❉ Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix comedy special, Nanette, is like no other. But then Hannah herself is like no other.
Born and raised in rural Tasmania, Hannah Gadsby faced the usual problems anybody born gay experiences in rural areas across the world: rejection, misunderstanding, violence and bullying. She turned these experiences into a well-regarded comedy act, and became known to international audiences for her brilliantly subtle turn in ABC’s comedy-drama series Please Like Me.
For her Netflix special, she stands alone against a plain backdrop and tells jokes, all of them with a centre that is true and often painful. She leads her audience well, and we’re soon comfortable laughing with her and, when she invites it, at her.
But as the set continues, she points out that laughing at her, even with her permission, is a form of erasure. She has to ask you to laugh at her to giver her permission to be a female comic. This is the norm in comedy – women tell self-depreciating jokes in a way men don’t have to, just to get the audience on side.
This is just the first step in a journey into her psyche and, though we don’t realise it, into our own, as she leads us from the sunny uplands of jokes about her weight and how she just ‘looks’ like a lesbian down to some serious and extremely painful ground.
We don’t realise the comedy has stopped until she tells us so directly, although we’ve been listening intently in silence for about 10 minutes by then as she tears modern society’s mores apart brick by brick, sparing us, and her, nothing as she does so.
By the end, there is nothing but pain, especially for Hannah, but also for the more morally ‘conservative’ of her audience who she directly, and correctly, lays at the door of our current problems.
In all, this special is a very hard watch. But a very very rewarding one, educative and screamingly funny for the most part.
If you don’t find yourself wanting to stand up at the end and join the live audience’s sustained applause, you need to take a hard look at yourself.
❉ Watch ‘Hannah Gadsby: Nanette’ on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80233611
❉ Official website: http://hannahgadsby.com.au/