Emmy and Peabody Award-winning comedian Hannah Gadsby follows their acclaimed Netflix comedy specials Nanette and Douglas with their aptly named latest special, Hannah Gadsby: Something Special. Although they admit they’re not a fan of com-coms, Gadsby’s typically smart set has a “feel-good” vibe, focusing on their relationship with Jenney Shamash (also the show’s producer and director), the couple’s recent wedding, two memorable encounters with bunnies, and one with Hollywood legend Jodie Foster.
With the Something Special, filmed at the Sydney Opera House last year, now streaming on Netflix, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke with Hannah Gadsby about how intentional the show’s upbeat tone was, collaborating with their wife Jenney on the material, and being inspired by Suzy Eddie Izzard.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: you describe this as a feel-good show, how consciously were you crafting something warm and uplifting as you went about writing it?
Hannah Gadsby: “Very consciously. I’m not an accidental comedian. I really am full of intent. The world was very uncertain when I began this show and I felt like, this is a lot! So I wanted to be constructive.”
Do you see Something Special as a loose Netflix trilogy of comedy specials along with Nanette and Douglas?
“It’s very much a trilogy, absolutely. I’m using the rule of three in all sorts of different ways in this. Even the name of the special is a play on that. I set up the pattern that my specials are names—Nanette, Douglas—and then when this one, I’m like, ‘no, I’m not!’ It’s classic Hannah, isn’t it?! With these three shows, if you watch them all, you get a real sense of an individual at a certain point in their life three times and I think that’s an interesting thing at the very least. Also, from Nanette to this show you’re witnessing someone who’s overcome trauma and I think that’s a special thing.”
To what extent did you find it more challenging to write and deliver funny material about being happy rather than darker themes?
“Mate, it’s so much harder! People do not necessarily want to see someone who’s happy, not right now. They’re like, ‘we’re miserable, why aren’t you?!’ So I was walking a really fine line between building a rapport with the audience or building resentment and I worked really hard to strike that balance.”
Something Special centres around you getting married to Jenno, who is also your producer, and we see her watching you from the wings during the show. As a lot of it references your relationship, how much of the material did you run past her first? Was she your sounding board?
“Yeah, absolutely. Most comedians use their partners for sounding boards. Most comedy is a collaboration between whoever is in the room with the comedian when they’re workshopping their material. But Jenny’s been in the show from the very beginning. She produced the live show and was there from the get-go, so she’s been with me the whole time. In that sense, it’s kind of a collaboration. She knows this show better than me. I haven’t seen it once, but she has and she was in the edit, so she’s very much across what’s happening.”
So if you happen to ever need an understudy then Jenno could step in maybe?!
“She can do the show!”
Who or what tends to make you laugh the most in your own life?
“One of my secret joys in life is seeing faces in things and when there aren’t faces in things I do carry googly eyes with me and I will make them a face!”
I love the Bananagrams mention in the show, it’s a very funny moment. How good are you at Bananagrams?
“I’m really good! But you know what I’m not good at? Leaving enough space on the table for all my amazing words! I’m not fast at anything though, so there’s that.”
During the special we learn that Jodie Foster gave you her phone number, which is another very funny moment in the show. Have you used it and given Jodie Foster a call?
“I lost it. But we’re on email.”
Finally, what’s your favourite piece of LGBTQ+ culture or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years?
“When I was a baby comedian—that sounds funny to me in my head—I always loved Eddie Izzard’s work. I also loved the gender queer presentation from the get-go, that was always really appealing to me. I like the way that Eddie tries to understand the world in their work, that has always really inspired me.”
By James Kleinmann
Hannah Gadsby: Something Special is streaming globally on Netflix now, along with their previous comedy specials Nanette and Douglas.
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