Last night my partner and I went to see Nanette, Hannah Gadsby’s comedy swan song. It was the best performance I’ve seen in a long time. Such a powerful message, and exquisitely powerful vulnerability. I have so much admiration for the way she used the power of her voice, how she made us laugh before she made us cry. She moved us from appreciating her being heartbreakingly funny to getting what the heartbreak was about. And it’s not just a personal story, it’s a story for all of us. 

Hannah did a brilliant job of making us laugh, and helping us understand what laughing at a joke was about, breaking the tension. She took us with her as she described why she wasn’t going to do comedy anymore. She made a very compelling case for it and had us all supporting her choice by the end of the show.

Through the narrative of Nanette, she illuminated the path to her choice to retire from comedy. She showed us the deeper layers of pain and how it was really unhealthy for her. She shared the rest of the story, after the funny bits, about how badly she was treated, how she was viciously beaten and no one helped. She named the damage done through her lived experience of growing up when Tasmania was deciding if homosexuality should be legalised. She described how internalised homophobia happens.

I can only imagine how others felt at the end of the show but I saw a lot of other queer looking women as well. It felt really validating, especially after the recent vote on same-sex marriage. It felt a little bit more ok to be who we are as a female couple walking out of the theatre at the end. Hannah’s people were there to hear her, believe her and have their story told through her. She speaks on our behalf.

I felt for the woman at the end of our row, weeping, the woman sitting next to her, presumably a close friend or relative, with her arm around her, consoling her. I wanted to give her space, to wait before we walked past her. I wanted to share our collective pain, but it didn’t seem the space for it.

Despite the sadness and tension I was left with, it gave me hope for people everywhere being able to stand up and be heard, be believed. It gave me hope that these sorts of stories can help us take collective responsibility for making a change in our society. That we can heal together.

Hannah has several sold out shows and added a couple extra which means a lot of people will get the message. Thousands will be impacted by her story, her call to hold her story. It made me wonder about the ripple effect and what may come of this. Will more people stand up when they witness behaviour that discriminates or adds to the shame people feel for being themselves? How will we respond to the call to take collective responsibility, that is the subtext of her message? Will we change the way we see and react to injustice? I hope so.


This post is 25 in 45 posts for 45 years.

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