SPECIAL NOTE: This New York Times article reminds me of my first attempt at writing for a college newspaper! I wrote a book review and a review about my review said YOUR REVIEW IS WORSE THAN THE BOOK YOU ARE REVIEWING…meaning you are not helping us to read or enjoy the book, because you are writing some bullshit, not making sense to the readers!!!!!!!!! That was my first attempt at writing in college in Singapore. Since then I had written 6 books…the most recent THIS IS CHINA, just published by Create Space, an Amazon company in USA! Anyway this New York Times review of a new lesbian comedian from Australia reminds me of my first article I wrote…lots of bullshit, meaningful bullshit and using language not clear and obvious to an average reader! I am reminded of what I had learned when I first came to America, that most newspapers are written for an average high school student! I am sure high school students would fail if asked to read this bullshit New York Times article…they would have a tough time understanding it, then New York Times, I assume, are not meant for high school students, but college students or higher! Ahahahahaha…Anyway we have a new voice from Australia to entertain Americans…and she is being rated highly by a reporter at New York Times…a bullshit piece of writing. Steve USA July 7, 2018
Introducing a Major New Voice in Comedy Also Attacks Comedy)
By Jason Zinoman
• March 19, 2018 New York Times (I have 4 more articles to read before I must subscribe to the papers, ahahahaha…july 7, 2018)
t was only a matter of time before a stand-up comedian channeled the righteous rage of the current feminist moment.
Dave Chappelle released a special about #MeToo, but he didn’t respond to events so much as shoehorn them into his usual preoccupations. Other comics weighed in, but none have produced a show with as much unsettling urgency as Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette,” a riveting New York debut at SoHo Playhouse that announces a major new voice.
Ms. Gadsby calls out Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton, not to mention Pablo Picasso, in an ingenious indictment of the sexism and sentimentality of our narratives about genius, but her real target is the culture that enables and excuses abuse. That doesn’t sound funny, I realize, but she is that, too. Still, the laughs of her show are a means to an end, which is, at its core, a ferocious attack on comedy itself.
Ms. Gadsby, a 40-year-old Australian comic, is an unknown here, but the way she weaves intellectual arguments into taut jokes makes it clear she’s no novice. After more than a decade of stand-up, she developed a following in Europe and Australia with self-deprecating comedy about her family, her weight and coming out as a lesbian in a homophobic community. “Nanette” — which won awards last year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and has since been picked up by Netflix for a future release — begins in that quirky vein.
Walking onstage, she is all stammers and fidgets and overly articulate neurosis, adjusting the microphone stand and repeatedly pushing her glasses up her nose, evoking no one so much as Woody Allen. She makes fun of Tasmania, where she grew up and where gay sex was not decriminalized until 1997, and even jokes about how lesbians don’t have a sense of humor. The title “Nanette,” she explains, refers to a barista who was going to be the subject of the show, but she couldn’t make it work. Failure is the theme of her early material.
Her self-mocking nebbish is a familiar persona, but there comes a moment when she drops and deconstructs it, and that turning point makes you re-evaluate everything you saw before. “Do you know what self-deprecation means coming from somebody who exists on the margins?” she asks. “It is not humility; it is humiliation.”
Then she goes on the attack, cheerfully smashing pieties like the one about comedy being the best medicine. “I reckon penicillin might give it a nudge,” she says. “Your baby is sick? Just give it a tickle.”
Breaking down comedy with mathematical precision, she explains that good stories have three parts (beginning, middle and end) while jokes require two (setup and punch line), which means that to end on a laugh, comics often need to cut off the most important and constructive element, where hindsight, perspective and catharsis exist.
“A joke is a question, artificially inseminated with tension,” she says, before explaining the mechanics of her job. “I make you all tense and then I cure it with a laugh. And you say: ‘Thanks for that, I was feeling a bit tense.’” Then in one of many tonal shifts, she raises her voice, irritated at the audience’s hypothetic gratitude: “But I made you tense!”
Then she points to the audience and back at her and quips, darkly: “This is an abusive relationship.”
Skepticism about comedy, which dates at least to Plato, is older than the romanticized view that prevails today, undergirding both the comics who champion it as well as critics who suggests the best jokes punch upward and are rooted in truth. Ms. Gadsby is at her most radical pushing back on this idea, explaining that funny comedy isn’t always honest, and in fact rewards deception.
She said that in her homophobic town, she lived with shame that she turned into comedy, but that she paid a price. She never entirely grew out of her own self-hatred. When she retells her story without the jokes, it’s bracing. By stopping at the punch line, she says, she froze “an incredibly formative experience at its trauma point and sealed it off with jokes.”
In explaining how she turned her story of coming out of the closet into a bit, she upends the cliché of the comic who finds salvation by turning pain into laughter.
This is a show where, more than once, the performer makes the crowd laugh and laugh and, suddenly, turn deadly silent. She also nimbly leaps from personal stories to big-picture analysis, including a damning digression about Picasso, whom she calls a misogynist, citing both his own statements and an affair with a 17-year-old. After drawing attention to the silliness of discussing art history in a stand-up show, she gets serious again, saying comics have been more likely to make dismissive jokes about Monica Lewinsky or “throwaway gags” about Mr. Weinstein. It’s on this subject that her jokes stop and her tone becomes grave, saying we care more about the reputations of artists like Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby than their accusers.
Does that mean that “Nanette” is no longer comedy? I don’t think so.
Comedy is much broader than Ms. Gadsby suggests. It can double down on prejudices or challenge them. Rape jokes have shamed victims and one bit by Hannibal Buress helped kick off the backlash against Mr. Cosby. Despite Ms. Gadsby’s formulaic definitions of comedy, a whole tradition, which includes Andy Kaufman and Tig Notaro and various proponents of cringe comedy, experiments with the tension-release dynamic of the setup and punch line.
“People really only feel safe when men do the angry comedy,” Ms. Gadsby says. “I do it and I’m just an angry lesbian ruining all the fun and banter.”
She’s right that angry stand-up has long been the province of men, and that there’s a double standard at work, but comedy isn’t frozen in time. We’re at a moment when I suspect audiences are not as interested in hearing from angry male comics, and yet the work of Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks laid the groundwork that allows us to see Ms. Gadsby’s roaring polemic wrapped in jokes as firmly part of a stand-up tradition.
The best defense against Ms. Gadsby’s assault on comedy is her own show — an irony she is clearly aware of, and even perhaps nods to in a tangent about the ridiculousness of gendered parenting. Instead of dressing babies in pink or blue, she proposes they all wear blue, pointing out that the color evokes a cool temperature while also being the shade of the hottest part of a flame. “Blue has the flexibility to accommodate contradiction,” she says.
So does great art, which is why the paradox at the heart of this remarkable show — it’s a comedy arguing against comedy — actually elevates it. How funny is that?
“Nanette” runs through April 15 at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street. See sohoplayhouse.com for more information.