Tom Ballard needs no introduction to comedy fans or ABC viewers alike.
The former host of Tonightly with Tom Ballard packs about as much as you could possibly imagine into a 60-minute Melbourne International Comedy Festival set. We Are All in This is a frenzied ride through the very worst things to plague society in 2020.
Ballard goes from one concern to another depressing topic with ease. We begin with COVID-19 before moving to Liberal voters (and why they’re less than people), racial inequality and finally climate change.
While none of these topics sound like rib-ticklers on the surface, Ballard barely took a moment to breathe during his set and neither did the audience – due to constant laughter. Many comedians tackle politics, but Ballard might be the one to do it the most, and is certainly the best at it in Australia. Often, political humour is funny, but the laughs are sporadic. With Ballard, it’s every sentence. This puts him in rare air.
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Many comics try to appeal to a broad audience, whereas Ballard isn’t afraid to offend. Interestingly, none of his comedy is actually offensive, but is targeted towards non-Liberal voters that believe in equality and climate change. He knows there are enough Greens and Labor voters, and people who believe in empathy and science, that he isn’t limiting his audience so much he’s unable to alienate a good chunk of comedy fans.
It’s so rare these days, particularly in Australian comedy, to see a comedian go so full on against a group of people. It works for Ballard because they are – for the most part – ‘privileged white people’. He’s always punching up or across, never down.
In 2021 a lot of people are afraid to talk about their political inclination, even comedians. Ballard isn’t afraid to impart his societal and political beliefs, with a confidence that we rarely see people who aren’t Trump supporters, Karens and your parents’ friends on Facebook.
He frantically covers all this ground, somehow finding time to tell us about finding love in lockdown and all about his boyfriend, only pausing to take a sip out of his reusable SodaStream bottle.
On top of all this, the entire show is synced to a PowerPoint presentation. You’re probably used to trying not to fall asleep to PowerPoints at work, however, this was an excellent use of the platform.
Normally, presenters who are poor speakers use the program as a crutch, but instead Ballard uses it to elevate his set. There must have been hundreds of images, animations and the odd short clip in the presentation. It would’ve taken hundreds of hours of rehearsal to get used to clicking to the next slide at the right time, but Ballard made it look effortless.
Nearly every joke was further punctuated by an image and several times when he said something slightly more controversial, ‘(SORRY NO REFUNDS)’ flashed on the screen briefly, turning laughs into side-splitters.
Tom Ballard delivers an absolute comedy masterclass with We Are All in This, and is a festival stand out that you simply must go and see. For extra laughs, take that uncle who voted for John Howard four times in a row along with you.
We Are All in This is on from now until Sunday April 18 (bar Mondays) as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2021. Tickets available here.