If you’re looking for fresh stand-up comedy this Fringe, you could do much worse than Tom Ballard. He may not be a household name on the British comedy scene yet, but there is evidence to suggest he is on the brink of great things.
In its structure and delivery the show was a masterpiece
Although he does (accurately) describe himself at one point as “baby-faced”, it would be unfair to describe Ballard as ‘up-and-coming’. He has already had not inconsiderable success performing in Australia and at last year’s Fringe, where he was nominated for the Foster’s Best Newcomer award – accomplishments he refers to throughout the show in well-timed parodic arrogance as “my awards.” But he has surpassed himself here in an hour of fantastic wit.
His show is more than just regular stand-up: he is a clever guy with a clear, interesting message here. Taking on what he describes as “the bubble” of middle-class privilege, he gently mocks us and our pretensions while also making clear his own. He balances mockery of others and self-deprecation in a way that is rare in stand-up. Because of that, he manages to create a rapport and an empathy with the audience from the first sentence.
Although these moments of self-awareness and self-referential humour are in many ways the strongest part of the show, they grate at times. The parts where Ballard reminds us that some of us had clearly not enjoyed the joke he just said or criticises an aspect of his own ego or act, while funny once or twice and always perfectly-delivered, began to genuinely lose some of the crowd as the hour went on. The high-concept nature of the show means everything is up for grabs in terms of meta-humour – and being reminded of this so constantly was a bit of an overkill.
However, in its structure and delivery the show was a masterpiece. The politics of privilege are incredibly important and, as he acknowledges himself, they are infrequently raised by white male comics. He is fearless and made me genuinely question some things, and there is little doubt that this Fringe run will do great things for Ballard.