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Hannah Gadsby on their new Netflix special 'Something Special'


Hannah Gadsby's new hour of stand-up comedy promises a departure from their previous outings, "Nanette" and "Douglas." This one has romance.


HANNAH GADSBY: I have dragged you through a bit of my [expletive] over the years, and you've stuck with me. Much obliged, but it's time for some payoff.

RASCOE: It's called "Something Special." And Hannah Gadsby joins us now. Welcome to the program.

GADSBY: Thank you very much.

RASCOE: So you say in the show that you actually don't like romantic comedies. Neither do I. Why don't you like romantic comedies?

GADSBY: There's many a reason, but one of the things I get really frustrated when I watch a romantic comedy is most of the conflicts are just silly little miscommunications. And I'm like, just talk. Just ask a few more questions. You would have got to the bottom of that. This doesn't feel like - you're wasting your own time. So I get caught up in that. It's an eternally frustrating experience, me watching - I'm not allowed to watch romantic comedies with other people because they're like, hush your gums, you know? Like, this is not for you. Why don't you like them?

RASCOE: I don't like them because I don't really like love.


RASCOE: I'm joking. I like more, like, horror - people getting killed and stabbed and mysteries and...

GADSBY: Wow, we're learning a lot about you here.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

GADSBY: So - do you know? - one of my favorite movies is "Get Out."


GADSBY: But I can't watch it. I've never seen it. I can't see it because I hate horror.

RASCOE: You haven't seen it.

GADSBY: I feel so terrible. But I've read so much about it, and I've seen clips, and I'm like, this is a great movie. And I talk about it all the time to people, and I'm like, I haven't actually seen it because I don't like the feelings, you know? I have to turn the sound down and all that.


RASCOE: So to be serious, I do like love because I love that you announced in the special that you got married. And your partner is actually - I mean, they can't - this is the radio. They can't see. But your partner is around you right now. Congratulations.

GADSBY: Loitering. Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you. Yeah, we're very much collaborators. We met through work, and Jenney is a producer. And I just sort of said, well, how about you just focus on producing me and my life and my work? And that's worked out well.

RASCOE: So she's hearing you talk about your proposal and getting married. Like, was that pressure, like, to do that in front of people and in front of the person you're talking about?

GADSBY: Well, because stories are what they are, the story sort of began with us. Bringing it to the stage was very much a collaboration. I think a lot of the times, you know, comedians will tell a story about, or, you know, make jokes about their partner. And unless it's a really hostile, toxic relationship - which often it is, I guess - but the partners are deeply involved in the work of a performer. You're always bouncing material off because you're sort of creating and always you're trying to find the humor in stories as they happen. So I certainly would not say anything on stage that Jenney felt uncomfortable about.

RASCOE: Were you ever concerned about how the audience would respond? Because then it's like, it's so personal to you, although you obviously tell very personal stories.

GADSBY: Yeah, it is - there is a different sort of - the risk is it's a lot harder to successfully write stand-up comedy about being happy than it is about being unhappy. Like, I feel like the art form is - revolves around conflict and difficulty. Like, that's certainly - the craft of it is much easier. And also nobody really wants people to be happy at the moment, particularly, because nobody's - you know, we're under duress at the moment, it feels like. So to just sort of swan on stage, and go, I'm happy. What's wrong with you? - is actually really difficult. But I think I did it. You know, I'm happy. What's wrong with you?

RASCOE: You absolutely did it. Like, I guess what made you say, I want to give people a little bit of just a nice feel-good thing when other times it's been kind of deeper and darker?

GADSBY: I believe strongly that standup can work on many levels. You know, I can make people feel bad at the same time as I can make them feel good. And this is - well, I've tried to do this. I wanted to - you know, particularly the live performance of it, and that translates into the filming of it. But the live experience of it is, is a warmth in the room. And that's not what I did with "Nanette" or "Douglas."

You know, "Douglas" is a very cerebral show, and, you know, it was written to agitate thinking. "Nanette" was very emotional. It was a sucker punch. And this show, I really wanted to create a warm experience. So the three shows, you know, can be seen in sequence, and you can see someone coming out of trauma, wrestling with it and finding a - you know, a place of comfort and certainly not one that I thought was possible for me. So I think it's worth sort of trying to show a lighter hand.

RASCOE: Absolutely. And so, I mean, you explain in the show, like, the different ways people in your life tell stories - your parents, your spouse. Like, what role do you think the way each person tells a story says something about them?

GADSBY: Well, it's sort of what they focus on is what they believe is important. And that's always endlessly fascinating to me. And I come from a large family. I've come to realize, especially, you know, bringing Jenney into the fold, is that my family don't tell stories. They have rememberings. And so when you're having a remembering with people who experience - it's just - stories devolve into just words that mean a whole lot more. So people on the outside are just like, I don't know why everyone is laughing.

When our family tells a story, there is no facts. It's been a real joy to me to watch Jenney, who is - just loves a list of facts. Like, it's a list. And there are a few of my family who tell stories like that. But my mum is the heart and soul of our family. And so the way she tells the story is how - lies for laughs and things like that. And I'm on the spectrum, and lying is difficult for me. So I always get caught up in like, that didn't happen like that. Like, I'm annoying to storytellers, but I know the craft. In real life I'm an - you know, I'm annoying.

RASCOE: So does writing and performing stories about your life help you to make sense of them?

GADSBY: Oh, absolutely. It sort of feels - but, you know, there's a danger to it as well because as you tell it and share it, that works as kind of a seal to how you remember something that happened. So that's why I'm incredibly careful about what I put on stage and how I talk about things, because it will eventually become the way you think and feel about things. And you can play with fire a little bit there. And you know, I always said that I won't do self-deprecation anymore, but now I'm suddenly in a much better position in life, and I have a lot more power than I ever, you know, had. And I'm able to see, you know, the privilege that I've always had. You know, as the world's changing, I'm all of a sudden very keen to be self-deprecating, not for who I am, but for what I do. I think it's a neat line.

RASCOE: Oh, well, you know, now that you've - I mean, obviously you've been out on the road, and you've done this special, and it's going to be released to the wider world. Like, what did you learn from this part of your life and sharing this part of your life?

GADSBY: It was really - like, I loved the tour. It was - on stage. It was - and I'm so glad I decided to be a positive spin on life on stage because it was a horror show of a tour. Just before it started, I had to have a knee reconstruction, and then I was just back on my two feet and I broke my leg, same leg in several places. And so for a lot of the tour I was in a wheelchair while trying to navigate accessibility, which - if you wonder why there's not many disabled comedians performing, that's why. It's literally incredibly difficult to get on stage. And that's not right. It was just this whole layer of life issue in the way. So in that Jenney and I really were pushed to our limit as a creative team. But I - you know, I'm really proud of what we produced in the end.

RASCOE: Hannah Gadsby's new standup show, "Something Special," streams on Netflix starting May 9. Thank you so much for joining us.

GADSBY: Well, thank you very much. Thanks for giving time to a little romantic comedy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.