Dear Hannah Gadsby,
I am writing this with tears in my eyes, having just watched your Netflix comedy special, Nanette.
I had to watch it twice to appreciate how you wove together – with humor – threads of your coming out story and assault, insights about the cost of turning your story into comedy, analysis of comedy structure v. story structure, your experiences with unsolicited advice givers and anti-depressives, and, even, info from your undergrad degree in Art History. You brought these storylines together for maximum impact, making a indelible case for embracing multiple perspectives.
It is so much more than a comedy special, which seems to be stirring up a bit of controversy. Did you see where Judy Berman in the New York Times wrote, “The controversy surrounds the nature of Nanette, which is packaged as comedy but evolves into a searing critique of that medium when, midway through her set, Gadsby announces that she’s quitting stand-up. A lesbian from conservative Tasmania, she is done mining past trauma for jokes. Instead, Gadsby launches into a shrewd and impassioned dissection of misogyny, homophobia, art history and especially comedy. Is it fair to call this stand-up? Opinions vary.”
Whatever you want to call it, your brilliant performance gathers steam as it goes. I put your closing words above my computer:
“Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine.
“I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger. I just needed my story heard, my story felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because like it or not your story is my story and my story is your story. I just don’t have the strength to take care of my story anymore. I don’t want my story defined by anger. All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story.
“Do you know why we have The Sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent Van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent Van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world and that is the focus of the story we need.
Hannah, I want you to know I will take care of your story. I think that’s my purpose on this earth – to take care of stories. One of my first picture books, published 22 years ago, is about a princeling who finds his own dreams. The most recent is about a little wolf who sings his own song. I agree our diversity is our strength; there is room for all our dreams, all our songs, all our stories. The first thing I will do to take care of your story is to share it with the BATT blogpost readers.
Your very specific, individual story is universal. That’s the way stories work. They connect us to a world where everyone is welcome at the table. Thanks again for your wonderful special.
Yours truly, Laura