Impressive, bold stuff from the Aussie stand-up
It’s the hottest September evening that’s ever happened ever, and the air conditioning has broken in the Soho Theatre’s upstairs room. Welcome to bikram stand-up. And it might seem trite to say it, but it’s testament to Tom Ballard’s comic abilities that a) everyone stayed and b) he made us forget about the sweat dripping from our various particulars.
The World Keeps Happening comes highly recommended for the punter, and for Ballard himself it feels like a step up a few notches. His acclaimed debut show was a good’un, and focused more on himself and his sexuality. But in his follow-up – The World Keeps Happening – he takes a look outside, before quickly shutting the curtains in disgust and writing some gags. It’s not a political show per se – Ballard makes states quite clearly that he’s no pro satirist with all the facts at his disposal, and that his hosting of an Australian politics TV show was a mistake for all concerned. But it is a show that engages with what’s happening around us. He does at least read the news. Or at least the headlines.
The list of subjects might read as being generic – terrorism, refugees, homophobia, sexism, the bankruptcy of our political leaders – and the show is a fairly superficial sweep, but Ballard does a terrific job of bringing freshness to these areas. The jokes are strong, the ideas are original. On top of that, Ballard has a boldness to him, which leads us into some darker areas that would be bungled in less skilful hands. Non-generic current affairs-y comedy is more of a precious commodity than it should be, unfortunately, especially among younger stand-ups. But Ballard proves he’s more than capable. In fact, it’s noticeable that the trickier the subject, the better his routines. He rises to the challenge.
Ballard’s buoyant disposition could keep a cruise liner afloat, so sustaining an hour about how fucked the world is presents no problems. It’s hard to pick out many weaknesses in his game, except perhaps the clubby section before the main bulk of the show, which was about drinking and his phone obsessions, and really was generic. But from that point on, he proved himself to be a stand-up with talent beyond his 26 years.
Review by Paul Fleckney