Last night as I watched Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix Special, “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette” I was struck by the nuance of what was being offered up. The power of one person standing before many and sharing the pivot point to their personal narrative is like witnessing alchemy.
I woke up thinking about the emotional journey she took her audience on, and the monumental importance of people witnessing her as she shifts her story. It’s not easy to hear some of the things she shares, and I had to actively breathe into my heart as I listened to some of it. But she’s coming from a place of shifting the story of her self-worth and it makes the sharing very powerful. Her observations on our numbing out within the collective are potent too. Complicity doesn’t help anything shift toward the better.
I had been on the treadmill and clicked on it because I thought it was going to be a comedy special. I didn’t know Hannah Gadsby. I hadn’t seen an interview with her and didn’t read the description of the show. Without a doubt, this show moved me. It made me laugh, but more importantly, it made me think and feel. It wasn’t a fluffy comedy show, and maybe I would have gathered that if I had taken the time to read the Netflix overview. But to be honest, if I had taken the time to read it, I wouldn’t have watched it.
I was left feeling like Hannah had bravely gifted herself, all the raw and vulnerable parts of her story, to the world. Her tender underbelly exposed, her raw potent anger exposed, her humour and it’s layered reasons all out there in a very powerful way.
To view it, I felt like I was witnessing something amazing, on a very visceral level. I was offered an opportunity to see someone using their story to heal their own traumas and ask the world to witness that vulnerability; not for pity, but because the story is just too large to contain in one body.
This asking is not something that people do outside of women’s circles. We haven’t given permission to each other to be this honest in general, and we’ve given women even less space to do so.
Through her time on stage, she takes the viewer on a journey, its raw, honest and beautifully human. She begins slowly, using a well-honed understanding of comedy to bring her audience in. She even tells them what she’s doing. And then she slowly unfolds her observations of our world. How mixed up we are.
While witnessing this one woman’s journey in life, and what informed her as an individual, it’s clear that all life events shape each of us. And we all internalize so much.
A person could watch this passively, could try really hard to stay out of the feelings introduced, but Hannah’s expertise at drawing the observer into an emotional response is nothing short of masterful. In the end, I didn’t know if I was elated or exhausted. I’ve never thought about how comedy is a manipulation of emotions, or even that a comedian knows what they are doing; Hannah explains it. She also offers up the idea that laughter is not our best medicine as we have been taught, but our intimate stories are and that we would be wise to use them. Those are the things that will shake us up from our complacency, make us think and shift the acceptance of the status quo.
To feel is to connect and to stay open is compassion. Its how we stay human. If you have time, check out her show, if anything it will take you on a masterful emotional journey. If you’re not sure, check out this interview to get a feel for her style of sharing. As always, if it moves me I like to pass it on…