Double Review: Nanette and Douglas

This can be a one line review: Hannah Gadsby’s comedy can change the world.

If you have not heard about the phenomenon that she is, let me catch you up.

Hannah (Can I call you Hannah? Imma call you Hannah.) was a little known stand-up comic from Tasmania. She had been known in Australian comedy circles but the world was still not exposed to her brand of hilarity until she came out with her Netflix special Nanette in 2018.

Ironically, the running theme of Nanette was Hannah’s declaration of her retirement from comedy. The entire special is actually more of a resignation letter from comedy. It was also the piece of comedy that catapulted her to international stardom, so that was that for the retirement plans.

Hannah is also an art graduate and includes her study of art as a historical account in her comedy. I am not proud to admit that her shows were the first time in my life that I was able to sit through a discussion on Renaissance art without falling asleep.

Many comedians, international as well as Indian, have called Nanette the comedic performance that rewrote the rules of comedy. This is because it wasn’t your usual jokey setup-punchline-laugh-setup-punchline-laugh kind of format. Hannah peppered her special with personal stories, her own struggles, deconstructing comedy itself, and insights into what exactly life is like when you hit the genetic jackpot of being a woman, a homosexual, and an autistic person, all in one.

Suffice to say that I have never had such a seamless mixture of happy and sad tears run down my face in the course of an hour as with Hannah’s Nanette.

Here, let the official trailer and reviews speak for themselves:

Douglas is Hannah Gadsby’s much-awaited (at least among die-hard worshippers like me) return to the stage.

Douglas is a lot more similar to a typical stand-up special, with a lot more jokes, and no sad tears to speak of. In her own words, “Had I known how wildly popular trauma was going to be in the context of comedy, I might have budgeted my shit better.”

So if you have not watched either of these specials and are wary of watching comedy that can make you cry (only if you have a heart), you could start with Douglas and go back to Nanette later as well.

Now that she is much more of a household name, and her first special has evoked, on one hand, massive adoration and on the other, massive trolling, Hannah is a lot more comfortable “baiting the haters”. So watch out for a lot of commentary on the kind of criticism that has come her way, and her hilarious responses to it all because, as she puts it, “I still got the loud stick”.

She’s talking about the microphone there. And thank God a person like her has one.

This is truly art that can change the world for the better. If the world lets it.

PS: For whatever limited readership these reviews have, I’ve decided to paste a donation link at the end of every review from now on. Here’s today’s.

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