Soho Theatre, Soho, London, 05/08/2019.
Up until last year Tom Ballard used to host his own show on Australian tv, a satirical take on the news called Tonightly, but unfortunately viewing figures were terrible (Ballard drily mentions that it was once beaten in the ratings by a repeat of Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo) and it was cancelled. So now Ballard’s over in the UK for two years, performing stand up and examining just how not only his own but all of our lives have gone pretty damn wrong.
That might seem a little downbeat but it’s certainly not the case in the slightest. Ballard has a light touch as he touches on the disastrous situation Brexit has become, the abject cunt that is Boris Johnson, and he discusses how the rest of the world views Australia in a plethora of very funny ways. The above is all setting the scene however as the main thrust of his show is just how much he hates capitalism, and he makes a strong argument over the course of the hour as to why we should do away with a system which is clearly failing us.
The largest part of this revolves around the fact that 85% of the population absolutely hate their jobs, and how absurd are lives are given that we spend so much time at work. Hell, even Ballard hates his job despite the fact that he only works one hour a day, as he feels like a Dickensian villain who sells laughter for a living, turning in a great impression of such a character that still makes me laugh when I remember it today.
Following on from this he discusses all of the jobs he’s had and why he disliked them, even when he was “The Lord of the Leash”, a dog walker aged just eleven, and had to clean up shit for a living. After this he dissects the lyrics to Dolly Parton’s hit song 9 to 5, explaining just how bleak they are, how according to Parton working causes mental illness, along with the irony that it’s sung in a joyous manner. It’s very strong material and impossible to argue with, and made all the funnier when Ballard performs it as if it were a Slipknot song.
It’s not all based around his view of how capitalism has failed us, he lightens up the set with a few other stories including what happened when he called a politician a cunt on his tv show, and the time he visited a gay sauna while dressed as a rock lobster, which is a long but very amusing story with a great pay off. But as amusing as these parts were I have to confess to preferring him rant about the evils of capitalism as it was definitely his strongest material, and the moments which made me laugh the most.
Very slightly frustratingly Ballard complained about the audience not laughing enough at a couple of points, which is something I really struggle with when it comes to comedians doing such a thing, but the majority of the set was an absolute delight, an impassioned rant as to why society has gone so terribly wrong, ending on a suggestion as to how things could change. I’m pretty sure it’s too late for that and we’re fucked as a society, but I’m glad that people like Ballard exist and spread such sentiments, and do so in a hilariously memorable way too.