Tom Ballard: “Please do not stop making risky!”

Tom Ballard has made an impassioned plea to ABC executives to keep making risky comedy shows.

In his final episode of Tonightly, Ballard thanked cast and crew before a direct address to the ABC executives who axed his show after 9 months on air.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the ABC,” he said.

“I have a fundamental love of this place. I think the ABC is incredible and we are so lucky to have made this show at all. Thank you dear friends at the ABC for making the show happen at all. It is sad that it’s ending now but it just could not have happened anywhere else. Maybe at SBS perhaps on half the shit budget but that we had. It is incredible there have been (people) at this network who have championed the show and made it work so thank you so much.

“We have to value the ABC. This place is incredible. It’s under threat a little bit at the moment, it feels like that… but I’m so thankful for the ABC. Not just because they give me jobs sometimes, but as a viewer and as a listener as an Australian I really think that this place is vital for our culture and for our country.

“And if you love the ABC please let people know about it, please defend it and cherish it.

“Please, please, please do not stop making things like this. Please do not stop making risky and subversive and fun…. and bat-shit crazy and boundary-pushing shit like Tonightly. Particularly stuff for young people.

“Keep making stuff, keep taking risks. It’s not happening anywhere else on mainstream, Free to Air Australian television.”

Tonightly was axed due to its low ratings on ABC Comedy after launching last December as the new channel’s flagship show. Charged with producing a nightly satire, it attracted an online cult following but also found itself in hot water over controversial sketches (being recently cleared by the ACMA watchdog).

Last night a free-wheeling Ballard acknowledged the show hadn’t been perfect, but also drew attention to moments of glory.

“Sometimes it was really shit! I’m on screen most of the time. I’ll take the cop for that. I do a lot of shit things on television and you sat through it -or you you didn’t and that’s why it’s ending,” he joked.

“Sometimes we were really quite good. And then every once in a while I think we were extraordinary. I really believe that. Every now and again we were making some of the funniest and most interesting and different and original and important comedy on Australian television.

“And I’m so proud of that, particular over the past couple of months. I’m so so proud of that and I think that should be acknowledged.”


  1. Firstly, I think it is incredibly disingenuous for Tom and his shows’ supporters to make out like the axing was anything other than due to diabolical ratings. That’s got nothing to do with the general risk appetite of the ABC or the influence of politicians or News Ltd or whoever else might be the bogeyman of the present. The fact is that more people probably watched the infomercial channels on FTA. The general audience just didn’t like Tom. Secondly, David, would you be kind enough to post the final ratings figure for the show? Ta!

  2. I agree with some of other the commentators here. If the comedy was so good and actually funny enough to create buzz and word of mouth, then it might have found better audience numbers and eventually been promoted to the main channel. It’s not risky or edgy or whatever other descriptions you care to use if the scripts are full of expletive crude language and juvenile undergraduate far left leaning dialogue. For a lesson on balanced Australian satirical humour that’s actually funny, and yet takes on the establishment but without resort to crude language or topics – look at Mad As Hell or The Weekly. It’s not an argument to blame budgets. Compared to the average commercial networks’ primetime budgets those two shows’ budgets would be minuscule – yet their ratings are quite solid for ABC against the competition. It simply doesn’t cost anything to write clever funny words that hit…

  3. Risky TV is now a real problem in this new world that is so easily outraged. I really loved this show but looks like the ABC buckled to the right wing pollies and their media mates.

    • The ABC cancelled the show because it was scoring around 25,000 to 35,000 viewers each night. The costs were too high to justify the audience reach. Even the last show could only muster 44,000 viewers. I think you’ll find few will even notice this show is gone, if they even noticed it existed.

      • It was never going to get big figures on this multi-channel. It was cancelled because the ABC never had the balls to put it on the main channel. The fact that this show has created so much discussion proves that it was edgy and different. Hey channel 9, get rid of The Footy Show and give Tom Ballard a go.

  4. It wasn’t risky or edgy – it just wasn’t funny. Tonightly equated ‘risky’ comedy with using the word c***.
    Tom Ballard and Tonightly writers – watch ‘Who Is America’ for risky, edgy comedy. Sacha Baron Cohen did in 6 episodes what you weren’t able to do in 9 months of being on air.

    • Because nobody watched it, nobody saw the times the programme did.

      Here’s one obvious one: the “‘Straya Divided” segment “One Nation voters vs Greens voters”. Here’s another: “Tonightly At The Greens National Conference”.

      Both available on the ABC Comedy channel on YouTube…

        • If that’s being set as the level required to be considered ‘criticism’, then it’s going to be impossible to satisfy. It would require the Greens to be in a position to actually have enough power to do something Tom disagrees with – which they aren’t.

          (c.f. “punching up” vs “punching down”…)

          Or instead of assuming it’d never happen, we can just wait & see how Tom treats Greens when they’re in power 🤣

          I _could_ point to examples of equally-vitriolic language used by right-wing comedians like Jones, Bolt, Pickering, etc towards Greens. But that’s best left as homework for those who are genuinely curious, and not just trying to score points for their team…

          (All this is also why the continual bleating for “Balance! Balance! The ABC must show balance!” is garbage. It only comes from one side, and actual balance is dismissed…)

          • Tex”If that’s being set as the level required to be considered ‘criticism’, then it’s going to be impossible to satisfy. ”

            No it isn’t, it just requires them to be remotely critical…..not that hard, except for this show and the ABC… here is tip for somethings he could have been critical on. Greg Barber, former Greens Leader in Victoria, is alleged to have made some pretty controversial and sexist comments about women in his party. Richard Di Natale was alleged to have underpaid Au Pairs he hired. Lee Rhiannon made some choice comment in her resignation speech from the Senate about her own party. Did Tonightly deal with those? no they looked everywhere but there.

            Tex”It only comes from one side, and actual balance is dismissed.”

            You may want to rephrase that, the ABC is meant to be balanced

          • @TonyWilson:
            > “here is tip for somethings he could have been critical on.”

            Then I suggest looking a bit further than the e.g’s I gave & not limiting to a specific word as a criteria to establish “criticism”. You may find the sort of thing you’re (not really) looking for.

            > “You may want to rephrase that, the ABC is meant to be balanced”

            My point is the call for balance itself is BS. It’s a slogan, from one side determined to play victim _even when they have the power_, used as a cudgel for beating the ABC, & not a genuine call for change.

            And FYI it’s not part of the ABC’s charter*…

            So no, the ABC is not “meant to be balanced”, & in respect to non-news shows little would change if it was.

            Enough politicing…

            (* There’s currently a bill to add it in reference to _news & information_, but the Gov’t hasn’t touched it for 6 months.)

          • Tex”My point is the call for balance itself is BS. It’s a slogan, from one side determined to play victim _even when they have the power_, used as a cudgel for beating the ABC, & not a genuine call for change.’

            From the ABC”The ABC’s charter and editorial policies commit us to fair, accurate and impartial reporting of all issues and that is what we aim for every day on every issue.”

            By the way, few will miss Tonightly, it was not smart nor particularly risky. The word “juvenile” comes to mind. Hopefully Mr Ballard will work on show with a stronger producer who will rein in his swearing and concentrate on comedy

          • Let’s not confuse news reportage with comedy / satire / drama etc. As points are going over same arguments this one needs to move on methinks.

  5. Goodnight, Tonightly, you will be missed. I’d be lying if I said my attention hadn’t drifted from the show since it started, but at its best it was hilarious and thought-provoking. Tom’s climate change speech the other night will remain one of the best things I have seen on tv for a long time…but I think I will miss Oily Man most of all. (As an aside, News Breakfast appears to have been conspicuously silent about Tonightly when they’re only too happy to show whatever Sammy J’s doing.)

      • My aside wasn’t intended as a criticism of Sammy J, his Antiques Roadshow-style look at a “stable government” was brilliant. I don’t know if News Breakfast ever highlighted any of Tonightly’s bits, that’s all, especially if they were worth highlighting. Too sweary?

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