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Tom Ballard: Problematic

at Pleasance Courtyard

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Socially conscious, wicked humour from Australia’s favourite baby-faced comic

Image of Tom Ballard: Problematic

In this increasingly “politically correct” world, it sometimes seems difficult to draw the distinction between what is acceptable and what will make an Edinburgh Fringe audience laugh very nervously. Australian comedian Tom Ballard navigates these waters skillfully through a blend of anecdotes, jokes, and the occasional one-man sketch.

Ballard is an excellent stand-up comedian, partially due to his material, and partially due to his relentlessly enthusiastic delivery. His stage presence is strong and his confidence never wavers, even when he is discussing difficult topics such as the indigenous peoples of Australia and the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of the British. The entire show is extremely political but he presents a nicely balanced take on the entire “anti-PC” situation without alienating any of his more right-leaning audience.

Unlike various other stand-up routines, Ballard never loses his structure or the overarching message he wants to convey. It is rare that a comedian can make a show so focused on one issue without becoming repetitive – or preachy. Although it is clear that he holds some very strong opinions, Ballard’s gently self-deprecating air allows his jokes to land hard without being condescending.

Seeing a socially aware performer who can raise genuinely thoughtful points about the nature of comedy and offense, while simultaneously using dark humour is a refreshing change to either overly uptight comedians or those who are so derogatory that all nuance and shock value is lost. He gently mocks the audience for living in a happy left-wing bubble while admitting that he really doesn’t want to leave it. He compares capitalism to mums; they both do a lot for us, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Ballard’s politics are accessible, his one-liners are nicely delivered, and his passion for the subjects he touches on is undeniable. Problematic flits between defending political correctness and ridiculing it, with hilarious results.


Ariane is a prospective student living in Edinburgh. Her current side-quests include assembling a comprehensive list of the best Burrito places known to man and learning all the languages available on Duolingo.

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