Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Hannah Gadsby

Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby won the prestigious Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier this year so the Edinburgh Fringe premiere of her latest show Nanette is eagerly anticipated*. Then again it would be eagerly anticipated if it hadn't bagged a gong. Gadsby is a clever, funny, thoughtful, honest stand-up who has been delivering distinctive shows for a number of years now about subjects as diverse as classical art and relationships. I think my favourite title was 2009's Kiss Me Quick, I’m Full Of Jubes. Gadsby points out that our questions caught her on a "furious-at-the-world" day. Luckily they also caught her on one of her many witty-and-articulate days. But if you are a white, male golfer or Jim Jefferies you may want to skip a couple of answers.

*Update: it went on the be joint winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award and the film of the live show on Netflix has been a major hit. 


1. What is the last thing you do before you go onstage?

My brain is not a consistent beast so I have not developed a pre-show routine as such.  But I have found there a few behaviours that regularly occur in the moments before I go on stage and they include yawning, chuckling at the stupidity of what I am about to do and openly questioning the sanity of the people who have paid to see me perform. 

2. What irritates you?

I find loud noises difficult to enjoy and I find the most irritating of the loud noises are those that emerge from the mouths of people invading my personal space without invitation to tell me how wonderful they are and how brilliant their world views are.

3. What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?

Get uncontrollably drunk in the company of men.

4. What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?

It is difficult to rank my stupidity because I have such a breadth of achievements across different areas of my life.  For example how can you compare my decision to go skinny-dipping alone at a beach famous for dangerous riptides with the time I allowed myself to be pressured into having a drink - completely forgetting that two days earlier I had been released from hospital with acute pancreatitis?

5. What has surprised you the most during your career in comedy?

I think the most surprising thing for me is that there are so many people who are not involved in comedy yet still invest an enormous amount of time and energy into thinking and talking about comedy. 

I guess I feel the same way as a train driver might about train spotters.  The driver, who I am imagining is a middle-aged woman from Ohio, enjoys driving a train because it allows her a bit of alone time to think about things while also providing her with purpose, knowing that she is helping people get to where they need to go.  This also fosters that feeling of well-being that comes when you understand how you contribute and, therefore, belong to the wider world.  The thing my imaginary train driver does not need to do in order to thrive in her vocation is memorise train timetables, statistics and logistics.  

It took me a while to understand that both approaches are equally valid but now that I do, I don’t need to have any more conversations about comedy that I find tedious. 

Interview continues here.

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