In what is to be her final stand-up hour, Hannah Gadsby abandons the structure of a classic show simply filled with quick, accessible laughs. Perhaps the fearlessness that comes with moving on is what did it, or maybe she just refuses to play the game anymore. Either way, Nanette is not just a comedy show: it’s a call to arms.
It all starts off straight enough: Gadsby is a great comedian and she knows it, joking through the first half effortlessly. But even her comedy is utterly self-aware – she deconstructs the gag, explaining how jokes work by creating tension and then offering relief before leading into material on the lesbian community and her childhood in Tasmania.
Here’s where it starts to kick off. The punchlines keep rolling but there’s a new spark of venom behind the words. As she delves deeper into problems of ingrained, institutionalised homophobia and prejudice (homosexuality was illegal in her native Tasmania until 1997), a shuddering crescendo grows nearer.
Forever an expert in tension, when Gadsby does finally erupt in an onslaught of raw emotion, we all nearly crumble under the weight of her words. Her speech is powerful and the gravitas and meaning holds an almighty weight, but there is a wild abandon to her delivery that is both captivating and terrifying in its unparalleled anger.
Watching Nanette feels like seeing a person tearing themselves open. Hannah Gadsby points a finger at society and demands that it does better, and calls on humanity to be better.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Hannah Gadsby, Assembly George Square Studios, Aug 20-27, 5.30pm