Hannah Gadsby – Nanette

There’s a lot of talk regarding Hannah Gadsby retiring from stand-up from after the Fringe. She turned down the coveted Barry prize in Australia in protest against homophobic remarks from Barry Humphries. Nanette as Gadsby attests, was initially supposed to be a show about one unpleasant interaction she encountered with back in small town Australia, but couldn’t quite weave out the jokes. Instead Gadsby centre’s her show upon something a lot more academic, the psychology of the joke and art of standup.

As she tells the audience, the two components of the joke are set up and punchline, with the set up purposely creating tension for the audience and the punchline relieving the tension. To demonstrate, the building blocks relate to her sexuality and how because of her sexuality has been demonised by society, unworthy to look have children, branded as pedophiles and treated with a lack of humanity. She tackles the patriarchy and cites Picasso as an example of someone who evaded child molestation as someone in their prime having a relationship with a teenager less than half his age. Growing up in Tasmania where homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997. Whilst the topics are hard and heavily themes, she does an excellent job throughout to make it funny so it’s not just a rant but demonstrates what a bloody good comedian Gadsby is.

But as she was intending, her final reveal of the show emasculates the proposed healing powers of comedy as catharsis or as an art form that gives individuals a sense of self-worth. Her final words reveal harrowing trauma that comedy cannot heal, but also how comedy creates such a lack of impact, that we fail to take appropriate action because of it. She leaves the audience with a lot of food for thought. It’s not often you leave a comedy show regaling it for it’s brilliance but knowing the tragedy it was born out of and how if Gadsby stays true to her word, how stand-up comedy is poorer without her.

★★★★ and a half

Chris Aitken

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