From Nanette to Nanettflix–Hannah Gadsby’s challenge to existing comedy convention

Taylor and Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Comedy Studies, 2021, 12, (1), pp. 29-39
Issue Date:
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2040610X.2020.pdfPublished version1.11 MB
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© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Released in June 2018 across most of Netflix’s worldwide outlets, Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special Nanette has gained intense attention. Widely described as a ‘game changer’ for challenging what stand-up comedy can achieve, the special has been called ‘post comedy’ by commentators and other comedians–although this is not always used as a complimentary review. The Netflix version of the live show, which Gadsby has nicknamed “Nanettflix”, was filmed live at the Sydney Opera House in January 2018 after the show had already won many international awards including in Melbourne, Edinburgh, London and New York. This article considers Gadbsy’s live show Nanette and the subsequent Netflix special as an innovative combination of comedy content and (post television) form, exploring how the combination of the artists’ distinct and masterful voice was delivered to an international audience via the internet distributor Netflix. To build this argument, segments of the special itself are analysed, as is commentary about the show’s reach, testimony from live audience members, an interview with producer Madeline Parry and related press. Importantly, the comedian’s articulation of how comedy works in terms of identity will be explored in terms of existing comedy scholarship, with her challenges to key ideas around ‘tension’ and ‘release’ considered as fundamental the final screen special’s effectiveness.
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