Does one need to review Hannah Gadsby? And if one does, I feel like I’m the most underqualified person to do so. My first introduction to her brand of comedy was last year’s MICF, where she said she’d lightened up her set because the previous year’s show had been too dark. And so we had Dogmatic, a concept show revolving around Taylor Swift’s 1989 and a dog. At the end of that set, she included the number for Beyond Blue anyway, just in case.
Which is why I think I was not adequately prepared for what might possibly be the true brand of Hannah Gadsby humour in this year’s Nanette. Nanette is named after a woman who Gadsby never spoke to, but who made quite the impression—and thus launching us into a set that is a combination of controlled fury at the state of the world, eminently on point, and that doesn’t give a flying dick joke about what you think.
My money’s on the fact that Gadsby feels more like a Nanette than she lets on, and we’re let in on Gadsby’s young days growing up in the Bible Belt of Tasmania, tied to the present day by the recent gay marriage plebiscite furore. In between, she’ll give you a taste of what it’s like to live in the closet, to feel marginalised, hitting every button a little too close to home as she does so.
Gadsby says she’s retiring from comedy after this run of shows, so unfortunately I won’t get a third go at figuring out what her act might evolve into. Overall, though, I’m glad I got to experience the rollercoaster that is the art of creating tension, heightening it to a very uncomfortable level, and then only partially breaking it to the point where you laugh only because you’re not sure how else to respond.
Hannah Gadsby is performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival till 23 April.