A friend in Toronto sent me a WhatsApp message today imploring me to watch Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special on Netflix called Nanette: “Seriously. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (particularly in the latter half), it will blow your mind. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he wrote. I had some time tonight so figured, why not? Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I saw. It was so far beyond my expectation, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since and expect it to stay with me for a while. My friend was right – I haven’t seen anything like it.
I wasn’t familiar with Hannah Gadsby before today. She hails from the Bible Belt in Australia, and from the opening moments of her special, you’ll see what is quite obvious: she’s not a “typical” woman. Her standup is perfectly timed and her self-deprecating humour hits all the right notes, which is like a warm and comfy blanket for the audience. We get early signals of seriousness when she talks about plans to leave comedy, leaving the audience mildly confused about whether it’s part of her schtick. She even breaks down the components of a joke and how she manipulates tension and uses punchlines to relieve it, something she returns to later. Ironically, there is no punchline for the tension she builds towards the end.
I don’t even want to list the issues Gadsby tackles, because I fear they would be too easy to write-off by those who would gain the most from watching. If you want spoilers, her special has already generated a lot of attention in Variety, BuzzFeed, Vox, and IndieWire.
If you, like me, are tired of the culture wars and even more wary of people ranting about their politics on TV, rest assured: this isn’t that. It’s powerful, it’s real, it’s funny, and it’s sad.
Go watch it. Now.