The feel good story from yesterday was the ABC announcing that it was axing its flagship program on its ABC Comedy channel Tonightly with Tom Ballard. ABC Comedy was launched in December 2017 with the aim of fostering the development of Australian comedy, including promoting the next generation of comedians.
Tonightly was the centerpiece of ABC Comedy molding itself on the late night comedy shows in the United States such as the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, trying to put a satirical spin on the day’s news. Ballard from the beginning boasted the show would be deliberately lowbrow in its humour calling it”undergraduate filth”.
Tonightlly and the ABC Comedy channel as a whole, like the ABC in general quickly gained a reputation for its blatant leftist slant on current events and worst of all just not being funny. Ballard was assisted by three correspondents Greg Larsen, Greta Lee Jackson, Nina Oyama who all shared his leftist worldview and thought that simply mocking those on the right was comedy in itself.
Larson was responsible for show’s most vile slur against conservatives presenting a segment where he displayed the campaign poster for Australian Conservatives candidate for Batman as saying Kevin Baley is a c**t. Despite complaints from Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield they were cleared by the industry watchdog over the segment, although they did apologize to Bailey they still defended airing the segment.
Jackson and Oyama’s contributions were appearing in sketch called ‘The Internet Song’ which attacked critics of the ABC children’s channel ‘The Privilege Song’ as alt-right loser troll’s attacking a children’s show, when in reality they were people who did not like the ABC pushing identity and victim politics to children. Jackson also appeared as the devil during Easter to celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus. The show also aired a segment with a number of female actresses thanking men for spiking their drinks and rape culture.
Even with all this controversy Tom Ballard and the Tonightly program appeared to be teflon. When Ballard was accused of sexually assaulting fellow comedian JooYung Roberts four years ago he was not stood down from his hosting duties. A man in a similar position to Ballard’s actor Craig McLaughlin was stood down from his role in the stage production of the Rocky Horror Show after three female cast members accused him of sexual misconduct.
In Ballard’s case his denials were enough for ABC management to continue production of the show despite their claim that “The ABC takes any allegation of harassment very seriously and does not condone or tolerate any inappropriate behaviour”. Part of Ballard’s defence was that he had been a supporter of #MeToo “I abhor sexual assault and sexual violence. I absolutely support the philosophy of the #MeToo movement”. Many suspected because Ballard is gay he was treated differently than if he was a heterosexual male accused of sexual assault against a female comedian.
Despite it being renewed in April in the end the ABC thought Tonightly wasn’t worth the trouble and announced that it would be airing its final episode on September 7. The official statement from the ABC said while they were “proud of the program and its role in supporting some of Australia’s best emerging comedy talent” that “Attracting younger audiences requires bold approaches and we continually experiment with new content and new formats particularly on digital platform” and “It is now time for a fresh approach”. In other words Tonightly failed to meet its basic task of keeping its key audience entertained and laughing.
Ballard when commenting on the axing of Tonightly couldn’t help but take one final swipe at conservative critics of the show “My sincere thanks go to the brilliant Tonightly team, the ABC, the fans and Cory Bernardi”.
One also hopes that the end of Tonightly kickstarts a reworking of the ABC Comedy channel as a whole. It’s NextGen comedian clips went viral not because they were funny, but because they were lame and cringeworthy. Demi Lardner’s Dad’s Google History stand up routine was viewed as the perfect example of how modern comedy had been captured by the social justice lobby and was restoring to child-like humour in an effort not offend anyone and be politically correct. But we won’t be holding our breathe for the ABC to engage in any serious self reflection. Leftist preaching dressed up as satire is still available on the ABC in the form of the Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
Overall the end of Tonightly is a win, even though the ABC claims it doesn’t care about the ratings if only 50,000 people are watching your show then it is very embarrassing to continue to put such a program to air. Tom Ballard and the rest of the cast and crew will have to go back to making a living at comedy on the free market rather than having it paid for by the taxpayers. Goodnightly Tonightly, turns out the last laugh will not be yours.