There’s comedy that you watch to laugh. There’s comedy that you watch to escape. There’s comedy that you watch and learn something you weren’t expecting. And then there’s comedy you watch that makes you want to go out and fucking do something about it.
After watching a few minutes in the middle of Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” in passing, I knew I wanted to come back to it, for the wit and all those Art History punchlines. But actually watching it end to end… that’s a different story.
Comedy, and more specifically stand-up comedy, has always been a catalyst for social change and self-examination. Because if it’s the artists that can’t critically analyze our current society, there aren’t many who will. The timelines go back much further, but for me, that social satire began with George Carlin. It continued with Chris Rock. As stand-up has had a resurgence in the past decade, many more have come to push the envelope and broaden that spectrum of what needs to change in society.
The way Hannah Gadsby navigates “Nanette” is mind-boggling. She mentions being a master of creating & diffusing tension… and she does that throughout the entire special with ease.
Tackling many issues that are often mocked, derided, and discredited by those with implicit privilege and bias, “Nanette” gives voice and a face to the fact that we are all individuals, as much as we strive to fit in, and that we all deserve the space to “tell [our] story properly”. If you were born with that privilege, sometimes it means stepping out of the way for others to have a just seat at the table. Sometimes it means listening instead of speaking. Sometimes it means taking responsibility for something that you yourself did not personally perpetuate but nevertheless have the power to change or prevent from happening again. And sometimes it means accepting someone for how they yearn to be identified, regardless of how that makes you feel.
As she says in the special, “you learn from the part of you story you focus on”.
What part of your story are you focusing on?