There's an atmosphere of ease that begins with Tom Ballard greeting us, beer in hand, at the door. There are laughs from the outset – and this show has lots of deep, hearty ones, the kind that you can just feel boosting the immune system and decreasing the stress hormones.
A lot of the time it's hard to see them coming too, a factor that makes Ballard particularly funny. His jokes and general observations arrive on the back of fairly innocuous stories, like little comedy grenades creating explosions of laughter. Nor does he look like he's going to be funny either; there are no quirks in his voice or manner that would seem to aid his delivery. It's all about excellent writing, quick thinking, clever turns of phrase and spot-on timing.
Ballard also has a particular way of describing situations and stories that enables us to really visualise them, enhancing the humour therein. On the one hand, his material centres on pop culture, with topics such as Pokémon Go, Grindr and party culture. But then it's contrasted and interestingly balanced with astute observations and satire of the political and social climate. From time to time, he launches into high-speed linguistic rants akin to spoken word pieces: precise, clear and impressive. One of these, his polemic against misogyny, so entirely hit the nail on the head it resulted on this evening in a round of appreciative applause. He also has much to say about homophobia, racism and intolerance (in particular relation to the refugee crisis).
Some of his humour sails riskily close to offence, including gags on 9/11 and terrorism – but his good-natured persona, combined with the intelligence and point-making purpose of his writing, prevents it from crossing the line. His closing segment has drug use as the topic, and while he says he's not encouraging it, the material does seem to glamorise it to some degree. The responsibility of this is highly questionable, and this section was also in my opinion the weakest, being overly juvenile and therefore not the best choice of ending for a show which is otherwise so good.
Ballard doesn't resort to gimmicks though, and creates something thought-provoking at times. It doesn’t matter that his topics aren't startlingly original, as his ability to engage and keep us laughing is undeniably strong. The World Keeps Happening is an easy show to recommend and Tom Ballard is a comedian I'll certainly be going to see again.