Tom Ballard has been cancelled... from the ABC again. His show, We Are All In This, makes no bones about how he feels about the liberal party and particular individuals in it.
His segment for the ABC's Melbourne Festival Gala went too far and Aunty has not aired it. But you can catch him live, in all his fury, in the Supper Room every night of the festival.
Even without the Red Bull, Ballard would still be all-in, full throttle, sparing nobody that he finds reprehensible and contrary to his gay, socialist ways. There are no filters here... which will equally please and revile audiences.
Either way, you have to give him credit for sticking to his schtick, which is funny and tightly-written, even when it pushes the envelope to the edge. To enhance his jumpy soapboxing, a TED talk-style power-point accompanies the show with loud visuals that ram the messages home.
Whatever you think of his opinions, Ballard is in prime comic form. The jokes come hard and fast; his bait and switches are tight and he smoothly mixes hard-core politics with one-liners on diverse things like Hello Fresh, exercise during lockdown and sex with witches. The mundane and highly contentious co-mingle in a non-stop hour of visual and aural barrage.
Given his material is so current (Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, the racism of Australia's founding leaders), the slides, media clips and memes enhance rather than detract from the message. The imagery is a riotous show in itself and brings the content-heavy script to life. Plus, it's also a disclaimer – "no refunds" flashes whenever Ballard drives the knife in extra hard (which is often).
Shit-show that 2020 was, Ballard, puts it into his context. Pre-Covid, Australians worried profusely about needles in strawberries... until Covid got Tom Hanks and we all took notice of something really bad. Then Boris Johnson and other conservatives started catching the virus and it became a "most effective left-wing activist."
Ballard's musings and opinions cover a lot of ground, but there's never a doubt where his sympathies lie – in lesser hands, this could easily bomb. But the heady topical mix, the well-timed delivery and the weaved-in references to his personal life make Ballard worth seeing, regardless of one's political and sexual orientations.
We Are All In This is unabashedly confrontational, biased and not particularly optimistic. It is also entertaining and thoroughly-researched. Between the in-your-face imagery, the plethora of news content and a caffeinated comic jacked up on ideology, it must be one of the most hectic, and, given the ABC's decision to not broadcast Ballard's Gala set, most controversial shows of this year's comedy festival.
A Token Event
We Are All in This
Venue: Supper Room | Melbourne Town Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 25 March – 18 April 2021
Tickets: $35 – $25