Comedian Hannah Gadsby rose to prominence this past year due to her amazing comedy special on Netflix, entitled Nanette. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t yet had a chance to see it, but I will say that she takes the rules of comedy, and deliberately breaks them to send a message to her audience. It means that there are moments of discomfort, and it’s on purpose.
There are some who have criticized her show as not being “real” comedy. Most of these people are the sort to loudly exclaim that there should be no rules in comedy, and that it’s bad for comedians to be “politically correct”. Yet when a woman, in particular a lesbian, non-gender-conforming, neurodivergent woman, has the audacity to do things differently, suddenly rules about comedy are paramount.
Of course with this kind of criticism, it’s not about the art itself, but rather the gate-keeping of who gets to participate. Who gets to control the room. Who gets to tell their story.
This Ted Talk by Gadsby is another example of why I like her so much. She once again takes a very specific, set format, and refuses to follow the rules. It’s a great reminder that value comes from what makes us think – not in how perfectly it conforms to expectations.