BY Will Cook

Raw, defiant and heartbreakingly relevant. Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special is no ordinary open-mic comedy special.

Seeping with passion and anger, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby declares at the start of her 70-minute special Nanette that she is quitting her own art form. Winning awards and adoration for sell out shows around the world, Gadsby steps onto the Sydney Opera House stage declaring that she is done with a career that she has built on self-deprecation.

“Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who is already in the margins?” Gadsby asks a captivated audience. “It’s not humility, it’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak. And I simply will not do that anymore.”

From the screen to the stage, Gadsby’s work has been praised and critiqued by both those she has been seen to have a duty to represent and evaluate. For those in the LGBT community she remissions how she was once told she wasn’t lesbian enough, even confessing how the pride flag is a mix of “six shouty colours”. To those less open to sexuality, she is dismissed as another lesbian comedian, something that she admits she felt compelled to propone in her early work.

Now, Gadsby laments that she “indentifies as tired”.

Trenching through moments of heartbreak and realisation, Gadsby takes her audience on a heart-string tugging journey through her adolescence. A youth spent in Tasmania, where homosexuality was illegal until 1997. Rather than join the conga line of out and proud LGBT performers Gadsby confesses she is not “very good at being gay”, calling herself a minority within a minority.

Peppering recollections of quirky gay-tropes with genuine rawness, Gadsby recalls coming out to her mother. Fighting a palpable wave of tense emotion, the story is shattering and life-affirming all at once.

A political statement glossed with terrible made somehow humorous personal anecdotes. Gadsby offers all men, especially those straight and white, a word of advice in the the wake of a reckoning against sexual misconduct. “Pull your fucking socks up”. It’s a message that is so common in the current zeitgeist that Gadsby, and, judging by their reaction, her captive audience share. Sewing together recollections of gendered violence, industry quips and rape, Nanette is the most powerful and necessary piece of propaganda the #MeToo movement could hope for.

So, why quit comedy? For Gadsby her story, her life is something that has made her, rightfully, angry. However, she believes that spreading this anger will only allow further division in the society she, initially set out to make laugh.

“The damage done to me is real and debilitating. I will never flourish”. A musing unexpected from one of the most poignant and perfect hours of television of the year. Even if Gadsby does quit comedy, Nanette will live on as one of the most important pieces of television of its kind.

Nanette is available on Netflix now.


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