Tasmanian comedian Hannah Gadsby is bringing her new show Douglas to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin this November 17th. Ahead of the show, we spoke with the comedian about the success of Nanette, her new "dicey" material and opening for David Doherty.
On June 20th of last year, Hannah Gadsby's stand-up special, Nanette, debuted on Netflix. Since then, the comic's life has been permanently altered. Her heartbreaking performance - a show that delivered stories of trauma, homophobia, sexual assault, and discrimination - received critical acclaim, resulted in a TED Talk and took over Twitter as fans began to share their own sobering stories.
The show took home a number of awards including a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special, The GLAAD Media Award for Special Recognition, the AACTA Award for Best Performance in a Television Comedy, and a Peabody Award.
And then Hannah quit comedy.
After more than 10 years in stand-up, the Tasmanian woman found fame - just in time to announce her retirement. Early on in her Netflix special, the stand-up explained that she planned to leave her career behind because, as a queer woman, she continuously found herself as the butt of her own jokes.
"I've built a career out of self-deprecating humor," she told the audience. "I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak. And I simply will not do that anymore - not to myself, or anybody who identifies with me."
Nanette would be her swan song, a final performance that would be no holds barred: brutal and honest.
Thankfully, Gadsby followed up on this statement by saying that she "lied" and that her exit from comedy was for theatrical purposes only. Now that she has a platform, she said, she has every intention of putting it to use.
The result of this revelation is Douglas, a brand new show named after a very adorable dog in which she deconstructs comedy, reflects on art history and discusses her recent autism diagnosis. However, as easy as she makes it look, "returning" to comedy was no mean feat. When a worldwide audience is waiting with bated breath, where do you begin?
"I can't compete with my own work," said Hannah, speaking over the phone. "Instead of treating it like a difficult second album, I've just gone on, working right there in the shadow of it, and I think that's working. I can't top what I did there, so why bother? I've managed to create something that pulls free from Nanette in its own way."
"I explore autism in the show," she continued. "I wanted to create something that lets people into the way that I think instead of just telling them. It's a very complex thing, people don't understand it, and so there is a resistance to it.
"It is a really dicey one to play with but I felt like it was my responsibility to pick it up. I have a very broad audience and I feel like I have a responsibility to speak up for people who don't really have a voice because I do have an audience who are ready to be on board with what I have to say."
As someone who described herself as "invisible" in the past, Gadsby found herself in a rare position – her story made the world stop and listen, and the global conversation that followed brought fans, fame, responsibility, opportunity, scrutiny, and privilege. How has the 41-year-old comic coped?
"The experience has definitely been less of a transformation and more of a wild ride," she said. "It's kind of incredible how the world was so openly accepting of what I had to say and how I said it but I'm actually kind of pleased that this happened to me later in life."
"I have a sense of perspective that I wouldn't have had as a younger person," she continued. "I can't take it too seriously because I know it is not actually who I am. It's not normal or something that I should invest in but I will use the platform while I have it."
"I definitely haven't properly processed this," she added."It is kind of a crazy thing that's happened to me and it feels quite singular and weird. I've kept my people close and that has helped, both professionally and privately. I have a lovely team and they help filter out the noise."
At this very moment, Hannah is touring Europe with Douglas and will perform in Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on November 17th. Far from being new to the Irish comedy scene though, Gadsby says she is well acquainted with the Emerald Isle.
"I opened for David O'Doherty at one stage," she reminisced. "I did the Spiegel tent with Maeve Higgins in Cork and I did Kilkenny Comedy festival way back. It's been a minute but Ireland and myself have been through a lot recently. You guys went through an upheaval of self as well and I think it will be a good reunion."
Hannah Gadsby brings Douglas to Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on Sunday 17th November.