Nanette: Art History meets Comedy


Last semester I wrote an essay about the sexualization of women in art. While doing research and exploring the depths of the internet for examples I came across an artist named Michelle Hartney. Basically, she replaced some museum plaques with more accurate descriptions, calling out famous artists who created some questionable pieces. One of those plaques quoted comedian Hannah Gadsby and her show Nanette. This weekend I finally got around to watching it. Let me just say, I don’t watch that many comedy shows, but this one was highly entertaining.

Hannah Gadsby is a queer, Australian comedian who, over the past few years rose to fame via her first show Nanette, later releasing her second show Douglas. Both are available as Netflix original shows, clocking in around the hour mark.

Nanette first debuted in 2017 and highlighted topics such as social commentary (specifically regarding LGBTQ discrimination, feminist issues, and mental illness) and personal stories (i.e. trauma). Not only is this show hilarious, but it’s very intelligent. I don’t mean elitist intelligent, it’s definitely accessible even for those who aren't extremely familiar with some of her historical references. She makes sure to explain what she’s talking about while, of course, mixing in some comedic flair. She does have a degree in Art History, however, so there are a handful of references to famous artists and art history.

If you’re still unsure here are some of my favorite (shorter) jokes from the show:


​​"I don’t identify as transgender. But I’m clearly gender not-normal. I don’t think even lesbian is the right identity for me. I really don’t. I might as well come out now. I identify as tired. I’m just tired."


“You’ve got to learn to separate the man from the art. Yeah, all right. Okay. Let’s give it a go. How about you take Picasso’s name off his little paintings and see how much his doodles are worth at auction? Fucking nothing! Nobody owns a circular Lego nude, they own a Picasso! Sorry.”


“I love… angry white man comedy. It’s so funny, it’s hilarious. They’re adorable. Why are they angry? What’s up, little fella? What are they angry about? Gosh, can’t work it out. They’re like the canaries in the mine, aren’t they? If they’re having a tough time… the rest of us are goners.”


I think it’s fair to say that I’m obsessed with this comedy special. Her integration of hot-topic issues and art history makes for a very succinct show. Watch this, and if you like it, watch Douglas. I’ve watched them both and are definitely going to rewatch them. Douglas is even more art heavy which, if you’re like me, is great. Funny, interesting, meaningful, next time you’re scrolling through Netflix, looking for something to watch, watch Nanette.


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