Ahead of what might be a final stint for one of Australia’s most beloved queer comics, Matthew Wade spoke with the inimitable Hannah Gadsby about why the country seems to be regressing when it comes to LGBTI equality.
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby often eschews the idea of being a role model despite being a more than worthy candidate: she’s outspokenly gay, politically engaged, and unafraid to shine a light on issues affecting LGBTI people in the country.
“I think it’s a problematic term because if you’re a role model you can’t make mistakes which is a very human thing,” she said.
“There’s danger in being a public figure, but of course visibility is important as well.”
Gadsby is a three-time nominee for Best Comedy Performance at the Helpmann Awards and she also featured on fellow local comedian Josh Thomas’ hit television series Please Like Me.
Despite the precariousness that comes with being an open and visible figure in the community, the spotlight she helps to shine on hot button issues like marriage inequality in Australia shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s an area Gadsby often cherry picks to speak about as a part of her stand-up show as she draws similarities between what’s taking place here and what previously transpired in her home state of Tasmania.
“What I found interesting about the plebiscite was that I’d heard it all before in Tasmania in the nineties, and that’s when everyone was saying Tasmanians were being stupid and ignorant” she said.
“Why haven’t you learned from us yet?
“Now we have the best human rights laws and I find Tasmania to be a far more inclusive place because we’ve already had these discussions, and the same federal politicians were involved.
“I don’t think it’s just a few individuals that don’t want gay marriage, it’s the ones that say ‘let’s stir the pot’ because there are votes in hatred.”
For the show she’s slated to put on at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival – Nanette – Gadsby didn’t have to look very far to source interesting material.
“My shows are always stuff I’ve been thinking about the year prior, whatever’s going on in my little noggin,” she said.
“And I’ve been thinking about the world, which is not great at the moment.
“I’ve got a fairly broad audience base so I feel like the position I’ve found myself in is one where I’ve been accessible and likeable in a public space, but I’ve achieved that in an apologetic way. It’s time to say I’m not going to apologise.”
Following her slew of Nanette shows, Gadsby plans to move back to Tasmania and take a potentially permanent break from comedy. As a parting gift, she intends to put on a show unlike anything she’s done before.
“This show will be my last – there’s no point looking at a comeback, because it’s not healthy,” she said.
“I don’t think comedy is a healthy pursuit after a while.”
For audiences heading along to see Gadsby in what may be her last hurrah in comedy, expect a bit of fury when it comes to the state of equality at the moment.
“There’s been an erosion of human rights, and as a queer person I’ve seen a bit more homophobia creep back in,” she said.
“People are a bit more free to be derogative, and I think underpinning that is toxic masculinity – there are disempowered men who are angry now at anything that’s different and that includes LGBTI people.”
When asked what sets her apart from her contemporaries in comedy, Gadsby’s answer was simple.
“I think I’ve got something that most people don’t have – I’m just a bit of a nutbag I think,” she said.
Hannah Gadsby will be performing her Nanette show up until April 23 at the Melbourne Town Hall. You can buy tickets at: www.comedyfestival.com.au