ageing on BBC Four. He has starred in ITV and Channel 4 television adverts and radio adverts for the Yorkshire-based firm Help-Link.

In 2012, Ball participated in the Strictly Come Dancing TV show, where he was paired with Aliona Vilani. A training accident in the three-week interval resulted in torn ligaments for Vilani, causing her to retire temporarily from the show. She was replaced by Iveta Lukošiūtė who, with Ball, was eliminated in the first week. Vilani returned in the final group dance alongside Ball. In a TV interview in October 2017, Ball claimed Vilani faked the injury, with Vilani denying the allegation and saying she would take legal advice over Ball's comments. There are no reports that she subsequently took any form of legal action. He was 74 at the time of Strictly, and he is the oldest contestant in the show's history.

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