Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Courtesy of Ben King/Netflix
Girls & Women

Hannah Gadsby's Netflix Comedy Special Is a Must-Watch for Every Global Citizen

Why Global Citizens Should Care 
Global Citizens can remove the systemic barriers set in place by inequality and end gender-based discrimination through perseverance and long-term, sustained action. You can take action here to ensure that women around the world are treated as equals.

Hannah Gadsby's stand-up comedy special Nanette is unconventional, remarkable, and highly ironic.

Initially scheduled to be the Australian comedian's retirement from comedy, Nanette has instead become the work that has cemented her career.

Moreover, it is a comedy show about deeply rooted trauma, tension, and hatred.

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Step Up for Women’s Rights and Health

The Netflix special, released in June, is a recording of a live show Gadsby has been performing since 2017. The show, which has previously won awards at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, has ballooned in popularity over the last few weeks, with reviews and praise flooding in from both Australian and international critics and audiences.

The first 20 minutes of the 70-minute special fall predominantly within the boundaries of a standard comedy show. Gadsby dishes off self-deprecating jokes about about identity and her experience growing up gay in Tasmania, where homosexuality wasn’t decriminalised until 1997.

Then she stops. Midway through, Gadsby shifts the show into a review on comedy itself, rigorously examining how stand-up works, its failings, and how it often coerces comedians into making light of their own trauma.

Related Stories Jan. 2, 2018 Over 300 Women in Entertainment Say ‘Time’s Up’ on Sexual Harassment

According to Gadsby, comedy is an inadequate vehicle to truthfully express her anger toward the issues she often finds herself caught up in: misogyny, violence, sexism, and homophobia.

“Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who already exists in the margins?” she says. “It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore.”

Nanette is remarkable partly because the show breaks down the vital structural differences between stand-up jokes and good stories. Good stories have three parts (beginning, middle, end), Gadsby explains, while stand-up comedy operates in two parts (setup and punchline). For the sake of the performance, comedians are forgoing the important endnote. For Gadsby, leaving out the endnote — the complexity and context and truth — is no longer worth the laugh.

“I built a career out of self-deprecation, and I don’t want to do that anymore,” she states. “I’ve made my story into a joke. And there’s only so long I can pretend not to be serious.”

Gadsby makes it blatantly clear that she will no longer avoid sharing the true horrors of her experiences, nor will she shy away from the inevitable tension that arises from acting in a way that is opposed to society's expectations of women. She calls for all women to tell their stories of sexism and abuse in the hope that society's views will shift to make way for a more equal world.

Nanette provides the perfect platform for Global Citizens to think about gender equality and discrimination. Women and girls all over the world must have equal rights and opportunity so they can live free of violence and prejudice. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger,” she says. “I just needed my story felt and understood.”

Nanette is streaming on Netflix now. You should watch it.