People are laughing and crying over Hannah Gadsby’s hilarious and heart-wrenching new stand-up special
Tasmanian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby has a new special out on Netflix call Nanette — and it’s not only making people laugh, it’s also changing the way that they look at the world, the way they look at themselves, and the way they look at the function of comedy in our society.
In just an hour and nine minutes, the Gadsby builds up her audience (a packed Sydney Opera House) with waves of jokes about her life and lifestyle before gradually switching gears to more serious matters: how we treat people who are different in our culture, how the #MeToo movement has changed our world, and how we need to treat everyone, but most of all ourselves, with compassion.
After being a stand-up comedian for over a decade, Gadsby declares near the beginning of her special that she’s quitting comedy — and then spends the rest of her set explaining why. She calls out herself for relying on self-deprecating humor to get laughs and make audiences comfortable, and laments that punchlines often cloud the full meanings of stories.
At the same time, she delivers devastating one-liners about the people she’s decided to start jabbing instead of herself: straight while males.
“I wouldn’t be a straight white man, not if you paid me,” she quips. “Although the pay would be substantially better.”
But her jokes go deeper and deeper, first discussing issues like the homophobia and sexism she’s faced as a lesbian woman, then expanding and heightening to subjects like self-hatred, mental illness, and sexual assault.
A running theme in her commentary is about tension: it’s a comedian’s job to build tension, and then to break it by providing a punch line. In Nanette, she uses tension as a tool relentlessly: first to get laughs, but then to get her points across about society.
The result is a comedy special that is actually, really special — and one that you and everybody else should watch.
If you don’t believe us, comics and other celebrities online have been raving about the special in the few weeks since it was release widely on Netflix.
In addition to comics and celebrities, though, everyone who has been watching Nanette seems to agree that it’s required watching that’s changed them for the better – even if it hurts a bit to watch.
By the end, Gadsby is trembling and near tears but her whole person is also filled with power — and everyone who watches says they feel the same exact way. It’s not your normal stand-up comedy set, but it should absolutely be required viewing for anyone who has a beating heart.