Early in 2018, Hannah Gadsby arrived in the US to perform her show, Nanette, for one month.
Or that was the plan, anyway.
Four months on stage in New York City, one Netflix special and a surprise appearance at the Emmys later, and Nanette has started a global conversation about the legacies of trauma, while Gadsby, a standup comic from Tasmania, has become a household name.
Gadsby was at the Australians in Film awards in Los Angeles recently to accept the Create NSW Annette Kellerman Award for inspiring Australian women, presented to her by Monica Lewinsky.
Does getting together at an event like this reinforce the idea — that all Americans seem to have — that all Australians in Hollywood know each other?
Well, don’t they? Hearing the accent I feel like I know people. I don’t know what Americans think; I’m still struggling with how they make tea.
It’s not with electric kettles; they don’t really use those. No they don’t. It’s really weird. I met someone who had one and they’re like, ‘No, we don’t use it because it gets too hot. We just boil [water] on the stove.’
How long have you been in the US now? It’s been a while, right?
It’s not by plan. My life is not by plan. I came over in March to do one month in New York for Nanette live. And then I was gonna head home. And I didn’t. So this is like I’m in a river, which I guess is by my own making. But I’m not in control.
Do you FaceTime with your dogs while you’re overseas?
Yeah, they’re not real good at it. My friend who’s looking after them [sends me] so many photos and my heart aches.
How have you adjusted to the idea of celebrity, post-Nanette? Now there are headlines about everything you say and who you know.
It’s odd. I know how boring I am, so to be interesting on such a level is weird for me. It’s... fine. It’s when strangers want to hug me that I find odd. I’m struggling with that the most, I think. The content of the show... I really did put a lot out there. And I know that it’s really touched people and it’s really changed people’s thinking and helped people — I’m aware of this. But when you meet them on the street and they’re getting tearful, you’re like, ‘Oh my Lord. Sorry.’ And then they want a hug and ... that’s weird. But I understand how it’s happened.
What is your relationship to the internet like?
What do you mean?
That’s where it seemed like the bulk of discussions about Nanette were happening, it’s where we spend a lot of time — Just being a female comic, I’ve been getting horrific stuff online for my whole career. Being a physical woman in comedy, you get that really hostile [feedback]. And I learned how to deal with that. I was really blown away by how little I got from Nanette. There’s been a bit, but to scale it’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’d learned to ignore the ones that really want to be violent; you learn to recognise those as unnecessarily hostile. But I only ever check social media when I feel OK in the world.
A lot of conversations about comedy at the moment are asking when men, like Louis CK, are ‘allowed’ to come back after sexual misconduct allegations. What is your take on that, as someone whose work is now being held up in opposition to someone like him?
The issue with Louis CK is that he hasn’t appeared to have thought about what he’s done. He needs to start again. He shouldn’t be able to just turn up unannounced; he should be an open mic-er. He should have to actually get on the bill. The distinct lack of consent of not giving the audience the option of ‘I want to see this’ is part of the problem. How does he not know that he’s the punchline? That guy is the punchline. What is he doing? How can you watch him on stage and on think about him sitting there naked and masturbating in front of women who didn’t want to watch him? Like, I don’t understand how audiences can take him seriously.
There looked to be a second wave of affection for you following the Emmys. What are your memories from that night?
That was kind of incredible. Again, I didn’t think about that until after it happened and I realised that I’d been introduced to a whole new massive audience in the US and I thought, ‘Oh, golly, when does this stop?’ Because it’s a live, televised show, I was just trying to keep quiet till I did my actual job. And I just walked out there and [saw that] all the audience is lit up for television cameras and I thought, ‘Oh this room is flat.’ As a comedian you want a lively audience, and it was quite late in the night, so I changed gears and slowed it down; you know, no point being needy. And it kind of worked but it wasn’t by design. I was hoping just to not make a complete knob [of myself].
I’m very invested in the idea of you being friends with Emma Thompson. What is your favourite of her movies?
I really like Sense and Sensibility. She wrote that too. I didn’t realise; I had to Google her when I met her. I can never get over the bit in Love Actually when she cries over the Joni Mitchell CD. I mean, that. I hate that movie but that is an iconic scene.
What tips would you give anyone planning to dress as you for Halloween?
Anyone with short hair and glasses apparently looks like me. I’ve been getting a lot of those. I think move slowly, that’s the real trick. I move really slowly. And talk slowly. I’m a zombie, it’s a zombie kind of a thing.
Don’t miss it
Nanette is available to stream now on Netflix.