Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is unlike any comedy; it is unconventional, it is disturbing, and it is powerful at the same time! The show will leave you with uncomfortable, harrowing thoughts and questions… with every word reverberating in your head long after you have finished watching. Here are some of the best quotes from the searing comedy special:
1) On shame:
“Shame is not a weapon. At least, it shouldn’t be, because it is way too powerful. But here we are living in cultures where we regularly, habitually “soak one child in shame and give permission to another to hate”. Shame is an identity-shredding bullet when aimed at a kid.”
2) On straight white male privilege:
“I love being mistaken for a man, ‘cause for a few moments, life gets a hell of a lot easier. I’m top-shelf, normal king of the humans. I’m a straight white man. I’m about to get good service for no fucking effort.”
3) On resilience, humanity and strength:
“What about their humanity? These men control our stories and yet they have a diminishing connection to their own humanity, and we don’t seem to mind so long as they get to hold onto their precious reputation…. to be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength.”
4) On diversity and power:
“I am incorrectly female. I’m incorrect. And that is a punishable offense. And this tension is yours. I’m not helping you anymore. You need to learn what this feels like because this tension is what not-normals carry inside of them all of the time because it is dangerous to be different…
All my life, I’ve been told that I’m a man-hater. I don’t hate men, I honestly do not. I don’t hate men. But… there’s a problem. See, I don’t even believe that women are better than men. I believe women are just as corruptible by power as men, because you know what, fellas, you don’t have a monopoly on the human condition, you arrogant fucks. But the story is as you have told it. Power belongs to you. And if you can’t handle criticism, take a joke, or deal with your own tension without violence, you have to wonder if you are up to the task of being in charge.
I’m not a man-hater. But I’m afraid of men. If I’m the only woman in a room full of men, I am afraid. And if you think that’s unusual, you’re not speaking to the women in your life.
I don’t hate men, but I wonder how a man would feel if they would have lived my life. Because it was a man who sexually abused me when I was a child. It was a man who beat the shit out of me at 17 (my prime). And it was two men who raped me when I was barely in my 20’s. Tell me why is that OK? … It would have been more humane to take me out to the back paddock and put a bullet in my head if it is that much of a crime to be different! I don’t tell you this so you think of me as a victim… I tell you this because my story has value… ‘You destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents.’ I will not allow my story to be destroyed. What I would have done to have heard a story like mine. Not for blame. Not for reputation, not for money, not for power. But to feel less alone. To feel connected… Diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference, you learn nothing.”
5) On connection:
“Do you know why we have the sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world. And that is the focus of the story we need. Connection.”
6) On a broken woman:
“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
7) Stories hold our cure:
Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine.
8) On abuse of power:
“Comedy is more used to throwaway joke about priests being pedophiles and Trump grabbing pussy. I don’t have time for that shit. Do you know who used to be an easy punchline? Monica Lewinsky. Maybe, if comedians had done their job properly, and made fun of the man who abused his power, then perhaps we might have had a middle-aged woman with an appropriate amount of experience in the White House, instead of, as we do, a man who openly admitted to sexually assaulting vulnerable young women because he could.”
9) On being sensitive:
“Why is insensitivity something to strive for? I happen to know that my sensitivity is my strength. I know that. It’s my sensitivity that’s helped me navigate a very difficult path in life. So when somebody tells me to “stop being so sensitive,” you know what? I feel a little bit like a nose being lectured by a fart. Not the problem.”
10) On options as a woman in a man’s world:
“There’s only ever been two options for a little girl to grow up into. Virgin or whore. We were always given a choice. Take your pick. Ladies’ choice! That’s the trick. The patriarchy, it’s not a dictatorship. Take your choice! And I don’t fit very neatly into either of those categories.”
11) On our obsession with reputation:
“Do you know what should be the target of our jokes at the moment? Our obsession with reputation. We’re obsessed. We think reputation is more important than anything else, including humanity.”
12) On anger:
But this is why… I must quit comedy. Because the only way… I can tell my truth and put tension in the room is with anger. And I am angry, and I believe I’ve got every right to be angry! But what I don’t have a right to do is to spread anger. I don’t. Because anger, much like laughter, can connect a room full of strangers like nothing else. But anger, even if it’s connected to laughter, will not… relieve tension. Because anger is a tension. It is a toxic, infectious… tension. And it knows no other purpose than to spread blind hatred, and I want no part of it. Because I take my freedom of speech as a responsibility, and just because I can position myself as a victim, does not make my anger constructive. It never is constructive.
13) On internalizing homophobia:
Punch lines need trauma, because punch lines… need tension, and tension feeds trauma. I didn’t come out to my grandma last year because I’m still ashamed of who I am— not intellectually, but right there [pats her heart] I still have shame. You learn from the part of the story you focus on. I need to tell my story properly, because the closet, for me, was no easy thing to come out of. From the years 1989 to 1997, right? This is ten years, effectively my adolescence, Tasmania was at the center of a very toxic national debate about homosexuality and whether or not it should be legalized. And I’m from the northwest coast of Tasmania, the Bible Belt. Seventy percent of the people I lived amongst believed that homosexuality should be a criminal act. Seventy percent of the people who raised me, who loved me, who I trusted, believed that homosexuality was a sin, that homosexuals were heinous, sub-human pedophiles. Seventy percent! And by the time I identified as being gay, it was too late. I was already homophobic, and you do not get to just flick a switch on that. No, what you do is you internalize that homophobia and you learn to hate yourself. Hate yourself to the core. I sat soaking in shame in the closet for ten years. Because the closet can only stop you from being seen. It is not shame-proof. When you soak a child in shame, they cannot develop the neurological pathways that… carry thoughts of self-worth. They can’t do that. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in. But when you do that to a child, it becomes a weed so thick, and it grows so fast, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes as natural as gravity. When I came out of the closet, I didn’t have any jokes. The only thing I knew how to do when I came out of the closet was to be invisible and to hate myself. It took me another ten years to understand that I was allowed to take up space in the world.