Hannah Gadsby: Performing “Nanette” Nearly Killed Me

The out comedian opened up to "Rolling Stone" about reliving her trauma through comedy.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, out comedian Hannah Gadsby got real about reliving past trauma in her Netflix comedy special, Nanette.

Gadsby, who rose to prominence when Nanette made a splash around the world on the streaming service last year, told Rolling Stone that performing the stand-up special was “excruciating.” During the show, she addresses past abuse twice—and as someone on the autism spectrum, recounting painful experiences is traumatic for her.

“When I think about things, I see them,” Gadsby explained. “Nanette was excruciating to perform. It nearly killed me.”

She added that she felt like she was taking a risk every time she went on stage, since the show deals with heavy subject matter: “That tension in the room, there’s no guarantee that I can hold it. There’s a fear every time I go onstage. Every show was alive and dangerous.”

Worse, Gadsby said when she gets recognized on the street, other survivors of abuse attempt to “trauma-bond” with her. “It’s not a lighthearted ‘Can I have a selfie?’ ” she said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, hi, I’ve [also] been abused. Can I have a selfie?’”

Despite her nervousness about the show, Gadsby made a name for herself with Nanette. The show put the queer comedian, who hails from Australia, on comedy lovers’ radars internationally. It also scored her a book deal for a memoir with Australian publisher Allen & Unwin.

Still, Gadsby insists she had no idea Nanette would be such a hit. In fact, she was so sure it would flop that she asked her brother for a back-up gig at his produce store. “I was prepared to be poor,” she confessed. “That was incredibly freeing. If you care more about your reputation [than about telling your story], then you’re not really speaking the truth.”

Read the full interview at Rolling Stone.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.