Recently I asked my friend Rosie what she was enjoying on the box and she brought my attention to Nanette on Netflix. Or, to be more precise, Hannah Gadsby: Nanette. Nanette is a televised stand-up routine by the comedienne Hannah Gadsby. Born in Tasmania, Gadsby’s routine is largely about her upbringing, her sexuality and the fact that she thinks she needs to quit comedy.
It is an important, sensitive piece of work. And, really, it’s no joke. When the laughter dies down, there are lessons to be learnt, stories to be told and advice to be taken. Gadsby is preachy without ever seeming preachy. I held on to her every word more than I have any comedienne/comedian. I was hooked on her voice, touched by her fragility and humoured by her light-hearted and, well, desperate words.
Because Nanette isn’t a story of a woman called Nanette. It’s a set about Hannah Gadsby’s life – her struggles, her strengths and the fact she’s not prepared to be self-deprecating anymore. When you’re in the margins, self-deprecation is just humiliation. Why should she have to put herself down to get laughs? Why should she have to apologise for her sensitivity when she sees this as her strength?
I can’t possibly do justice to the set – even I’m aware I’m sounding preachy now. All I can promise you is that if you watch it, it’ll sit with you. For a while. And this is coming from someone who is never tempted to put on a stand-up routine as my Netflix pick. I’m far too busy with a juicy drama or sitcom. But I’m so thankful to you, Rosie, for this recommendation! And Hannah Gadsby really is going to quit comedy because of her experiences – that, I assure you, is no comical stunt. So listen close and hear the reasons why.
On a lighter level, Nanette was also so important because it reminded me of how much I love productions from our friends across the pond. But they’re still pretty underrated. Summer Heights High? You know the one – ‘Take your shoes off and find a spot on the floor’ (And don’t even ask what happened to Grandma). Plenty of us rate. Quote it. Whack it out at parties. But that’s where it seems to stay – as a funny anecdote. In the archives of your TV recordings. Perhaps you’ve even got a Mr G mug (just me then? – flew that bad boy all the way from Australia to London for my sister. Cost me $30 dollars….)
And then, Offspring. An Australian gem you can find on Netflix. The saviour during my break-up. I still try to convince people to watch it but, for some reason, not many are inclined to choose an old Aussie series tucked within the depths of your favourite streaming archive. And that’s what makes me sad about our TV choices. I get it – I get it. There’s so much choice – too much choice. So why would anyone want to watch an old show they’ve never even heard of? How can I tell them it’s a beauty? That it made me feel less alone? Comforted? Like I had a friend to talk to every evening at 9pm? How can gems like this – from across the pond – get a new lease of life?
There’s Home and Away and Neighbours of course – shows that several of our favourite names (like the wonderful Margot Robbie) started out on. There’s Picnic at Hanging Rock – which came to BBC screens this week. It’s a new six-part adaptation of the book that I studied at school and which used to haunt my dreams. I can’t wait to see it.
Maybe it’s because I hold Australia as a safe space in my heart. My home for a year. My sort of family. Or maybe it’s because I think the Aussies have a similar humour to us Brits. Dry, witty and down to earth. Whatever it is – I urge you – don’t forget about them.
Alf Stewart will thank you.