Tom Ballard: We Are All in This
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You won't see him on the ABC, so make sure you catch Tom Ballard's brilliant show live
A funny thing happened on the way to Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2021. Not funny like haha, as that's kind of the go. Funny like strange. The strange thing is that most of the comedians in this year's festival seem to have completely forgotten about last year. Wil Anderson is doing the same show he did in 2018. Adam Hills is doing the same show that he wrote for last year's festival (which was cancelled, for obvious reasons), including anecdotes about things like playing rugby in England and carrying babies on planes. Zoe Coombs Marr's show is about dick jokes in the '90s. Dilruk Jayasinha is doing a show about dating.
Many of these are great shows, but none of them seem very, well, now. Was there nothing to respond to in the events of last year? Does no one remember that our prime minister jetted off on a Hawaiian holiday while a third of the continent burned in January? Or remember being locked in our homes for months while a deadly virus raged outside? How about when a police officer murdered George Floyd in the United States, sparking Black Lives Matter protests the world over?
Someone does remember, and that someone is Tom Ballard. His show We Are All in This is all about the garbage fire that was 2020, not an easy subject to make hilarious. Ballard knows he's facing an uphill task, with transitions like, "But enough about coronavirus, what a downer! This is a comedy show, so let's move onto something much more fun." Pause. "Structural racism."
The show is brave, biting, ballsy and ultimately, brilliant. "Fuck, I'm angry!" screams Ballard at one point, and there is a lot to be angry about, from Australia's racist history (and present) through to catastrophic climate change. But it's not just an hour of white-hot rage. It's an hour of absolutely hilarious white-hot rage. Ballard is an incredibly skilled comedian, finding laughter in tragedy, joy in fury. It's a delicate tightrope to walk, but Ballard absolutely nails it. Every joke lands, and he has complete control of his audience from go to whoa. The frenetic pace is matched with an expertly timed slideshow, to remind everyone of exactly how shithouse last year was.
You might have already heard that We Are All in This was too much for the ABC. Ballard did a snippet for the opening night gala, which is traditionally aired nationally later in the week. But Aunty decided Ballard's bit "risked offending viewers" and pulled it. The offensive bits in question? Well, it might have been when he said: "I’m not saying Liberal voters are bad people. I’m saying they’re not people. They’re cold-blooded lizards ruining the country who should go back to the hellmouth from where they came." He held up his hands. "Just jokes!" he shouted gleefully. But he then started in again, ending with: "I hope you choke on your own franking credits, you evil greedy fascist soulless pig dogs." It all led to conservative commentator Andrew Bolt calling Ballard a "true barbarian".
Ballard is not for everyone, and I doubt anyone who wishes the Coalition a long and happy reign will find it to their taste. But if you like your humour political and you have been longing to find someone to talk about the dumpster fire that was 2020, this show is a must-see.