THE GREAT GADSBY

India Today - - LEISURE -

New on Net­flix, Nanette is the most talked about stand-up show, if that’s what you want to call it, of the #MeToo era—from a fawn­ing New York Times pro­file to an out­pour­ing of love on so­cial me­dia. But Tas­ma­nian per­former Han­nah Gadsby’s ground-break­ing show is an ex­er­cise in in­con­gruity, and not just be­cause it’s cat­e­gorised as com­edy when, in fact, there is lit­tle in it to laugh about: it is out of step with the smug in­sen­si­tiv­ity of hu­mankind.

Nanette is protest art awk­wardly pi­geon­holed as stand-up com­edy, just like Gadsby is la­belled a les­bian when she may be “some­what trans” (sic)—a se­ries of terse, dark and ex­pertly timed skew­er­ings of the la­bels and rule­books writ­ten by straight white men and gen­der nor­mal.

Gadsby’s dis­il­lu­sion­ment with com­edy is a com­plaint against its in­ca­pa­bil­ity to be cathar­tic. A story, she says, has a be­gin­ning, a mid­dle and an end. Com­edy only has a be­gin­ning and a mid­dle. The Tas­ma­nian co­me­dian, how­ever, is done with telling sto­ries that crys­tallise her trauma. In­stead, she de­liv­ers the same story once as a gag and later as the tale of hor­rific as­sault that un­folds where the gag ends. Be­cause she knows her story, like mil­lions of sto­ries out there, needs to be told, and the genre of com­edy is too lim­ited for that story.

At a time when di­a­logue about abuse and shame is seep­ing out of the cracks of pro­longed si­lences, Gadsby puts her bat­tered soul out for ev­ery­one to see, forc­ing us to look at the ugly vis­cera of her jokes and be ashamed. It is also a “Me Too” mo­ment for ev­ery­one who needs their story of trauma and shame to be told, and to know that they are not alone. Tense and sen­si­tive, Nanette is like no stand-up you’ve seen be­fore. It de­con­structs the warped con­cept of black hu­mour for what it is—the priv­i­lege of straight men to ask you to “light’n up” and take ugly jokes for hu­mour. It’s a “must watch” show not just be­cause it is an im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal state­ment but be­cause it is the most hu­mane piece of art on the small screen right now. One does not have to agree with Gadsby to ap­pre­ci­ate her art. She ap­peals to the hu­man in us, and all those who feel pain will find some­thing that res­onates.

—Farah Yameen

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