I made a point not to go back and look at my review of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette from when I saw it live onstage in New York City just a few months ago, either before, during or after watching the version she filmed for Netflix back in Sydney.
Now I will.
Seeing Gadsby live and up close, her passionate rage and compassionate pleas to look at her own life and at comedy itself a bit differently really hit home for me. The literal blueness of it all onstage, from the lights to the backdrop to her wardrobe, complemented the extremes of her storytelling. I could only hope her battle cries could reach more straight white men, either in or out of comedy.
So seeing Gadsby get that opportunity in June via Netflix provided hopeful optimism.
And with the passage of time, this straight white man also saw how her anger and her comedy perspective could somehow both react to the changing global political landscape, as well as tap into the zeitgeist.
There’s a lot of talk from comedians and comedy critics alike about Gadsby’s meta critique of comedy conventions — namely how stand-ups both provoke and release tension through the form of set-up/punchline — and how she manipulates that tension without the traditional release of ha-ha laughter. Because as it happens, this comedy special, this one-woman show, also represents Gadsby’s #MeToo story.
She does so because she needs us to know her truth. She needs us to know what life is like for people like her on the margins of power and society. “I am not a victim, I tell you this because my story has value,” she says. “I need you to know what I know.”
Adding: “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
A generation after Helen Reddy, Hannah Gadsby may not be your idea of a traditional woman. But she is still woman, and she is still human. Hear her roar.
Her story is a vital one to hear. Even more so for comedians.