Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s new Netflix stand-up special, “Nanette,” is being hailed as a triumph in comedy, as Gadsby tackles the #MeToo movement and homophobia from a deeply personal standpoint.
“Nanette” dropped on the streaming service last month, and in the weeks since it has garnered critical praise for Gadsby’s deadpan humor. But in the special, the jokes shift into a harrowing story that tackles subjects from Harvey Weinstein to Pablo Picasso to her own struggles against homophobia and violence.
In the special, whose title is based on a woman Gadsby met once but is only mentioned briefly, Gadsby says she’s quitting comedy. By the end of her hour-long set filmed at the Sydney Opera House, we come to understand why that is. Her personal story and commentary on harassment and abuse will shock many.
The Atlantic called the special “radical” and “transformative” for comedy simply for the fact that Gadsby “stops being funny.” Halfway though her set, after joking about how the Gay Pride flag is “too busy” with all its colors and the “feedback” she receives about being a lesbian, Gadsby drops the jokes.
“She doesn’t just put her jokes on hold, she excavates them, showing the audience the rotten holes in her humor,” Sophie Gilbert writes. “She doesn’t indict people for laughing, but the subtext is clear. She indicts herself. Her entire 10-year career, she explains, is based on self-deprecation, but she doesn’t want to do that anymore.”
The New Yorker called “Nanette” “moving anti-comedy” and said that Gadsby is forcing stand-up to reckon with the #MeToo movement.
“Gadsby’s material is almost two years in the making and seems to harness the broader fury of the #MeToo moment,” Moira Donegan writes. “Gadsby, like many women, is done hiding her anger, and in ‘Nanette’ she bends the bounds of standup to accommodate it.”
Refinery29 said that the special will “change comedy — and the world.”
“Telling [her] story properly means telling the truth, and the truth of Gadsby’s stories is far from comical,” Kathryn Lindsay writes.
Gadsby has been popular in the Australian comedy scene for years, but is only now breaking into the US mainstream with “Nanette.” Her comedy career is blowing up, just as she’s deciding to quit. But based on the acclaim for the show, she’ll leave a lasting impact.
Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.