In 1947, Tommy came out of the services. At first he struggled to make a living. He began touring the theatre and variety club circuit in England.
Tommy and Dove moved to London as Tommy endeavoured to break into the entertainment industry. Soon after, a ‘Miff Ferrie’ watched Tommy and saw potential. Tommy auditioned for his future agent and manager. Miff was the inhouse bandleader and entertainments director at the London Windermere Club. He was to become Tommy’s agent. This was the beginning of a long and turbulent relationship, although there are many early photos of the pair, and their wives, having happy moments. Tommy signed an exclusive Sole Agency Agreement with Mr Ferrie.
Tommy signed an exclusive Sole Agency Agreement with Mr Ferrie. Miff booked him to appear as the second-spot comedian in a show starring the sand dance act Marqueeze and the Dance of the Seven Veils. Tommy then began two years of arduous performing, including a tour of Europe and a stint in pantomime, playing one of Cinderella's ugly sisters. The period culminated in a season-long booking at the Windmill Theatre, where he doubled up doing cabaret. In one week he performed 52 shows.
When the BBC were looking for new acts, the Beeb's talent spotter's agreed to audition the young man. They were 'Underwhelmed' by the experience. 'Performance - Comedy patter with cod magic. Description - Unattractive young man with an extremely unfortunate appearance.' Was the spotters opinion. Nevertheless the 'Head of Light Entertainment' thought Tommy 'A potentially big star.'
In December 1947, he made his TV debut on Leslie Henson's Christmas Eve Party.
He rapidly became a top-liner in variety with his turn as the conjurer whose tricks never succeeded, but it was his television work that raised him to national prominence. In March 1948 he started starring in his own shows, and was popular with audiences for nearly 40 years, notably through his work with London Weekend Television from 1968 to 1972 and with Thames Television from 1973 to 1980. Thanks to his many television shows during the mid-1970s, he was one of the most recognisable comedians in the world.
Tommy toured the variety theatres over the next few years, the smaller clubs allowing an intimacy between Tommy and his audience to develop. On 22 May 1950 he was given his first bona fide West End theatre engagement – Sauce Piquante – which featured many of the rising young comedians including Norman Wisdom and Bob Monkhouse..
By the late 1960’s he recorded his sixth hugely successful television series and was a well established and favourite entertainer for British television viewers of all ages. In 1964 he appeared at the London Palladium in the Royal Command Performance.
By now Tommy was one of the highest paid, most sought after television stars of his time but live performances were where he was happiest and most at home.
Much of his life was spent on the road, often turning down lucrative television deals in order to continue touring variety clubs and theatres. Touring offered him the lifestyle he wanted.
In 1969 he was voted ITV's Personality of the Year.
Between 1973 and 1980 he made 28 shows for ITV.
In 1977 Tommy had a heart attack whilst in Rome, and after lung trouble he had to forgo his affection for cigars.
His last performance in April of 1984 was from Her Majesty’s Theatre and was a live television show.