Hannah Gadsby Is Not Funny

Barry Humphries was funny. At times, screamingly so. Dame Edna and Sir Les are two great comedy creations. They are gone, and their creator, who was also responsible for much more than Edna and Les, deserves to be honoured, to be bade farewell in a proper manner. Which is not going smoothly.

It has been much reported that Humphries’ last laugh came at the expense of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Humphries displayed impeccable timing, arranging to die on the eve of the final day of this year’s MICF. That left the MICF organisers with two highly unappealing options: they could pay proper tribute to Humphries, and thus admit at least implicitly that they screwed up in 2019 when they renamed the Festival’s “Barry” award; or, they could barrel on, pretending their past treatment of Humphries was good and proper. So far, they’ve done a bit of one and a lot of the other.

In the background of all this is Hannah Gadsby, whose attack of Humphries, after having won the 2017 Barry, gave impetus to Humphries’ eventual cancelling. Of course Gadsby was perfectly entitled to say whatever she wanted about Humphries, and it is somewhat unfair that Gadbsy has been dragged into the current mess; the blame for Humphries’ cancelling lies squarely at the feet of the MICF. But there is one aspect that keeps Gadsby centre stage: Hannah Gadsby is not funny.

Beyond not funny. As Humphries could be screamingly funny, Gadsby is screamingly unfunny: she is preachy, pandering and obvious, utterly lacking in nuance and comic timing. To be clear, Gadsby seeks to extend humour or to reject humour, or something; she does not always try to be funny. But often enough she tries to be funny, and she never is. She may be other things. She may be a valuable performer. But Dave Chappelle was right: Hannah Gadsby is not funny.

This matters. Gadsby won the top award of one of the most prestigious comedy festivals, the purpose of which, one would presume, is to provide a platform and an audience for funny people. But Gadsby is not even in the ballpark of funny. And nothing can be understood about the Humphries debacle without understanding the disconnect between true comedy and the ICMF organisers, who are much more concerned to honour Worthy comedians than funny comedians.

63 Replies to “Hannah Gadsby Is Not Funny”

    1. Agreed, Hannah Gadsby is not funny. Hannah is a self-obsessed unkind commentator. If she had any integrity she would have said no to the MICF Barry Award, instead she took it to platform her views, to blunderbuss and trash Barry Humphries. She did cancel Barry Humphries, and unfairly hurt him. Like most bullies she is a coward. I used to like her seemingly depressed persona, needing a lift up, trying to be witty. Now I realise Hannah is a selfish opportunist, grandstanding, unoriginal – robbing material from others. She has worn-out her angry, young woman uncomedy. Hope karma comes quickly as she ages and younger artists walk their boots over mediocrity.

      1. I disagree with most of that.

        No question Gadsby is nasty, but that doesn’t particularly bother me. I’m fine with Gadsby accepting the Barry, and I’m fine with her then trashing Humphries. She doesn’t get to choose the name of the award, and she has every right to say what she thinks. She didn’t cancel Humphries, even if she encouraged it.

        I think you have to lay the blame where the power lies, with the leadership of the MICF. They were the ones who chose a monumentally unfunny comedian for the Barry, and they were the ones who decided to rename the Barry. And, if you want to have individuals, you can begin with the Director, Susan Provin, and the Brutus, Sammy J. Both behaved disgracefully.

    2. HG *used* to be funny. Then she underwent some sort of ‘therapy’ (I suspect) and as a result focused her considerable skills on becoming the best victim she could be. And then conducted public psychotherapy sessions so we could all marvel at her victimhood.
      A real waste of talent.

  1. In the flow of the marking season, this post compels me to get out the red pen: proof-by-repeated-assertion is not a valid proof. If the definition of someone being funny is that they make someone laugh, then Hannah Gadsby is funny: I checked her out just now, and she’s got me in stitches – existence proof by example. On the other hand, Dame Edna made me cringe back in the 1980s when all the adults were drunkenly (and somewhat mean-spiritedly) laughing at “her” skits, and the cringe only grew as I grew up. Different tastes and different cultures. Australia is sometimes brilliant at humour (Clarke and Dawson are still my favourites, with Juice Media and Natalie Tran are close seconds) but there’s been a lot of bullying-in-disguise-as-humour too, not funny to me.
    Anyway, thanks a lot for introducing me to the clever and hilarious Hannah Gadsby! 🙂

    1. What of Gadsby did you watch? I tried watching one of her stand up videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yxwbXeEJWA) and on the whole I found it unfunny, except for one joke in particular which I did laugh at (the madam joke). For what it’s worth, I don’t find Humphries particularly funny either, though I’m open to changing my mind for both of them.

    2. Clarke was good. Often I didn’t understand Barry – he was of his time, but he did shine a mirror on Australians, and alcoholics. Publicly Barry Humphries deserves respect, especially from someone taking an award in his name, especially from a lifetime of work in his 80s deserved appreciation for comedy in his hometown. Hannah Gadsby could have scowled, instead she shows no integrity, no grace, no range, no depth of character.

      1. Clarke was a genius. Barry was too, but more erratic, and more of his time. You had to know what he was ridiculing to properly get him.

        Gadsby will be forgotten in a decade, tops.

    3. I guess humor is subjective. There are people who laugh at people or animals being tortured and abused, so I guess it’s all a matter of perspective

    1. A lot. Especially now, because there is now an absolutely poisonous threat to cancel anybody who doesn’t toe the party line.

  2. Hi

    On a tangent what do you guys think of the
    Big Yin in his younger days?

    Personally I think his observational humour
    is exceptional with a no fear ability to touch
    taboo topics.

    Ability to offend and overuse of expletives is a drawback IMO

    Best seen live by thick skinned people

    Health warning if you don’t like jobbies on this one from 1982

    Steve R

    1. Yes he used to be a folk banjo player
      And welder after years of child abuse by his father…

      Married a rather funnier psychologist
      Called Pamela Stevenson of not the nine
      O’clock news on the BBC

      Steve R

        1. I never knew that HG was a banjo-wielding welder; I stand corrected. The Big Yin reminds me of a character from Father Ted (now that was a funny show – and who knew that Craggy Island had a Chinatown?). Actually, I’d wager that, for most people, any 30 second snippet of any Father Ted or Fawlty Towers episode (including the opening credits) is funnier than the entirety of HG’s career. I much preferred Max Gillies over Barry Humphries as a comedian, and Gary McDonald as the original ambush interviewer (aka the little Aussie bleeder) was sublime. And who could forget Mark Mitchell as Con The Fruiterer? The golden era of Australian comedy has passed. Sadly, we are now in the brown era – and have been for some time. But that’s just my opinion; each to their own (oh, and Rubbery Figures)!

          1. It’s not sufficient to say each to their own. There is taste, but there are also objective standards. Objectively, Gadsby is bad.

  3. HG = hongweibing (or “pimpled”, as in Central Europe)
    Barry H = “bourgeois”
    And all clear.

  4. Gadsby is in a predicament.
    Her awkwardness, anxiety and visual presentation leveraged her into being a somewhat social outcast. The moments she endured from such a social position informed and fuelled her comedy. Now that she’s milked that cow dry and is instead experiencing success and adoration she’s essentially an empty vessel with nothing left to riff off.

    1. I think she can milk it a while yet. Her fans adore her and, at least for now, are unaware of how unfunny she is or are simply willing to pretend otherwise. It can’t last, but it’s not over yet.

      1. Anyone that thinks Hannah Gadsby is funny is completely clueless. My grandma dying was funnier than anything Hannah Gadsby has done.

  5. Favorite Australian movies. There’s not that many I’ve seen, but possibly by filtration all were good.

    Strictly Ballroom

    Mad Max

    The Road Warrior

    Fastest Indian

    Coca Cola Kid

    Some movie with Hopkins as a consultant at a shoe factory

    Man from Snowy River and my buddy’s dad and uncle rode the horses down that hill

    Crocodil Dundee…OK it was silly but I did love the you call that a knife. And I met people in the sticks in QLD that mannerisms reminded me of Dundee

    Predestination ok being generous since they are playing Americans. But good flick. Like the south Africans playing Americans in Dredd.

  6. Barry Humphries was spectacularly unfunny. How many times did he get a TV show only for it to be canceled after one (terrible) episode.

    He was also a paedophile apologist and an alleged abuser himself. The allegations are very detailed and plausible.

    1. Oh, for Christ’s sake. Humphries misfired plenty, he was a nasty man, plenty of his stuff is dated, and he wrote some absurd and nasty things over a half century. But, unlike Gadsby, Humphries was also brilliant.

      1. Are there any examples of said brilliance you would like to share with us?

        I used to think he must of been funny before my time (I’ll be 45 next week) but then I saw a bit of “The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie”, and that was just as cringeworthy and unfunny.

          1. You said Barry was erratic. Maybe I just missed his good stuff. If you can provide genuine examples of him as a comedic genius but I refuse to admit that they’re funny, then I just look like a boring old sad sack. On the other hand, if you’re not willing to provide any examples, it suggests that you’re not confident Barry actually was funny.

              1. It seems that we agree then that Barry Humphries wasn’t funny.

                Obviously you found him funny in the past and that’s not actually a crime. The fact that you can’t provide any examples of his comedic genius suggests that your affection for him has more to do with nostalgia and patriotism than any of his material.

                If you wish to complain about cancel culture, I suggest you use the example of someone who didn’t coin the term “benevolent paedophilia”.

                  1. If I was criticising someone for being a former alcoholic, that would be moralising. Criticising a person for defending paedophiles is just common sense.

                    Getting back to the main point; Barry Humphries wasn’t funny. How is pointing this out any more snide than saying that Hannah Gatsby is not funny?

                    1. I’m sorry: “snide” was a mistake. I should have probably written “smug” or “presumptuous” or “overbearing”.

                      I’ll respond in substance as a separate comment later.

                1. No we don’t.

                  You just don’t get it and are totally unable to process Barry and the worldwide audience who could.
                  All of whom disagree with you.
                  Now back in your box.

                  1. Polite, please.

                    (Katz continually needled me, so I whacked back, but in general commenters should be polite towards each other.)

  7. I don’t recall seeing any of Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up but I can infer that you’re almost certainly correct that she is not funny. The reason for this is that out of the 100 or so people on IMDB that say she’s a genius and scored her special 10/10, none can elaborate on why she’s a genius beyond saying that her show is brilliantly structured. There’s also about 100 people who rate her show as 1/10 and a significant number of those people provide cognisant reasons to back up their opinion.

    How could I possibly categorise your claim that Barry Humphries is a genius any different to their claim that Hannah Gadsby is a genius? I’m quite happy for you to prove me wrong here, that’s one way we learn.

    1. It’s a relief at least that I don’t have to argue Gadsby’s anti-genius. I’ll write on the other stuff tomorrow.

    2. Here’s my reply. I will not address in this comment the question of whether Humphries was funny, which I’ve decided is worth its own post. (Soon …) I’ll deal here with the other issues.

      My post was about: (a) The astonishingly unfunny Hannah Gadsby having won the Barrie; (b) the nastiness of renaming the Barrie; (c) the obvious connection between (a) and (b), MICF’s perverted concern for The Right Kind of Comedian rather than funny comedians.

      You then come in yelling Humphries was “spectacularly unfunny”, and was a “paedophile apologist” and “an alleged abuser”. Fine. You don’t think Humphries was funny, I can understand, even though you’re wrong. You think Humphries was a shit, I can understand. However:

      *) After blasting away like that, it’s laughable for you to then pretend some open-mindedness about Humphries.

      *) Your attempts to syllogise me into playing your game were silly, and plain rude.

      That’s some but not all of the reasons why your comments pissed me off.

      Now, some substance. You seem to have no objection to (a): that is, you’re not assuming Gadsby has any comedic talent. You are also silent on (c). In essence, apart from your claim that Humphries was unfunny, you appear to object to (b), in that you seemingly think it was fine for the Barrie to have been renamed. But that is a weird thing to do while being silent on (c).

      Why was the Barrie renamed? I assume it’s safe to take the word of Sammy J, who was one of the assholes who did it:

      In the lead up to the 2019 Comedy Festival awards, many comedians expressed discomfort over Humphries’ comments that transgender people were performing acts of “self mutilation”, also dismissing their transition journeys as “a fashion”. In the absence of any clarifications, the public were left to assume that he either sincerely held these views or was being purposefully provocative.

      This is where the festival board had to make a choice. Faced with hurting the feelings of an established legend with a global platform or ignoring and excluding members of a vulnerable community, it chose the former.

      That’s what it was about. It was about the absurdly precious threat of “ignoring and excluding members of a vulnerable community”. It was ridiculous.

      But, you don’t deal with this trans nonsense. You want to throw a bunch of other stuff up. Could I defend Humphries? Maybe, to some extent, and maybe not. I think “paedophile apologist” and “alleged abuser” are mighty thin reasons to be cancelling someone. But anyway I’m not playing.

      The Barrie was renamed for throughly idiotic reasons. You ignore that idiocy and throw up new stuff. Screw that. I’m not playing your game.

      1. a) An astonishingly unfunny comedian winning an award named after a painfully unfunny comedian seems to make perfect sense to me.
        b) It was Barry’s comments that put the MICF in a nasty predicament. Sammy J’s comment here makes perfect sense and shows they made the right choice in a difficult situation.
        c) It seems that these days, Barry is considered to be neither the right kind of comedian, nor the funny kind. Just look at this thread; the only other person here who thinks that Barry deserves recognition for his comedy, admits that he didn’t get Barry’s material. Even you seem to be taking days to find any example of him being funny.

        The only thing I find troubling about the whole affair is that the Barry hadn’t already been renamed after he wrote the foreword to the Donald Friend diaries back in 2010.

        1. My God, you’re pleased with yourself.

          Your (a) is just silly. Why bother writing it?

          You think Barry’s comment put the MICF in a nasty predicament, but that is absurd. There was no predicament, just a desire to pander. You clearly revel in the culture of cancelling: adults do not.

          You said it’s taken days for me to find an example of Humphries being funny. Why do you think I’m going to have any respect for such dishonest bullshit? I didn’t comply because your framing of the question was presumptuous and manipulative and rude.

          1. If, as you say, there are objective standards and Hannah Gadsby is objectively bad; then on the evidence offered in this thread, so is Barry. You may be unaware of how unfunny he is or are simply willing to pretend otherwise. It can’t last, but it’s not over yet.

            The quote from Sammy J offers clear evidence that the organisers of the MICF were in a predicament and the changing of the name was a decision that they made with some reluctance.

            If you really thought he was funny you would want to share some of his material with others. You didn’t comply because he’s not funny.

            1. Stop talking in circles, it’s perfectly clear that the renaming of someone or group being offended is his main point. Who cares if said named comedian is funny or not? It’s the cancelling of comedians for saying something wrong that’s the real issue. Like Patrice O’Neal said ” a good comedy show should have the audience laughing and the other half terrified” plus either everything is okay to joke about or nothing is. What’s funny about murder, rape, cancer or war or any number of subjects? That’s where comedians with talent can do that fine line walking. Hannah can clearly not and is more of a Ted talk or something else but definitely not comedy

  8. Just a reminder: I have a very high tolerance for commenters taking a whack at me, and a very low tolerance for commenters taking a whack at other commenters.

    1. Thanks, peter. It’s been a while since I watched it, but my memory is that HG did have a nasty tone. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for “nasty” humour, but maybe it’s the combination of nastiness and sanctimony that makes it worse with HG.

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