Tom Ballard is a young comedian and presenter whose reputation seems to be growing by the day. After being nominated for the Best Newcomer prize at the Fringe in 2015 for Taxis & Rainbows & Hatred, he scooped a nomination for Best Comedy Show in 2016 for The World Keeps Happening, which we liked very much. We asked him about his latest hour, Problematic, his political approach to comedy, and the indelible influence of his music teacher.
Can you tell us a bit about your new show, and why people should come and see it?
It’s an hour-long exploration of political correctness, identity, the Australian outback, Jimmy Carr and (briefly) dinosaurs. It’s very very very very very very very funny or at least I think so and that’s the main thing.
You were nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year. Does that give you a certain cachet this year, or does it add pressure?
If anything it’s a distraction. It’s going to be tough for me walking the cobbled streets of the Scottish capital, trying not to think about the fact that in the eyes of many of my fellow comedians, I am now a kind of god-like figure. I’ll try to stay focused and remain chill.
You’ve become well known for your activism and increasingly incorporated it into your stand-up. How do you go about mining the humour from such serious subject matter?
Most jokes are about something being wrong in the world: a mistake, a hypocrisy or just straight up bullshit, whether it be the fake way people act on Facebook or a nation state’s inhumane refugee policies. Politicians, the media and the way we treat each other are just all so insane and ridiculous, I find the only rational response is to laugh at it all. Otherwise we’d just cry and stay in all day watching Love Island*.
(*Please note I also do this quite a bit.)
Who are your comedy heroes and how have they influenced your own comedy?
When I was in Year 8 our large Italian music teacher Mr. Pohlenz was standing on a plastic chair and it twisted beneath him and he fell down. Every day of my life I try as hard as I can to be half as funny as that.
What are the best and worst aspects of the Fringe?
The best aspects are friendship with other comedians, seeing inspiring stuff and the Mac’n’Cheese truck.
The worst aspects are having to live with comedians for a month, seeing stuff that’s so good it’s annoying and the colonic implications of eating a lot of Mac’n’Cheese.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe? Are there any hidden gems that may not be getting the attention they deserve?
I can’t wait to see Simon Amstell again, he’s always hilarious and fascinating. Hidden gems who just so happen to be my friends include silly silly clowns Zach & Viggo, the scathing and brilliant Becky Lucas and the chuckle factory Nath Valvo.