It’s a very sharp suit that Tom Ballard is wearing tonight. With a cheeky grin never far from his lips, and a body posture that’s all about nervous excitement and eagerness, he looks like a comedian at the top of his game. And indeed, for most of Enough, that’s exactly what he is. You can’t help but like Ballard. He’s confident and bombastic, with just enough of a vein of constant self-deprecation to save him from vapid arseholery. He alternates between slouching against the back wall, looking for all the world like a naughty schoolboy outside the headmaster’s office, and bouncing along the front of the Monkey Barrel stage enthusiastically shouting about Slipknot.
He’s on strong form tonight, and we realise that he’s going to have a good gig at about the same moment he does. It’s a good crowd tonight, lively and totally on-board, and Ballard thrives on it. Tonight, he’s taking on the monumental task of deconstructing – and possibly even replacing – Capitalism. To be fair to him, it’s a bit more than just a gimmick, and he gives it a fair go, outlining his problems with the current global system and some possible radical solutions. This isn’t a political diatribe, though. Enough isn’t actually a particularly political show – except that it is. It’s simply an hour of jokes about the things that have happened to Ballard recently, and the things that are affecting him at the moment. So far, so hack, but because of the nature of Ballard as a stand-up and the nature of the world he inhabits, it’s an unavoidably political piece right from the outset.
Occasionally, Ballard becomes a bit repetitive, with a couple of similar sections striking the same notes in sequence. Generally, though, his joke construction is sophisticated and well thought out. He’s not afraid to disdain the easy laugh in favour of a delayed, but cleverer and deeper-layered joke two minutes down the line. It’s not all cerebral either: Ballard is a man unafraid of a fart joke, even if his is a particularly sophisticated one that requires a ten-minute setup and multiple callbacks.
Ballard recently lost his full-time job as host of a successful TV show in Australia, and has been roughly thrown back out into the world as a touring comic once again. He mines that for laughs, of course, and presents himself as a long-suffering fortune’s fool, but there’s no real bitterness. Ballard’s home is in front of a live microphone, and he can’t hide his essential optimism and joy for long.