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Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is riveting and brilliant. Her powerful social commentary would leave you in splits, but at the same time leaves you with something to think about.

In the early days of July, I received tons of texts telling me to watch Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up special Nanette. Truth be told, I had watched the Netflix specials of a lot of outstanding comedians ranging from Ali Wong’s Hard Knock Wife to Sarah Silverman’s A Speck of Dust, not to forget John Mulaney’s Kid Gorgeous. However, no comedy special had been so highly recommended by my pop culture enthusiastic friends.

I watched it and instead of leaving it with a smile, there I was, bawling my eyes out, crying. I closed the tab and I sat there, motionless, thinking. I had changed. I had never felt so validated as a bisexual woman. Hannah Gadsby’s every sentence makes you question the world we live in, questions the very essence of comedy.

Nanette beautifully weaves a story and talks about gender, sexuality, art history, and the power of storytelling. In the first few minutes, it appears to be any other comedy special full of anecdotes and self- deprecating humor. She spoke about growing up in a small town in Tasmania, Australia in the 90s where homosexuality was a crime. She also spoke about the repercussions of her coming out, full of hysterically funny one-liners. Minute 17th, the switch flips, and Hannah announces she’s quitting comedy. The atmosphere shifts dramatically and everything gets real.

Hannah Gadsby starts with telling her audience that she’s done with self- deprecating humor as for a person who already belongs to a marginalised community, it’s not humility its humiliation. It’s causing distress and harm to the people who identify with her. She was taught her entire life that she was not supposed to take spaces and that one should be punished if they are different. All that ever Hannah wanted to do was to be invisible; her confused childhood filled her with shame and self- hatred. In order to make people laugh, she had repackaged her traumatic memories, tinged it with humor and sold it to a straight audience for their comfort, for the sake of not upsetting the status quo. She had denied herself by repeating the story in a form of a joke, the lived experience of the reality. Now, she refuses to do it anymore. She’s tired and believes that it is time to tell the real, actual story whose setup would have tension but there would no punchline to diffuse it.

Gadsby very bravely talks about the time she was sexually abused as a kid and as a woman in her early 20’s. She was brutally beaten up by a homophobic man who believed that it was his right to do so by the powers vested to him by patriarchy. She, very honestly says that she didn’t report it to the police because she believed that she deserved it. The homophobia made her scared to even come out to her own grandmother. Hannah questions comedy, the way it is unable to bring out the true stories. She, through the perspective of art history, breaks the illusion that the art should be separated from the artist and that a man’s reputation is above everything else, even a woman’s humanity. Hannah breaks every notion promoted by sexism from ‘locker room talks’ to ‘don’t be so sensitive, learn to take a joke’, one hilarious joke at a time. She promptly breaks the myth that only suffering can create art.

You can feel her anger as she pleads for men to have empathy, and to understand the fear women have of them and if they really can’t, to ask the women in their lives. People who think they have the right to render another person powerless are weak, she states, and rightfully so. She rightfully speaks how women are what misogynists hate, but want.

Nanette might make you uneasy, uncomfortable. Hannah with her devastating delivery oratory will leave you speechless. The quiver in her voice and rawness, the vulnerability of her words will break your heart. It is undoubtedly one of the most profoundly illuminating specials. The hype is real, watch it and at the end of it, you would want to gif every moment of it.

Disha Saxena
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Feature Image Credits: Netflix

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