Hannah Gadsby’s Friends Are Not Funny

Just short of a year ago, Barry Humphries died, and then the Melbourne International Comedy Festival bollocksed Humphries’ tribute. Of course. All the MICF leadership had to do was to toss some gladioli into a theatre foyer and probably most people would have let it pass, but the MICF were too up themselves, too proud of their prior sanctimonious cancelling of Humphries, to exhibit a proper moment of grace upon his passing. Immediately pilloried for their awfulness, MICF then promised that they would “start to plan a fitting tribute” to Humphries. This “fitting tribute”, it would appear, is a year of silence.

At the time, I wrote about Hannah Gadsby.1 Not because Gadsby bitched about Humphries’ views on transgender nonsense, including when she won the 2017 Barry Award. Gadsby was and is perfectly entitled to do so, to use whatever platform she has to say whatever she believes; the blame for Humphries’ cancelling lies squarely with the MICF. My point was that Gadsby winning the Barry at all was the indicator of how screwy the MICF had become. Gadsby is so spectacularly unfunny that her receiving such an award demonstrated that MICF had become way too concerned for Worthiness and way too little concerned for funniness.

Of course, to write the post on Gadsby I had to watch Gadsby’s Nanette, the show for which Gadbsy won the Barry. I also watched Douglas and, later, Something Special; the former was terrible to Nanette levels, the latter merely very bad. In any case, it’s kind of become a thing, that I feel I am obliged to keep up, to see what awfulness Gadsby has been up to lately.2 Which is why we’re here. Gadsby has had a new Netflix special appear. Jesus H. Christ.

Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda has Gadsby hosting seven “genderqueer” comics at a live London performance.3 Gadsby does an introductory stand up and then introduces each of the comics to do their routine. The unfunniness of these comedians, including Gadsby, has to be seen to be believed. The trailer, which presumably contains what Netflix regards as the best bits, gives some sense of it.

The trailer doesn’t do the special justice, however. To get the full force of the badness of HGGA, it is necessary to watch the entire show.

Gender Agenda is bad enough, is sinking quickly enough, that perhaps it was not worth a post. There have been few reviews, few people pretending that the special contains anything of merit. But Gadsby’s self-indulgent and whiny opening got up my nose, and puff pieces in, for instance, the SMH and Guardian were enough to clinch the deal. As an antidote, readers can watch an OK YouTube review and, particularly, a very perceptive review by a person who was at the live performance.

Now it’s back to the day job and the backlog. More palatable stuff, like Boaler and LANTITE and TikTok.


1. I later wrote a follow up post, on Humphries and the dating of comedy.

2. To which end, one should not ignore Gadsby’s Picasso exhibition.

3. Yeah, they’re not really Gadsby’s friends, just her allies in bad comedy.

8 Replies to “Hannah Gadsby’s Friends Are Not Funny”

  1. I have tried to watch the show, as I read the review you linked to at ‘The Lies They Tell’. I am impressed that you got through it. I have managed to watch HGs opening and 3 or 4 minutes of the first act. I can only take it one ‘joke’ at a time. It is excruciatingly awful.
    One observation: surely it is ‘transphobic’ for someone to talk about ‘passing’ as male or female, as we are told endlessly that the ‘trans’ person IS the sex they say they are.
    The inner contradictions of the gender cult are breathtaking.

      1. The trans commentary on this blog tends to feel like inexplicably visceral discomfort with a vague foreign boogeyman concept – I’m not sure you’ve ever presented a developed contention.

        That’s not to say you’re obliged to, but as a young, LGBTQ-agenda indoctrinated follower of your mathematical work, l tend to loathe these asides. I’d be interested to read more critical thoughts, but you seem to assume the absolute truth of your view.

        1. Ryan, I’m too tired right now to answer much, or with much care, but I’ll answer a bit.

          Of course I’m free to write about what I wish, which you’re not questioning, and of course you’re free to loathe it, which I’m not questioning. And of course I write plenty on this blog knowing, and hoping, that some people will loathe it. But I accept that there is something a little gratuitous, or at least non-obvious, about my taking time out to whack Gadsby and the like.

          I do think there are massive issues with the LGTBQ-agenda, and with the censorious and militant manner in which this agenda is promoted. For me it’s all pretty damn obvious, and I’d have to think if I have the energy to articulate why it is obvious. But if I don’t do so then of course it is valid for you to point out that failure. And even if I do do so, it is still reasonable to ask why write it on a (predominantly) maths ed blog. That I am free to do so is not an explanation or justification for me doing so. Again, I’ll have to think if I have the energy to explain in any depth. (Jo Boaler and LANTITE and TikTok are waiting in the wings.)

          For now I’ll just say a bit. You are free to ask for more, and I’ll see what my tired brain can manage.

          The success and celebration of a comedian as astonishingly unfunny as Gadsby means something. The disparity on Rotten Tomatoes, where, in sum, critics rate her shows in the 90s while others rate them in the 30s, means something. I have always loved comedy, American and British and Australian. Humour has always been my medium, to engage students, to disarm strangers and to (attempt to) charm girls. And so I am simply appalled by the Gadsby thing.

          But, beyond my being appalled, I think the unwarranted celebration of Gadsby’s obviously minimal comedic talents means something. So, I think it is an easy in, to get some understanding of, or at least some awareness of, much more general, and very concerning, cultural trends. Trends that I have written at least a little about on this blog.

  2. Best comment on the YouTube video is “When you think you’re funny but you’re not it’s called comedy dysphoria”.

  3. I don’t understand the concept of needing to know the comedian, an artist, or anyone else to evaluate their work of art/performance. Comedians must be funny, disregarding who they are. Such performances’ identitarian appeal gives away the fact that they aren’t good.

    1. I think that’s irrelevant or inaccurate or unfair, or something.

      There have always been comedians with some specific cultural shtick, which to a decent extent determined their material and/or their delivery. These comedians may in some sense be limited, and they may be aiming primarily for a more specific audience, but they can still be very good. Woody Allen is pretty damn Jewish.

      The problem with Gadsby’s friends isn’t their pronounced identification or their material or their grouping under the genderqueer banner. The problem is they’re not funny.

  4. I agree with Hannah that these friends are trans-comedians. They are unfunny individuals that *identify* as comedians.

    “I *feel*, therefore I am” – Réveillé (Woke) Descartes.

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