Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

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Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Nanette - Hannah Gatsby poster.jpeg
Directed byMadeleine Parry
Written byHannah Gadsby
StarringHannah Gadsby
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
Running time
69 minutes

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is a live comedy performance written and performed by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, which debuted in 2017. The work includes social commentary (especially about LGBTQ and women's perspectives, and mental illness), evocative speech punctuated by comedy and emotive narration of Gadsby's life, learnings and what her story offers to the world. In June 2018, Netflix released a video of Gadsby's performance of the work at the Sydney Opera House. Gadsby's live performances and the video have received critical acclaim for casting light on the realities behind several success stories that are only told from singular perspectives, and reflecting on inequality and oppression. In April 2019, the special won a Peabody Award. In September 2019, Gadsby won Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Nanette at the annual Primetime Emmy Awards.


Gadsby created the stand-up show she named Nanette partly as a response to the public debate which took place in Australia before the law was changed to allow same-sex marriage, and soon after her diagnosis of ADHD and autism.[1]

The show was originally named after a woman Gadsby had met,[1] who she thought could be turned into an hour's worth of material. During the writing process, she realized this wasn't the case, but the name had already been chosen. She ended up ignoring this inconsistency and wrote an hour of material unrelated to Nanette.[2] The initial shows were more combative with the audience, and made Gadsby feel victimised, so to get the audience more on her side, she added more jokes and relieved more tension throughout the show's run.[3]


Comedy and marginalisation[edit]

Gadsby uses Nanette to deconstruct the nature of comedy and its conventions by having her audience undergo the same tension in which marginalised people suffer on a daily basis. She shares personal anecdotes related to her experiences as a lesbian and gender-nonconforming woman, explaining how her comedic style is influenced by her identity. Due to Gadsby's upbringing in conservative Tasmania, she was raised surrounded by people who believed they held a license to hate others, which induced her at a young age to accept prejudiced views toward queer people. To deal with the social inequality she faced, Gadsby says that she turned to self-deprecating humor. She realised that the self-deprecating humor common to standup comedy is doubly painful for marginalised people because it adds another voice to the chorus of people who already insult and belittle them. This led her to conclude that she can no longer do standup comedy and so she structures the piece around claiming she is giving up comedy. She has since stated that she’s not doing so after all, due to the surprising response to her show.[3]

Storytelling and change[edit]

In Nanette, Gadsby further plays on the conventions of comedy by incorporating storytelling into her routine. In addition to the stories she shares about her lesbian and gender-nonconforming experiences, Gadsby relates personal stories about her comedy career, family, and college experiences among other things. Gadsby expresses the need to use stories in her comedy because she is frustrated with the form of standup comedy. She does not feel as if her story, because her identity and victimisation do not fit comfortably into society's narrative, is being listened to properly. The representation of her story through Nanette affords Gadsby hope that her experiences will be "felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own," and that her story will finally be heard.[4]


Gadsby has performed Nanette throughout Australia, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and in the United States. Her 2018 performances in New York City received positive reviews.[5][6] The show was performed for the final time on 27 July 2018, in Montreal.


On 20 June 2018, Netflix released a film of Gadsby's performance of the work at the Sydney Opera House under the title Hannah Gadsby: Nanette. The film has received widespread acclaim, including a 2018 Peabody Award.[7][8][9][10]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 46 critic reviews, with an average rating of 9.12/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Hannah Gadsby: Nanette brilliantly moves modern comedy into nakedly honest new territory, pivoting from dry humor to raw, powerful storytelling."[11]

Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter stated "Hannah Gadsby's Nanette stands alone...It's a detailed summation of joke construction that could be a textbook on its own. It's an art history lesson. It's hilarious, because Gadsby's timing and perspective fuel every sentence. It's painful, because Gadsby's emotions and perspective fuel every sentence."[12] Ashley Hoffman in Time listed Nanette as the Best Stand Up Comedy Special of 2018, and added "Nanette kickstarted a global conversation, ensuring that her underrepresented perspective was finally seen and heard—and when Gadsby wrenches out her pain on stage, she reveals her strength, rage, and yes, winning humor."[13] Anna Leszkiewicz in the New Statesman voiced praise for Nanette: "Gadsby's show is a tricksy, self-conscious beast, full of sleight of hand... It is a strange, rare thing: a comedy show that hopes you don't leave laughing."[14] Brian Logan of The Guardian helps to explain the significance and allure of Nanette by reporting, "Her show is about the power of stories and how, if the stories we tell ourselves are simplified or smoothed over, we leave unchallenged the wider stories society tells itself (in this case, about gender, sexuality and power)."[15] Helen Razer, writing in The Saturday Paper, wrote that Nanette "is very good...It is a worthy and well-paced specimen of a long-established form." However, Razer also added that she believed some American reviewers of Nanette had overpraised the show, saying "We cannot say that Gadsby’s Nanette definitively prescribes a style or ethics of remembering trauma. We can say that it’s pretty good."[16]

By contrast, in The Outline magazine, P.E. Moskowitz gave Nanette a negative review, arguing that the special "makes for boring, trite, and even dangerous art: in order to convey her trauma, Gadsby dismisses all of comedy, the uses of queer anger, and the entire premise of self-deprecation as inadequate".[17] Soraya Roberts was also critical of Nanette in The Baffler magazine. Roberts stated "In terms of overall quality, Nanette is mediocre." Roberts took issue with Gadsby's rejection of comedy in the show, saying "Gadsby doesn't bend the medium, she abandons it." Roberts added that other female comedians, such as Mo’Nique and Maria Bamford, had made comedy specials about women's oppression without rejecting the act of telling jokes in the process.[18]


Award Ceremony Date of ceremony Category Result Ref.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award 22 April 2017 Barry Award (for comedy) Won [19]
Helpmann Awards 24 July 2017 Best Comedy Performer Won [20]
Edinburgh Comedy Awards July 2017 Best Comedy Show Won [21]
Adelaide Fringe 28 August 2017 Best Comedy Award Won [22][23]
7th AACTA International Awards 5 January 2018 Best Comedy Program Nominated [24]
Best Performance in a Television Comedy Won [25]
Peabody Award 18 May 2019 Peabody 30 Won [7][8]
MTV Movie & TV Awards June 2019 Best Real-Life Hero Nominated [26]
Primetime Emmy Awards September 2019 Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Won [27]
Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Hannah Gadsby BA '03". Australian National University. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  2. ^ Hannah Gadsby Got Into Comedy Because of a Broken Wrist. Late Night with Seth Meyers. Note: This video is not available to the public. YouTube. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2018.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  3. ^ a b Hannah Gadsby Chats About Her Netflix Special, 'Hannah Gadsby: Nanette'. YouTube. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  4. ^ Nanette. Directed by Madeleine Parry and John Olb, performances by Hannah Gadsby, 19 June 2018. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/title/80233611
  5. ^ Zinoman, Jason (19 March 2018). "Introducing a Major New Voice in Comedy (Who Also Attacks Comedy)". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  6. ^ Da Costa, Cassie (2 May 2018). "The Funny, Furious Anti-Comedy of Hannah Gadsby". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b "The Best Stories of 2018". Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b Ganajan, Mahita (18 June 2018). "How Hannah Gadsby Channeled Her Own Trauma, Bill Cosby and Monica Lewinsky in the New Netflix Comedy Special 'Nanette'". Time. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  9. ^ Husband, Andrew (18 June 2018). "Hannah Gadsby Wants 'Nanette' To Give You 'A Shock'". Forbes. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  10. ^ von Busack, Richard (18 July 2018). "Tasmanian Tigress". North Bay Bohemian. Metro Newspapers. p. 22. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  12. ^ Fienberg, Daniel."Critic's Notebook: 'Nanette,' 'Set It Up' and Netflix Discovery Syndrome" The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  13. ^ Hoffman, Ashley,The Top 10 Stand Up Comedy Specials of 2018. Ashley Hoffman, Time Magazine. 20 November 2018.
  14. ^ Leszkiewicz, Anna, "Hannah Gadsby's Nanette" New Statesman. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  15. ^ Logan, Brian, "Standups on Why They Quit Comedy: I Have Nightmares about Having to Do It Again." The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Aug. 2017 [1]
  16. ^ Razer, Helen,"Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’", The Saturday Paper, 28 July – 3 August 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  17. ^ Moskowitz, P.E.,The "Nanette" Problem P.E. Moskowitz, The Outline Magazine. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  18. ^ Roberts, Soraya, "Tokens of Appreciation". Soraya Roberts, The Baffler Magazine October 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  19. ^ Francis, Hannah (23 April 2017). "Hannah Gadsby wins Barry Award at 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  20. ^ Francis, Hannah (25 July 2017). "Helpmann Awards 2017 winners: Kosky's Saul and Belvoir's The Drover's Wife dominate". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  21. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (26 August 2017). "Edinburgh festival fringe comedy award shared for first time". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Hannah Gadsby named joint winner of Comedy Award". ABC News. AAP. 27 August 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Banksa Overall Fringe Award Winners - Best Comedy". adelaidefringe.com.au. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Past Awards - 2018 AACTA Awards - Television - AACTA Award for Best Comedy Program". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  25. ^ Sayer, Luke (6 December 2018). "Hannah Gadsby wins major AACTA award for Nanette". The Advocate. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  26. ^ Nickolai, Nate (17 June 2019). "MTV Movie & TV Awards Winners: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Hannah Gadsby beats Beyoncé to Emmy for comedy special Nanette". The Guardian. 15 September 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2020.

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