Friday, March 31, 2023

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Hannah Gadsby Releases Memoir “Ten Steps to Nanette”

Cover of Ten Steps to Nanette

Hannah Gadsby’s new memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation, chronicles the moments in Hannah’s life that led to the globally beloved Nanette. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is a live “comedy” performance, written and performed by Gadsby herself, that debuted in 2017. It focuses on Hannah’s experience with homophobia, mental illness, disability, and misogyny. 

Hannah’s wife, Jenney Shamash, managed Hannah’s rise to international fame, which was skyrocketed with Nanette. The care is apparent: Nanette wasn’t an invitation to laugh at the comedian. It was a furious condemnation of the way comedy can perpetuate societal problems. It held the audience, the industry, society, and comedians, accountable for their role in people’s suffering. She was done humiliating herself for other people’s entertainment.

Nanette was powerful because it announced Hannah Gadsby was quitting stand-up–that ended up being a break–for a variety of reasons, including because lesbian comedians are expected to self-deprecate for laughs. Hannah realized that she was joining in on her own homophobic treatment. The audience, like figures from her past, were laughing at her lesbianism, rather than with her. Lesbian comedians basing their comedy on lesbian jokes can be a form of self-harm.

The pivot away from self-deprecating humor was a move of self-love. In an interview with WBUR, Hannah says: “I believe that the way you talk about yourself informs the way you think about yourself. I didn’t make that up. I think that’s well-known wisdom. So it made sense to me that I should shift the way that I talk about myself in my most public forum, which was my job. Or else I would be relegating myself to a life of not thinking very much of myself. I was being literally paid to demean myself.” 

Being diagnosed with ADHD and autism also changed the way Hannah Gadsby saw comedy. “I stopped trying to solve myself for the audience’s benefit [after being diagnosed],” she continues. “I was always trying to relate my idiosyncratic life and idiosyncratic way of being and tried to mask that and tried to be who people would assume I would be. And it felt like I was pushing through sludge. Once I was diagnosed, I understood better the way that my mind worked, and that elevated my thinking about myself in a way that I could then adapt my communication to things that I wanted to talk about instead of trying to explain my deficiencies.”

Hannah details many experiences in her performance of Nanette, that are discussed in Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation. In fact, Hannah was already writing this book when she wrote Nanette, the performance. “I was writing this book before I wrote ‘Nanette,’ and originally I was going to write a collection of essays about being accident-prone, which is still true. But during the course of trying to write a book and making sense of my life, every time I sent something back to editors, they’d say ‘This part of your life doesn’t make sense.’ 

“So I kept having to go back and as I was digging deeper into my life, my parallel life on stage, I just sort of kept getting pushed to this place where I felt like ‘Nanette’ had to be written. So in a way, the book pushed me to write ‘Nanette’ and then ‘Nanette’ pushed me to finish the book.”

Hannah has some advice for overcoming trauma: “I don’t try to dwell on the specifics of the traumas. In my show I’m very much of the opinion that you learn from the part of the story you focus on. So I try and focus on what happens after, the pain and suffering that happens after and that you need community, you need other people. You need help to get yourself out of trauma. I believe too often the onus is on the individual to heal themselves, and I just honestly don’t think that’s possible. I think you need support networks, you need external scaffolding and you need help to undo trauma.”

Read the full article here

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