The Paris Review

Who Is Nanette?

Still from Nanette.

When I look at Hannah Gadsby, I see myself. The stand-up comedian from Tasmania holds her body like a tall woman is wont to do: chest puffed out, shoulders turned inward, weathered from years of hunching. I know this because I am a tall woman. I have hovered around the six-foot mark since I was twelve. Then there are her delightful inflections: the thick, broad Australian accent that clicks between tongue and teeth, the dips in cadence (it can be squeaks or muffled growls depending on the level of immersive impersonation). I am most endeared to her deployment of slang, the familiar turns of phrase I didn’t even realize were locale specific until I moved from Melbourne to New York. “Aw, it’s a bit much, really,” she says as a default response to anything she finds inappropriate, bespectacled eyes squinting, eyebrows jumping up above the frames. She is comfortable in her awkwardness: mouth close to the microphone, hands slipped in pockets, a stutter that peaks and breaks in its proclivity. The charm here is in the “bit”; the crucial dip in register falls on this syllable, turning a throwaway sentence into a charged moment of linguistic intimacy.

I am in the SoHo Playhouse theater on Vandam Street, sitting on a brown leather chair that doesn’t quite accommodate my height. The set is pleasant and simple: the trademark glass of water on, has had its run extended by two months. 

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