The last comedy of Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby, Nanette: an experience and a lesson

Hamer Hall

Tonight was the last show of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette in Melbourne, a show that has toured the world and international acclaim. I went expecting some incisive comedy and some laughs.

And that’s how the evening began. Jibes at the insensibility of homophobia and the rhetoric, particularly in Australia—Hannah is an excellent mimic of the troglodyte slurs.

Hannah lead us through her life, through the pressure of representing a community, to the skills learnt. That comedy is about building tension, and then breaking it.

What it meant for her life, her sexuality, her experiences and internalised homophobia to be the punchline of the joke. How it drowns out the rest of the story: her mother’s evolution from Hannah’s coming out to the recognition and regrets of failures in her parenting; to the end of the encounter with a man who misgendered her, and then beat her.

How she was broken by her community’s debate of her humanity, her right to exist, both in Tasmania in the 1990s prior to homosexuality being decriminalised in the state and in Australia’s shameful opinion poll on allowing LGBTQI Australians to be treated as second-class citizens. Talking about how she internalised that people she loved thinking she was a pedophile and also the rhetoric from the mainland damning those same people she loved as less than.

When people were implored to think of the children, Hannah points out that most of our lives, we spend thinking of the children, our future, regardless of whether we spawned them. It’s too late for her, she says, but other children like her can be saved.

Hannah is anger and fire as she tells straight white men to pull their socks up, implores us all to be better, in public debate, to each other; to re-embrace our humanity. That she’s leaving comedy because it doesn’t allow her to tell her story and requires her to mine her own trauma for laughs. That she’s leaving us with this tension that has never left her body.

As the lights come up on Hamer Hall, there are sombre faces. I wish everyone in this country was there to see all the red eyes, tears from people (mostly women) being comforted. How pervasive this trauma of othering is, whether because you’re a woman or gay or don’t conform to what some Australians think others should be.

Hannah leaves the audience with carefully curated words from John Farnham purposely to leave us thinking as we file out like sheep.

We’re all someone’s daughter

We’re all someone’s son

How long can we look at each other

Down the barrel of a gun?