Tom Ballard: Since 1989

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

In basing a show almost entirely around his break-up from Gen Y pin-up Josh Thomas, Tom Ballard could easily stand accused of hitching a ride on the coat-tails of a much more high-profile comedian.

Good job, then, that this turns out to be a funny, clued-up, confident and astoundingly honest offering from a comedian rightly being touted as one of Australia’s finest new talents.

The title underlines the Triple J host’s youth, and his audience are almost entirely from a similar demographic. The average age of my row doubled when I took a seat. But despite a few introductory ‘you know you’re old when…’ quips, this is comedy with appeal across the generations.

He begins with a few standalone stand-up routines to showcase his likeable, approachable personality. He defuses empty High School insults, impersonates a middle-aged aunt dancing at a family wedding and cracks gags about Josef Fritzl and Aids, which serve more to establish where he’s putting the taste boundaries (far out), rather than being that hilarious in themselves.

Extracts from his mother’s diary, which describe Tom’s development in a strange mix of casual indifference and trivial obsessions, bookend the meat of his show, which revolve a certain Network Ten panel-show captain – imaginatively represented here by a novelty stuffed cat from Asia.

That we all know his former paramour adds a definite frisson to Ballard’s anecdotes, especially in the moments of brutal frankness about their sex life. But this is no opportunistic root-and-tell expose, but a successful attempt to describe their relationship and the heartache that followed when young love ran its course. Ballard’s honesty invites the audience to put an emotional investment into the show, that you wouldn’t get with, say, observational shtick about air travel.

Yet Ballard never gets self-absorbed, nor loses sight of the fact that this is a comedy show, not therapy. While his feelings inform the funnies, it’s the witty storytelling and well-developed comic timing which ensures the audience’s laughter.

He can be cuttingly cruel in his gags, yet even when he says the most potentially offensive line, there’s an affable glint in his voice that softens the blow. Ballard might only be young, but this is an impressively mature display of his incontrovertible comic gifts.

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 9 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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