10 votes

Thoughts on Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette"?

I realize I'm behind the curve on this one, as it made headlines a full year ago, but I just watched Nanette, which is a stand-up comedy performance by Australian lesbian comic Hannah Gadsby. I don't love stand-up comedy at all, but the person who recommended it to me knew this about me and encouraged me to watch it anyway.

I'm glad I did.

And a big part of that is because her show isn't really stand-up. It starts out that way, and I legitimately enjoyed her humor, but about halfway through she shifts from telling jokes to more serious monologuing, and the show moves from being funny and incisive to become a flat out emotional sledgehammer. I cried through a good portion of it.

She tackles a lot in her hour, and it's given me a lot to think about--most of which I haven't really had adequate time to digest yet. I found it remarkable that so much of her story was so similar to my own. She framed aspects of myself in ways I needed to hear. I think what she has to say has resonance for everyone, but I think it's especially relevant for LGBT people, and especially for those of us that grew up in environments that were toxic to us.

I just wanted to see if anyone else here has watched it and, if not, put it out there as something worth your time--even if you don't usually like stand-up.

7 comments

  1. [3]
    Tygrak Link
    So I just watched this because of this post, thank you for telling me about it, it really was a great experience. It really was strange how relatable it was. I am from basically the exact opposite...

    So I just watched this because of this post, thank you for telling me about it, it really was a great experience.

    It really was strange how relatable it was. I am from basically the exact opposite than her. I am not a lesbian, but I am gay. And I haven't experienced basically any hate or anything like that because I am so good at hiding, even from myself for a long time. But hearing from your childhood that "gay", or the equivalents in basically every language, are a way to say that something is bad... it really kind of fucks you up. I don't have in no way the same experience as her, because as I said, I am not a woman, but it was still so relatable, and I think more people should see and hear stuff like this more. Especially the straight white man - she talked about them quite a lot, I really think hearing a different perspective is so so important to make everyone more tolerant. I often wonder if I would have been a gigantic asshole if I didn't win that gay lottery. Not that being gay, or another minority makes you instantly a tolerant and nice person. But experiencing being "different" probably helps with that.

    A bit off-topic, but I also liked the song in the credits Rilo Kiley - A Better Son/Daughter, gonna listen to the whole album tomorrow, because they sound like a pretty cool indie rock band and I love that.

    3 votes
    1. acdw Link Parent
      A little off-topic, but Rilo Kiley is great! Their song Portions for Foxes is probably their best-known, and it's wonderful.

      A little off-topic, but Rilo Kiley is great! Their song Portions for Foxes is probably their best-known, and it's wonderful.

      2 votes
    2. kfwyre Link Parent
      I'm really glad that you got something out of it! I'm happy that I could be the person to pass it along to you. Absolutely agreed. I have been through some specific, singular instances of trauma...

      I'm really glad that you got something out of it! I'm happy that I could be the person to pass it along to you.

      But hearing from your childhood that "gay", or the equivalents in basically every language, are a way to say that something is bad... it really kind of fucks you up.

      Absolutely agreed. I have been through some specific, singular instances of trauma myself, though not ones nearly as badly as she shared. When I share mine, people show instant empathy because, of course, these events were objectively horrible. Nobody would want to experience anything close to them.

      What's hard to get people to understand--what their empathy is often inexperienced at seeing--is that the passive toxicity of societally embedded homophobia was worse than having someone threaten me, for example. Homophobia dealt damage over time, which adds up to a lot night after night, month after month, year after year. Threats were certainly more acutely and immediately terrifying, and they raised alarm in every system in my body. But you recover from that by slowly returning to the safety of normalcy. But what could I do when normal wasn't safe for me? When who I am was treated as anathema or abomination? When I wasn't even safe inside my own brain because I hated myself so damn much?

      It's sad that her experience, your experience, and my experience all share that common thread: the pollution of our lives by hatred and discrimination. Presumably we all grew up in different places and likely even different times, yet homophobia was seemingly universal--spread between all of them. Things are absolutely getting better, but we're not yet where we need to be. We need people like her to not only tell our stories and do it meaningfully, but we also need people like her to challenge the very pollution we've had to live with all our lives. She is an inspiration, and a source of healing. The world is a better place because of her courage and candor. May we all learn from it.

      1 vote
  2. acdw Link
    I really liked this show -- I watched it about a year ago, so I'm fuzzy on details, but I remember the "emotional sledgehammer" effect that you describe. I really like how disarming it is, by...

    I really liked this show -- I watched it about a year ago, so I'm fuzzy on details, but I remember the "emotional sledgehammer" effect that you describe. I really like how disarming it is, by starting out as a more "traditional" standup show (and I love standup), she lets the audience feel comfortable, and then hits them with what happened and gets really serious -- I think to get the effect of how she processed the trauma across. It's truly a masterwork of the genre.

    I need to watch it again, especially since she's coming out with a new special soon.

    2 votes
  3. [2]
    Akir Link
    When i watched it, I really loved it. And it is absolutely worth watching, no matter who you are. But if you haven't seen it, stop reading past here because there is a bit of spoiler afterwords....

    When i watched it, I really loved it. And it is absolutely worth watching, no matter who you are.

    But if you haven't seen it, stop reading past here because there is a bit of spoiler afterwords.

    The thing that made the performance so powerful to me was that it seemed very real. Her announcing that she was retiring completely made it. But since then she has announced that she is not retiring, which takes away from the performance weather or not her claim was real.

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre Link Parent
      I wonder if her decision was based on the outsize (and likely unexpected) success she had with Nanette. She very well could have written that part when it was true for her, not knowing that the...

      I wonder if her decision was based on the outsize (and likely unexpected) success she had with Nanette. She very well could have written that part when it was true for her, not knowing that the future held a lot more opportunity for her.

      On the other hand, it did feel a bit rhetorical even in context. I mean, she outright hedged it in the show by joking about not having an alternative plan, but more than that I think "quitting comedy" was a sort of ideological shorthand for her. It was her way of saying "I'm no longer living underneath that which has damaged me and that which I've continued to use to damage myself." But, because that's wordy and complex, she pared it down to something much more succinct and arresting. As such, her decision could be seen as a more focused quitting of the "comedy" of her past rather than a declaration for the future.

      Regardless of any justifications, however, if we just take her at plain old face value, her current situation definitely does erode her performance a bit.

      1 vote
  4. Algernon_Asimov Link
    People reading this discussion might also be interested in these previous topics: ‘I broke the contract’: how Hannah Gadsby's trauma transformed comedy 'Nanette' Isn't a Comedy Show. It's a...
    1 vote