How a scathing, silent cafe interaction inspired the name of Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’.

hannah gadsby

 

Hannah Gadsby‘s Netflix special Nanette has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon ever since it was released last month.

Moving people to laughter, tears and sheer awe, the 40-year-old Tasmanian comedian has single-handedly redefined the meaning of stand-up. Before your very eyes, the show transforms from a punchline-filled comedy to a scorching critique of her own medium. By the end of the hour, your understanding of not just comedy, but also art history, sexuality, misogyny and power, is profoundly shifted.

But one question you may have had after watching, is why ‘Nanette’? Gadsby explained the story behind the name of her stand-up show in an interview with Variety this month.

The real Nanette was a barista Gadsby encountered at a cafe who made her feel uncomfortable. The two never spoke, but their interaction was enough to leave its mark on Gadsby.

“I’ve never seen her since, I assume she’s still kicking about somewhere. She was just an older lady who I would normally love to talk to, but because of what I represented, we didn’t,” Gadsby said.

“You know when someone looks at you like you’re scum of the earth.”

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Gadsby said that if you’d seen the live version, you would have learned about Nanette. But the segment had to be cut from the Netflix film version due to time constraints.

Originally, Gadsby wanted to build her whole show around her, but then realised she couldn’t.

“No offence to Nanette, she might have just had a tough day. I was purely projecting. I feel pretty bad because she was just getting on with her life. It’s one thing for me to open up this viral sensation upon myself but she’s just doing her thing,” she said.

With a mere glance, a stranger inflicted onto Gadsby a raw and potent discomfort. And through her show, the comic manages to get audiences to experience that same feeling, that same tension, alongside her. In the end, it’s what forces us to confront personal and societal prejudices we stew in every day.

So, whether or not the real-life Nanette was ill-intentioned, she’s learnt an age-old lesson: you never cross a comedian. Particularly one as brilliant as Hannah Gadsby.

Why everyone needs to watch Nanette…

What did you think of Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’? Tell us in the comments below.

(Oh, and if you haven’t seen Nanette yet, well… what are you waiting for? If you need more convincing, check out our review: “I need you all to watch Netflix’s new comedy show. It will stun you into complete silence.”)

You can follow Sophie Aubrey on Twitter.

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