Hannah Gadsby’s Comedy Special ‘Nanette’ is Divisive yet Fascinating

Where does one even begin to discuss this special? I pretty much like to keep the peace so I’m going to be walking on more eggshells than that time your teacher dropped all the those eggs off a ladder. I’m sorry Ms. Robinson, how was I supposed to know what to do with 5 cotton balls, a popsicle stick, a bendy straw, and a glue stick…. I was in the 3rd grade. I recommend watching Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ as I think it’s a well-spoken oration from a unique perspective that I think people need to be open-minded and willing to give a listen to. I do chose to make a distinction that I recommend viewing but not necessarily meaning endorse.

Tasmanian comic Hannah Gadsby has had an up-and-coming stand-up career building upon a dry personality with a natural sense of wit with a routine focused on self-deprecation and her personal experiences challenge the taboo of homosexuality. However, in ‘Nanette’ it is revealed that Gadsby is considering quitting stand-up all together, which is ironic considering another recent popular comedy special ‘Make Happy’ by Bo Burnham also alludes to Burnham’s desire to step away from the pressures of performing stand-up. Gadsby initially proclaims how one of the driving forces to leave is that self-deprecation coming from a “marginalized” individual fails to be anything but “humiliation” and she refuses to project that to an audience that identifies with her. It’s interesting to note how Gadsby’s brand of self-deprecation seems solely to revolve around sexual identity while refusing to get personally more encompassing with her introvertedness, position as a comic, or other aspects of her identity.

Gadsby’s hour special starts off extremely one note, devoid of much humor but does have a sort of cleverness in presentation that certain lines do create a positive reaction. Gadsby proceeds by continuing her methodology that her intention is to stir up tension and then give short relief as if blowing a balloon up with air and then slowly letting in squeal out. Gadsby is tactical with this method and is at its best moments when criticizing Pablo Picasso. The set is most balanced at this point as it deconstructs this idolization of the “beloved cubist” getting her anti-masculine issues out and gives a refreshing new subject to tackle in both terms of comedy and social commentary ( I have a hypothesis that a comic can’t go 3 specials without mentioning Kanye West).

The closing 10-15 minutes is when the special becomes at the peak of its divisiveness that I swear that only me and a very very very small minority of viewers find themselves neutral or mixed responses to the special in total. ‘Nanette’ isn’t a stand-up comedy special, but an hour long Ted Talk on Gadsby’s personal struggles and perspective. For some this would be considered some sort of infringement, that Gadsby is somehow abusing her position on stage to use it as a soap box and preach her views onto her audience. Maybe I see where these people are coming from, but personally I respect that the comedian does not owe it’s audience anything and that the comedian can use their platform as they so desire. Gadsby says poignant and well expressed feelings of the necessity for others to be open to all perspectives and for her to air out her grievances but the way in which she does so through alienation people, placing blame, and preaches vitriol is just as much a take away as her beautiful poetics.

The truth is it sort of become bothersome how arrogant Gadsby can come across in this special. For someone who believes their stick is “self-deprecation” it becomes a disconnect when they not only spend their special lecturing their audience and claiming they are essentially too good for self-deprecating humor but also makes unabashed statements how they are a “master” of controlling her audience or that she is in her “prime”. While her examples are extremely idiotic as justified in mocking, it’s interesting how most of her stand-up revolves around criticism and advice she received.

The real divisiveness of the special is when Gadsby decides to rant on how evil the “straight white male” and pretty much saw-off one of the chair legs of her come together and learn all perspectives to spew hatred and create the more noticeable message of “It’s all your fault I scream at phone calls”. Gadsby is maybe justified given the hardship she expresses especially in the closing statements of the special. There’s something wrong with the underlying philosophy of the special in it comes across almost as a selfish act of “I’m releasing my pain, my frustrations, and my sorrows but doing so by placing it onto other people”.

I did recommend this because there is a lot to unpackage with this special. Maybe there is a necessary course of action that Gadsby in that her targeted group does need an “empathetic exercise” of sorts. However despite how well-spoken and intelligent and genuine Gadsby comes across, their feels something inherently wrong projecting and encouraging a spiteful hatefulness. Even if your belief is that your operating as sort of a justified counter-balance, isn’t an eye for an eye suppose to just make the whole world blind. I’m fascinated by ‘Nanette’ as it is an authentic and eloquent presentation that can be eye-opening a needs to be heard but also hints at something toxic in nature.

Have you seen Hannah Gadsby ‘Nanette’? What are your thoughts, feel free to express them with a comment down below. I appreciate you stopping by and giving it a good old read sorry if I offended anyone I try to be as inoffensive as possible and I think encouraging people to watch and critically examine the special is all I’m trying to promote here. Have a good one, and as always, I’m sorry Ms. Robinson.



3 thoughts on “Hannah Gadsby’s Comedy Special ‘Nanette’ is Divisive yet Fascinating

  1. Excellent and balanced review Frankly I knew nothing of Nanette and just stumbled upon the show in Netflix promoted as a comedy stand up show but it was not comedy but social commentary of the worst kind with only a personal agenda and hate speech of the worst kind. I am not a straight white male and know where she is coming from but that is no excuse for this public vitriol and misrepresentation as comedy. Attacks against her were matter for the police and discussions with her therapist or friends and family and not a comedy audience. She may be a good comedian but I hardly noticed and felt assaulted with her fury and hate. If I wanted social commentary can watch CNN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, it’s good to know I came across as balanced and fair in criticism. I’m sure you could tell from the review but I definitely agree with what you’re saying.


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