Nanette (2018)
July 4, 2018 8:09 AM - Subscribe

Hannah Gadsby's Netflix special seems like it's going to be a stand-up comedy routine but ends up being a meditation on, among other things, the limitations of comedy. Currently being discussed on the blue here. This one needs a content warning for discussions of misogyny and homophobic violence, both emotional and physical.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you are on the fence about watching it just watch it. Amazing.
posted by ian1977 at 12:58 PM on July 4, 2018 [12 favorites]

I loved how she called out that essentially we want everyone dead who's a weirdo. God forbid you exist as someone unusual or at least not typical. I relate to that all too well. And how she feels like she has to make things easier for people by being funny, self-deprecating, "releasing the tension," etc. And having to literally leave her home because it's not legal for her to exist. Gawd.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:45 PM on July 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

And how she feels like she has to make things easier for people by being funny, self-deprecating, "releasing the tension," etc.

I keep thinking about the story she tells about getting beat up when she was 17. And in the first version, when the guy realizes that she's a girl, he jumps back and apologizes. And it's funny, but also a relief - I may not like the rules of chivalry, but I was relieved that they saved her in that moment.

So it's a complete gut punch when she comes back to that story and tells us that the guy realized the rules didn't apply to her because she was a "lady faggot"and returned to beat her up. It's a devastating moment. And it really shows you how false your relief was before, and how much comedy relies on giving people that sense of pushing the limits of our comfort - but within a safe boundary.
posted by lunasol at 4:15 PM on July 4, 2018 [29 favorites]

I loved this too. It's amazing, it is art at it's best, and it will leave a mark on stand-up that's likely to last a long time, not unlike Tig Notaro's Live piece that opened with, "How's everyone doing, I have cancer." I am a bit obsessive about comedy and seen a lot of it, but after watching Nanette, I wondered for the very first time about the cost of comedy. I've always thought about comedy as a social weapon and a positive force for change, but Nanette made me think about self-deprecating jokes and the price comedians themselves can pay for using that style of comedy. I used to think about self-deprecation as being the opposite of being mean and picking on someone. If you make yourself the subject of the jokes then you're not hurting anyone. But comedy cuts, and if it's not cutting outwardly, Gadbsy shows that it can cut inwardly. This is an existential moment for comedy. I think she changed it forever.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2018 [23 favorites]

I loved this. Very powerful "comedy" special. It reminded me a bit of Career Suicide, in that it mixed comedy and serious subject matter (misogyny / bigotry in Nanette, depression / mental illness in Career Suicide). Neither one felt much like a "traditional" comedy special: Nanette transitions pretty abruptly at the mid-point into something much more interesting, whereas the Gethard special kinda went back and forth (from what I remember).

Nanette hit much harder, though, and I feel it's a stronger performance overall (as much as I enjoyed the other). I can't even imagine doing it night after night on tour, and interviews with Hannah have indicated that it didn't get any easier...

I'm in the same boat as Stanczyk, this is going to seriously affect how I think about comedy going forward.
posted by Anonymous Function at 12:26 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was really moved by this. It was profound, and angry and a call to action. It was really funny, and thoughful, I can't say enough good things. I'll have to rewatch, because there's so much to take in.

It's a meditation on the role of comedy in society, especially from people who have been marginalized.

It's an amazing example of the craft of stand-up. At the start, she makes this first 15-20 minutes of the set, and it's funny and honest. And then she holds up that part of the set, and takes it apart, and explains how she did it and why. It's brilliant. That she does this all while the emotional stakes are so, so high, is really amazing.

What I take from this is that comedy is useful for pointing out the absurdity of homophobia and misogyny. And when something is absurd, we might ridicule it. And maybe that takes some of the power from it. But homophobia and misogyny cause immense suffering, and while the response can include ridicule, it also needs to involve action, and being angry, and self awareness about the ways in which you might be complicit. And it involves listening to people's stories even when they're uncomfortable.

Gratitude to Hannah Gadsby for this.
posted by thenormshow at 10:38 AM on July 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

No No ... oh well
posted by sammyo at 4:44 PM on July 5, 2018

Hannah Gadsby on Seth Meyers talking about the special and the Nanette that inspired the name.
posted by Gary at 6:41 PM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Me and a few friends watched this without knowing anything about it. In the middle, we all just looked at each other and settled in for the ride. At the end, we had a group hug. It was intense.
posted by domo at 6:55 AM on July 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Just finished watching it. She is amazing. I laughed and cried and marvelled at her skill in deconstructing the act in the middle of performing it. And although I've disliked Picasso for a while, for the first time I have a bit of appreciation for why Cubism changed everything.
posted by harriet vane at 8:13 AM on July 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Very good! It felt a bit like getting bathed in something that I’ve been soaking in; Gadsby’s stances don’t seem that different than other general sentiments I’ve heard on MetaFilter or in the particular corners of the media to which mefites like to link. But dang if she doesn’t express them well.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:22 PM on July 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yep, it’s going to sit inside for a while, digesting.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:33 PM on July 11, 2018

A final interesting rider: in this interview for The New Yorker Radio Hour Gadsby talks about the show as a response to a diagnosis of autism:
And, ultimately what the show is -and I don’t say it in the show, at all, I don’t make any reference to it at all, but essentially the show is about having autism and my late diagnosis. And so instead of saying, “this is what I have” I decided to show what this brain can do. Which is a real clear acknowledgement of how emotion works and how I feel it.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:52 AM on July 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

I watched Tig Notaro's latest special a while back, where she spends 20 minutes just fucking with the audience about whether or not the Indigo Girls are going to play a few songs. And afterwards I was deconstructing the fact that the bit worked less because it was canonically funny and more because her audience likes her so much. We all have such glee in watching her entertain herself at our expense and eventually rock out with two of her idols.

It was just a half formed bubble floating around in my brain, that comedy is less about humor and more reflecting our values and being the sort of person society wants to accept.

And Hannah Gadsby deftly closed that circuit. That you can be the sort of comedian society doesn't want to accept, so long as your set shows you accepting the humiliation society showers on you every day.
posted by politikitty at 5:49 PM on July 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

My favorite part was after the credits and we hear the teacup find its spot in the saucer.
posted by jillithd at 9:46 AM on July 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

I wondered for the very first time about the cost of comedy

Just on that... A friend showed me Charles Mingus' The Clown once. I'm still recovering.
posted by yoHighness at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

On my days off I like to listen to comedy shows as I go about my housekeeping chores. Having heard absolutely zero about this show, it wasn't what I was expecting as I scrubbed the tub (I am still working on the tub, ha)... but then it was so much more. Love that this woman was willing to channel her anger and get on top of her fear in order to speak her truth. I am awestruck.
posted by vignettist at 12:19 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Has anyone seen any discussion about the points Gadsby raises about the costs of comedy, particularly from other comedians?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2018

It was just a half formed bubble floating around in my brain, that comedy is less about humor and more reflecting our values and being the sort of person society wants to accept.

And Hannah Gadsby deftly closed that circuit. That you can be the sort of comedian society doesn't want to accept, so long as your set shows you accepting the humiliation society showers on you every day.

Married stand-up comedy couple Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher talked about their tour last year and said something related to this. I forget which one (this is all heavy paraphrasing), but they mentioned that part of why people come out to their shows is actually the safe space aspect. Not just to laugh, but to be in an accepting group of likeminded people.

On one episode of their stand up comedy podcast, Cameron even made a joke along the lines of "That's what people come here for! To hear political opinions they agree with!"

Some of their political stuff is really self defense of themselves and their communities (Cameron as a lesbian, Rhea as a trans person for example) and speaking against white supremacy. But I think part of the reason I find their stuff so enjoyable, even when they are talking about really difficult issues and sometimes not really making jokes, is that I don't have to maintain that defensive posture waiting for the comedian to punch down. They have a whole ethos of not doing that and it keeps their fans loyal.

Also along these lines, I think part of the reason so many privileged comedians like Jerry Seinfeld get so miffed about everyone being "too sensitive" is that the audience is more and more aware of the punching down that has been typical in the stand up world. The audience instinctively knows that offending everyone equally means hurting the powerless and reacts poorly to jokes that do that. Seinfeld and his lil buds are responding to an audience expectation that they form some understanding of the people they are making fun of. But they don't want to do it, and they weren't expected to before, so now they are annoyed.

All that to say, I think that background informs the incredibly positive response to Nanette. Hannah doesn't pretend that comedy is harmless and that a comic is just a neutral joke machine. And the background for that message is all of the comics from marginalized groups who have come up pointedly not attacking the least powerful. Hannah moves one step further and says, not only will I not attack these others, I will not attack myself. And gives the listener permission to say, me neither. My story matters too.
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:33 AM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

This show. Wow.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2018

Interview with Hannah Gadsby on The Good Weekend (the Saturday magazine for The Age newspaper- Australian publications.)
posted by freethefeet at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

The ‘Nanette’ problem
It took me a while to write a critique of Nanette, the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s universally praised one-woman Netflix special that premiered in June, because I couldn’t quite figure out what I hated about it.

But when my cis, straight, liberal parents told me how much they loved it, the reason for my dislike coalesced: In order to make straight, cis viewers feel comfortably woke, Gadsby shits on an entire language of comedy developed over decades largely by Jews and queers. The greatest trick Gadsby pulls is convincing those who have little interest in actual gender, sexuality, or political radicalism — and apparently little knowledge of comedy — that they are watching something new and radical.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:15 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

What a remarkable performance. The mix of comedy and then hard, heavy reflection on tragedy is fascinating and maybe unique? I was particularly struck by her skill at playing on emotions. Like the best sleight-of-hand artists she's explaining what she's doing while doing it, "manipulating the tension", and then does so masterfully and delivers a very compllicated and effective message.

I watched this just after watching Cameron Esposito's Rape Jokes. I feel like there's a lot to be said in comparing the two performances but I'm not smart enough to do it.
posted by Nelson at 7:27 AM on September 16, 2018

If Moskowitz is hanging his dislike on that closing bit about not wanting to "spread anger" I think he's misinterpreted it, or at least very differently than I did. I certainly don't think anything in the preceding time - for example, when she excoriates a man with an opinion over his idiocy about Picasso - supports the idea that she doesn't approve and support righteous anger and the use of it. It seems to me that the clear context is that she doesn't want to spread and participate in anger against herself and people like her. Maybe that's threading the needle a little about calling it anger and not hate but it's how I read it.
posted by phearlez at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2018

It seems to me that the clear context is that she doesn't want to spread and participate in anger against herself and people like her. I agree with you, phearlez. It seems to me that Moskowitz has to work really, really hard to get to "Gadsby shits on an entire language of comedy developed over decades largely by Jews and queers." It felt a little bit to me like one of those, "everybody loves this so I am going to find a way to hate it" critiques. You do you, mister, but I am going to continue to love it and continue to encourage others to watch it even if they are merely cis, straight, liberal people and also if they are not. Also, I refuse to believe that Gadsby's target is actually Jews and queers. You can absolutely question her conclusion about anger but honestly, Moskowitz's critique felt off the mark to me. I am neither Jewish nor queer so I may well be blind to valid points. Does anyone else agree with that take?
posted by Bella Donna at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2018

I think there's plenty in his piece I do agree with; I think if he had confined himself to disputing Gadsby's blanket "I cannot do comedy without having this impact" he would have been fine. Even watching the piece I questioned whether or not that was a realistic statement. I think he could have gone on to assert that the disconnect may be that she's choosing between comforting the unafflicted and inviting them to laugh at her difference, where there's other choices. But I wonder if he's missing that as an option because he doesn't believe it himself; his example of comedy can still be done seemed limited to smaller venue stuff for audiences that are already selected down into those non-cis&straight folks.

To me this launches from a very reasonable set of concerns and thoughts, it's the landing I don't think is supported.
posted by phearlez at 7:16 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Soraya Roberts writes about Nanette in The Baffler and has some similar thoughts, less about queer and Jewish comedy heritage and more about women's heritage in standup -- I'm pondering this, not sure whether I agree.
Positioning herself as a post-comedy revolutionary crashing a male-dominated industry, Gadsby elides the long, complicated history of standup comedy.... Nanette does not defy, it inherits. It is a Trojan horse, a gesture towards challenge, which never actually delivers.
posted by brainwane at 8:48 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

So I finally listened to the episode of every goth's favorite socialist podcast that talks about Nanette, and the host actually had Peter Moskowitz on and they chatted, and then the panelists talked about Nanette. The whole show is very steeped in the NYC/Brooklyn-Comedy-Club scene, and they made some criticisms of Nanette from that viewpoint - it wasn't very innovative, it tread a lot of well-trod ground, putting together and pulling apart jokes and telling the audience how you're doing it as you're doing it, is, apparently, what amateur comedians just starting out do. They referenced someone who did a "noise set" parody, which I think was a reference to Reggie Watts.

Their criticism boiled down to this, which was: this is only "groundbreaking" stand-up for people whose idea of stand-up is Dane Cook.

And I'm like .... yeah. That's a lot of people! To them, it's probably pretty groundbreaking!

The main thing they didn't seem to understand is that Hannah Gadsby comes from a standup tradition (and scene) that is NOT the American one, and is EMPHATICALLY NOT the NYC/Brooklyn one, so judging her and the set by those standards is misguided-at-best.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:33 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

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