Review by Flora Norton
Tom Ballard is by no means a stranger to regulars at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and his set at the Melbourne Town Hall this year does not dot fail to entertain. His energy immediately invigorates the crowd and despite a year plagued with uncertainty and tragedy, he makes it clear that nothing is so bad that it cannot be laughed at.
What with the bushfires, the black lives matter protests and the global pandemic, there are few whose lives have not been directly shaken by the events of 2020. You would not be blamed for thinking that stand-up comedy may not be the most appropriate platform to discuss what has been such a traumatic year for many, but Ballard does so unashamedly, deftly picking apart the events that have unfolded with ferociously dark wit.
Ballard is charismatic and self-deprecating and flagrantly open with his opinions and beliefs. Toeing the line between entertaining and lecturing, Ballard keeps the audience on their toes by cynically exposing the hypocrisies of even the most ‘woke’ among us and making it abundantly clear that he has no space or time for bigots.
Aided by a slideshow, Ballard proves his reputation as one of Australia’s most intelligent comedians by adding a unique visual element to the set. The slideshow confirms the extent to which Ballard understands and connects with his audience by repeatedly predicting our responses to his most controversial jokes and providing immediate comic relief.
Yet Ballard does not merely tackle world problems and political controversies, he also shares personal anecdotes and opens up to us about his relationships, both past and present, inviting us to laugh along with his insecurities and share in his newly found love. With the audience on side, Ballard lulls us into a false sense of security as his show seemingly reaches a more wholesome and optimistic close. Preaching unity and stoicism, Ballard has the audience momentarily forgive the corrupt, ignorant, and bigoted that have been the butt of so many of his jokes, before returning to the stage and shattering the illusion, reminding us that we are not, in fact, all in this together, and we never will be.
“We are all in this” is a show that, whilst poking fun at the idea that we are all united in one of the most divisive periods in recent history, also completely consumes the audience and permits us to laugh and relax despite what we have all, collectively endured.
Regardless of the heavy content and dark undertones of his sketch, Ballard remains charming and infectiously funny, his show being as much eye opening as it is deeply therapeutic. An absolute must see for anyone in need of comic relief, although admittedly, perhaps not the most welcoming for those who vote liberal.