Comedy review: Tom Ballard: Problematic

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Like many comedians at the Fringe, Tom Ballard has taken the wake-up calls of Brexit, President Trump and the resurgence of far-right senator Pauline Hanson in his own nation Australia, as a nudge to seek answers for the world’s problems outside his liberal bubble.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)


As an educated white man, he acknowledges that he’s enjoyed all the privileges, with even the fact that he’s gay tempered by being able to pass for straight and his willingness to do whatever’s required to sleep his way to the top.

Unlike most comics he’s taken a step outside his comfort zone by participating in an Australian reality show called First Contact, in which white celebrities are taken to engage with Aboriginal people. The series had a huge effect on Ballard, not just in the gallows humour deployed by the indigenous Australians towards their guests, but because one of Ballard’s fellow celebrities was Hanson’s former lover, David Oldfield, a blinkered bigot and psychopath in Ballard’s estimation, with both elements complicating his view of political correctness.

PC is a knotty problem for the eloquent, thoughtful comic as he ascribes to the underlying principles of respect, tolerance and protection for minorities but finds its excesses laughable. He also advocates for comedy being a special case where the usual rules don’t apply, identifying the warped thinking behind a misogynistic, homophobic routine by a famous comedian to general tuts of disapproval in the crowd, before contextualising it as part of a roast battle he took part in with the comic in Montreal. Demonstrating that he can write his own hurtful, brutal gags, Ballard keeps his mind open, keen not to be seen as preaching to his liberal choir as much as possible, but proving insightful on a timely, pressing issue.

Until tomorrow. Today 8.30pm.