This post is totally late to the Hannah Gadsby -party, but bear with. A friend told me to absolutely watch Gadsby’s stand-up show Nanette on Netflix, and she kept checking whether I had so insistently that I finally decided to give it a go. Very glad I did.
Now, unless you are me, you’ve probably already seen Gadsby’s show and googled her and read all her interviews and reviews and written a PhD about the anatomy of her comedy routine. Because I’m me, I only watched the global cultural phenomenon Nanette the other day. It was definitely worth the monthly Netflix-subscription (that I never really use, but keep paying in case things like Nanette and/or further episodes of Gilmore Girls come up).
So much has been written about Nanette that I shall not attempt to give you an academic study about its significance. In all shortness, Hannah Gadsby is a lesbian stand-up comedian from Tasmania. Why is it relevant that she’s a lesbian? Because her whole story is about her identity. Have we not seen enough feminist lesbian comediennes to kind of be over someone being a lesbian and make fun of it? This is the main difference, I guess, between Gadsby and many comedy-routines that are all about self-deprecating jokes about one’s sexual preferences: Gadsby’s one-hour show is about reconstructing herself and at the same time reconstructing the anatomy of a stand-up gig. Nanette is not about making fun about her being a lesbian.
So what’s so funny, then? Actually, it’s not so much about her being ha-ha funny than about her delivering an absolutely stunning 60-minute monologue that pokes right into the raw wounds of today’s society: Sexism, misogyny, homophobia, sexual violence, the worship of false gods, perverse need to preserve the reputation of people of power. Queerness, exclusion. Politics, culture, art history, comedy, patriarchy, what’s considered funny. How broken people rebuild themselves.
My experiences during and after watching Nanette were pretty much the following:
– It forced me to look at myself. It was not about me laughing with her at her difficulties with coming to terms with her sexuality. It was me feeling her pain and at the same time being forced to thinking “am I part of the society she’s describing?”
– I was almost taken aback by her anger at some parts of the show. Not because she was not entitled to her fury, but because I’m so used to seeing comedians acting angry, and then quickly firing a punchline to relieve the tension that then erupts in the audience’s ha-ha. To see someone really furiouson stage – you don’t see it that often.
– I was definitely sure I was not watching stand-up the way I knew stand-up – I was watching an astonishing performance so well written and performed that I still am not able to present all my thoughts about in a coherent manner. Nanette was a finetuned, rehearsed act without being calculated.
– I am sure many who have seen her performance would agree that yes, we hear and read about stuff like that happen to people all the time – it’s just that I had never hear anyone speak about it like Gadsby. The construction of her arguments, examples and metaphors was stunning (literally: I felt like having been hit by a sledgehammer afterwards).
– I cried. Because of her strength, and because of her vulnerability, and because I’d never seen/heard a show like that.
– Totally agree with her re. Picasso.
– I absolutely recommend you watch Nanette. I put the official trailer above.
Do watch it, really. If there ever was an epic mike-drop, I’m putting Gadsby’s Nanette right up there.