Hannah Gadsby’s new stand up special <i>Hannah Gadsby: Douglas </i>is streaming on Netflix.
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‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas’ Succeeds Even In a Post-Nanette World

‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas’ is streaming on Netflix.

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Movie Reviews
3 min read

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas

‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas’ Succeeds Even In a Post-Nanette World

Note: The review may contain spoilers

Hannah Gadsby’s new Netflix stand-up special Hannah Gadsby: Douglas comes in a post-Nanette world and the Australian comedian is deeply aware of the baggage that could (and possibly does) follow in the aftermath of her 2017 performance. It’s a conversation she doesn’t shy away from initiating. In fact, within the first two minutes of the (roughly) hour-long special, Gadsby addresses the elephant in the room by asking her audience, “If you’re here because of Nanette... Why?”

She then launches a slew of unsurprising digs about “putting all my trauma eggs in one basket.” Her opening - a detached, third-person breakdown of her hugely successful anti-comedy special Nanette - forces her audience to shed any expectations they might have unconsciously preserved. But for Gadsby, the game doesn’t end there.

Gadsby dives into a “prelude” of sorts where she essentially lists out everything that’s about to follow. She familiarises us with the format of Hannah Gadsby: Douglas. An observational comedy beginning about Americans, a “curious incident” from when she took her dog out for a walk, a careful joke section, some “needling of the patriarchy”, followed by creative “hate-baiting”, and finally her big Autism reveal. Turns out, Gadsby is more than happy giving away spoilers of her own show even before its begins.

‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas’ Succeeds Even In a Post-Nanette World

Some would call this extremely odd and slightly clinical deconstruction of her own performance as bold. She’s not just telling us what’s going to follow but she’s also telling us when exactly we’ll be laughing. It’s risky, for sure but it also gives Gadsby an upper hand.

If in ‘Nanette’, Gadsby offered us her vulnerability on a plate; in ‘Douglas’ she’s reclaiming the same without taking away from the attachment her audiences might have harboured post ‘Nanette.’

By this point, we know that thematically Douglas will not disappoint but it’s Gadsby’s writing that will decide the fate of this performance.

The rest of the performance is an exceptionally layered experience brimming with a lot of back-and-forths which at times, I’ll be honest, get exhausting. I personally needed to pause just so I could process the genius of Hannah Gadsby. For every sub-segment, she breaks the ice with a joke that’s actually quite funny and then launches into her brand of raging comedy. Her prior templatization of the performance effectively works here as the context is already established and Gadsby has the freedom to be herself without having to prove anything.

It’s towards the latter half of the show that we get to re-experience the thunderous rage of ‘Nanette’ - in some bits.

Considering the standard she has set for herself, Gadsby in Douglas is relatively more light and entertaining but drowning in brilliance nevertheless. She dives deep into uncovering the roots of patriarchy by talking about men and how they’ve always been in charge of naming things. This is followed by a little lecture-style segment where she uses art history to evoke laughter. Her hate-baiting segment is all about addressing the unsolicited criticism and abuse that came her way after Nanette. With an exaggerated expression on her face, she says, “To this day I still get men sliding into my DMs to let me know, in all caps, that they've... never heard of me!”

Eventually, she circles back to the beginning when she said, “This is a show about Autism.”

She uses a childhood anecdote to shed light on her eccentricities that are, as she only recently found out, a manifestation of her autism. It’s a light-hearted public declaration that drives home the importance of medicine and acceptance and how that shaped her personal struggle. Just like Nanette, Gadsby leaves us with something to think about while ensuring that there is enough laughter - especially for the haters who’ve ‘never’ heard of her.

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