Movie Review: Hannah Gadsby, “Nanette”


See it.

It’s a mix of comedy and spoken word oration, and it is incredibly good. Make sure your FOX-watching homophobic uncle watches it by mistake.

Gadsby manages to break down the inconsistencies inherent in “free speech” in the most brilliant, painful, passionate way I’ve ever heard. Technically, it’s comedy, so I’ll say this is one of the great comedy performances – and a great replacement for the work of another comedian I used to love, who turned out to be a disgrace.

Comments

  1. silverfeather says

    YES!
    She gives us a gift in this performance. The opportunity to listen and come away a better human being.
     
    Please, watch it.

  2. says

    SC (Salty Current)@#1:
    Yes – in terms of the rhetorical details (timing, recapitulation, building on concepts, self-reference) it’s a masterpiece. Tone, delivery, flippin’ everything. My T-shirt was soaked and I didn’t even realize it.

  3. says

    A V Sandi Nack@#4:
    It looks like it’s recycled victimhood mentality duckspeak.

    I don’t think so. There’s some exploration of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of abuse – if that’s “victimhood mentality” in your world, then, maybe. But it’s my opinion that one would have to work pretty hard to interpret that performance in that way.

  4. polishsalami says

    My only qualm would be that ‘comedian turns serious’ stuff doesn’t always work. Look at Bill Maher, as a random example.

  5. says

    See it.

    Well, if you and also people in the comment section all say that something’s that good, I might as well listen.

    So, I watched it. And now I’m wondering what exactly is wrong with my brain. It seems that stand-up comedy doesn’t work well with my brain. It goes approximately like this: a comedian says a few words (basically, a sentence fragment) and makes a short pause during which the audience laughs. At that moment my brain goes: “What just happened here, what exactly was supposed to be funny in those few words they just said?” It’s not even that jokes don’t work on me. I can think of countless examples where I could enjoy jokes or comedy. Also in this Gadsby’s performance there were some jokes that worked very well on me and made me laugh. But most of the time my brain was in this weird state of puzzlement and mild discomfort caused by not understanding what’s going on. It seems like it’s only this particular type of stand-up comedy that doesn’t work well with my brain. I cannot fully figure it out. It seems like some types of comedy work on me while others do not.

    A V Sandi Nack @#4

    It looks like it’s recycled victimhood mentality duckspeak.

    No, it doesn’t.

    Are you suggesting that people who have been on the receiving end of some form of abuse should abstain from telling about their experiences (or else they automatically acquire “the victimhood mentality”)? If somebody experienced some absolutely random and extremely rare accident, then not talking about the experience would be a perfectly acceptable option. However, when you happen to belong to a group of people who get regularly and systematically abused, not talking about your experiences can be harmful—if each victim hides what was done to them, the abuse can go on and be perpetuated forever, with new victims experiencing exactly the same crap.

  6. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#7:
    So, I watched it. And now I’m wondering what exactly is wrong with my brain. It seems that stand-up comedy doesn’t work well with my brain. It goes approximately like this: a comedian says a few words (basically, a sentence fragment) and makes a short pause during which the audience laughs. At that moment my brain goes: “What just happened here, what exactly was supposed to be funny in those few words they just said?”

    Interesting! I think you have a sense of humor, and I know you appreciate rhetoric – so I’m not sure what’s going on. In fact, one of the things I really loved about the performance was the way she breaks down certain types of pained humor as a tension-release dynamic. That is, she says, what comedy is. I agree about 95% (there is also comedy that’s about sheer cleverness, i.e.: puns or surrealism) One of her core arguments is that humor about abuse is funny because it perpetuates the abuse and that’s the tension we’re feeling. I think that a lot of what’s going on in that performance is very, very meta- – which is one of the things I like about it (of course!) She’s also deliberately switching between making people laugh with word-play and surrealist concepts, and then making people laugh from discomfort – it’s like the magician show where the magician says “now, watch carefully, I’m going to draw your attention away from what you should be looking at…”

    Perhaps if you analyze it as a debater’s argument, as rhetoric not comedy, it will make more sense?

    It seems like it’s only this particular type of stand-up comedy that doesn’t work well with my brain. I cannot fully figure it out. It seems like some types of comedy work on me while others do not.

    I believe that’s because Gadsby is not doing pure comedy – it’s not a show like Cosby or Williams, just trying to make you laugh – she’s switching between comedy and rhetoric about abuse and its relationship to humor, and meta-analysis about popular culture. Only 1 of those things is remotely funny. And then she’s tipping her hand and going, “look what I just made you laugh at.” And, “if you’re a straight male and you’re listening to this and thinking ‘this is not very funny’ – yes, that is exactly right. That’s what we live all the time and you’re having trouble with just an hour and a half of it.” Brilliant.

    Ieva:
    Are you suggesting that people who have been on the receiving end of some form of abuse should abstain from telling about their experiences (or else they automatically acquire “the victimhood mentality”)?

    The anti-victimhood argument is basically “don’t talk about it because you’re just wallowing in misery.” Which, as Gadsby points out, hasn’t worked very well at all. When I hear someone say “don’t play the victim card” I usually substitute in “don’t make your very real, very legitimate complaint, because I don’t have a comfortable easy way to refute your personal experience so that I can maintain my lofty position as Defender of The Status Quo.”

  7. says

    I think you have a sense of humor, and I know you appreciate rhetoric – so I’m not sure what’s going on.

    Yep, I sure appreciate rhetoric. In my second debate club we had a guy who was very skilled with incorporating jokes in his speeches. He’d talk about all those serious debate topics and make arguments, but on top of that he usually incorporated one or two jokes in each 7 minute speech. Whenever debating against him, I was so envious of this skill (not only I cannot come up with jokes, I cannot even retell one written by somebody else). He used jokes to accentuate and make more memorable his arguments. I really loved that.

    In fact, one of the things I really loved about the performance was the way she breaks down certain types of pained humor as a tension-release dynamic.

    In her show Gadsby mentioned tension. Now you are mentioning it too. This might actually be the answer. If there was any tension going on while Gadsby spoke, then I completely failed to even notice its presence. It just went right over my head. At this point I can only trust you and Gadsby that there really was some tension that other people can perceive.

    During her show Gadsby made a joke that male painters are painting women as vases for their penis flowers. I liked that joke. John Oliver’s jokes seem to work very well on me as well. For example, the one where he compared native advertisements with repurposed bovine waste. He tends to make jokes where he makes unexpected and witty comparisons, and this type of jokes works well on me. I perceive something as funny if it’s unexpected, clever, witty. But tension. . . Until today I had no idea that there’s supposed to be tension in jokes.

    I think I will have to get some textbook about comedy and jokes. I’m starting to suspect that the way how my brain perceives jokes might differ from other people’s perception of them.

    there is also comedy that’s about sheer cleverness, i.e.: puns or surrealism

    Cleverness, i.e.: puns or surrealism are what work well on me.

    She’s also deliberately switching between making people laugh with word-play and surrealist concepts, and then making people laugh from discomfort

    That part of making people laugh from discomfort went over my head. I didn’t even realize that the audience was supposed to feel any.

    she’s switching between comedy and rhetoric about abuse and its relationship to humor, and meta-analysis about popular culture. Only 1 of those things is remotely funny. And then she’s tipping her hand and going, “look what I just made you laugh at.”

    Seems like I missed a significant portion of what was going on during that performance. Damn.

    Missing and being unable to notice whole parts of communication is probably the reason why I hardly ever watch movies. There have been a few movies I really enjoyed, but most of the time movies leave me bored and disappointed. After seeing a movie my reaction is usually, “That was boring, there are better ways how to spend two hours.” Some years ago I assumed that my lack of interest in movies is because of the dumb plots and recycled scripts (which pop up in movies quite often). But the thing is, I can enjoy watching an animated cartoon even if it has a dumb plot with a recycled script. The difference is that in animated stuff all reactions and displays of emotion are exaggerated (for example, if a character blushes, their whole face is colored in red), therefore I can easily pick it up (it’s a whole different matter with movies and theater where I’m apparently missing some of the information viewers are expected to get from nonverbal signals).

    The anti-victimhood argument is basically “don’t talk about it because you’re just wallowing in misery.” Which, as Gadsby points out, hasn’t worked very well at all. When I hear someone say “don’t play the victim card” I usually substitute in “don’t make your very real, very legitimate complaint, because I don’t have a comfortable easy way to refute your personal experience so that I can maintain my lofty position as Defender of The Status Quo.”

    There’s more than that going on. At least there would be if I was the victim (here I can only speak for myself, maybe other people feel different upon getting victimized, I cannot know that*). After experiencing something unpleasant, I attempt to find some solution how to solve the problem, how to cope with the experience. Telling about my experience and complaining about the person who hurt me helps me cope with my unpleasant experiences. For example, when a transphobic doctor refused me medical treatment, I responded by writing several complaint letters. That was my chosen method of coping with this abuse—I had two goals by doing that 1) get access to the medical treatment I was denied; 2) vent my irritation. In my case, complaining about abuse helps me vent my irritation (I say “irritation,” because it takes a lot to make me angry, it’s been already eight years since the last time when somebody managed to really piss me off).

    The point is, when somebody says “don’t play the victim card,” they are victimizing the person who has already suffered once for the second time. The victim is attempting to pursue their chosen method how they want to cope with the abuse, and then some rude person shows up and denies them this coping mechanism. That’s a way how to hurt the victim once more.


    * My ability to feel emotional pain is pretty limited. When somebody abuses me, I get irritated (or angry if they do something particularly nasty). In my case, coping with abuse means venting and alleviating anger. I’m not sure how this works for other people who actually feel emotional pain after getting abused. If I’m already angry and complaining and some asshole tells me “shut up and stop playing the victim,” I only get even more angry.

  8. says

    Just watched it – brilliant. Both meaningful and funny, and fantastically told. Thanks for the recommendation. Now to go share it.

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