THE days and nights of Warrnambool comedian Tom Ballard have been filled with the highs and lows of reality television.
But it’s not because Ballard has had plenty of spare time on his hands since finishing up as a triple j breakfast host last year — this is research for his first foray into the professions of ‘TV show host’.
The comedian will be the face of a new ABC show called Reality Check, “a panel show about the ins and outs of reality television”, according to the national broadcaster’s announcement of the program.
“I get to claim live-tweeting about The Voice Kids as work and can claim my Justice Crew merchandise as tax deductions,” Ballard joked. “It’s the most fun show to research.
“We’ve got an email chain going at work full of clips that are just gold — you know when you’re at a party and someone starts showing you awesome YouTube clips? It’s like that at work.”
While not a die-hard for reality TV shows, Ballard has his favourites. He loves American drag queen show RuPaul’s Drag Race and UK dinner party program Come Dine With Me, admits to being a fan of Masterchef, and speaks fondly of growing up watching Australian Idol.
And although he can’t relate to shows about house renovations and said shows such as the short-lived Excess Baggage and Celebrity Dog School, Reality Check is not just about dissing the genre.
“We’re not reality TV snobs — we’re going to celebrate the good stuff and look at the dodgy stuff,” he explained.
“I think people will be surprised about how much they enjoy the show, even if they are reality TV snobs.”
Ballard said the show would be topical, highlighting those times when reality TV has crossed into the real world, such when politicians found themselves discussing turkey slapping following an infamous Big Brother episode or when a Big Brother evictee taped his mouth shut as a refugee protest.
“There’s a million conversations to have.
“There are big stories here and overseas, and we’ve got the whole history of reality television to draw on, with different shows in different countries.
“There’s the insane s--- from Nigeria’s Got Talent and there are 49 Big Brother houses around the world.
“Six of the 10 most watched shows (in Australia) are reality shows.”
Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder are producing the show and are the brains behind the Gruen shows, The Checkout, Go Back To Where You Came From, and many more.
“I like (CJZ) because they make TV for an audience with a brain — it doesn’t matter whatever it is they’re talking about,” he said.
“They had this (show) in their back pocket ... I’d been working with CJZ, who are very kindly fans of mine.
“It was just the right timing — I was there with my nose pushed up against the glass, they said ‘do you want to have a crack at this?’, we workshopped it and then it got the green light.”
Ballard jokes Reality Check is the latest step in his attempt “to rip off Wil Anderson’s career”, who also went from stand-up, to triple j, and then on to host some CJZ-produced shows.
In actual fact, Anderson was one of the first people Ballard contacted to discuss the Reality Check hosting job.
“He’s my comedy big brother,” Ballard explained.
“Wil has a really big profile but he’ll take time to give up-and-coming comics their due.
“He kindly picked me for opening slots on his tours.
“The other day I had a Skype chat about this show with him because his Gruen stuff was in the same ballpark.
“I owe a lot of my career to that guy.”
Reality Check will premiere on Wednesday, August 13 at 9pm on ABC.