The Australian, lesbian comic Hannah Gadsby became popular with American audiences thanks to the trail blazing Netflix special Nanette. The show was her tenth and thanks to the hit special she won a Peabody Award.
Gadsby is hitting the road to visit Chicago with a new stand-up show called Douglas, that premiered in Melbourne this past March. Other accomplishments include playing a character named Hannah on the series Please Like Me, hosting three art documentaries and a book is currently in the works.
Windy City Times: Where in the world are you right now?
Hannah Gadsby: I'm in LA. I've come back for a minute. I was in Houston. It's a quick stopover.
WCT: Do you like all the traveling and time changes?
HG: Not really, but I am working on it. I am actually having a nice time with it. I have not done it in the US before, so it is all novelty. I have not spent much time, if any, in any of these places.
WCT: Is this your first time in Chicago?
HG: I have passed through there once before.
WCT: Are you planning on visiting the Art Institute?
HG: That's the one place that I've been when I was there. I popped in very quickly. I loved it. I got recognized. I had a few people crowd around me in the gallery, which was a very odd experience. When I got to the room with the Van Gogh there was a whole bunch of people in there waiting for me. I am quite shy, so it was funny.
WCT: So this current show is named after your dog Douglas?
WCT: Is he coming with you?
HG: No. He's in Australia. I didn't think I could bring him over.
WCT: How is he incorporated into the show?
HG: I chat about him a bit, but remember Nanette wasn't really about Nanette.
WCT: Do you know if Nanette has seen your comedy special?
HG: No. She was just a random person I met in the middle of Australia. I don't even know if she knows what Nanette is.
WCT: What are some topics you cover in Douglas?
HG: There's a bit more art history in this one. I talk about my diagnosis with autism. I just heard recently that it's called a confirmation of autism, which I quite like.
WCT: What about politics?
HG: There's always politics in there, but I tend to make it a subtext. I'm not an American so I try not to tell you all how stupid your president is.
WCT: With it being gay Pride month, what are your plans?
HG: As you know, I am not a partier. What do you suggest? What would I do in Chicago?
WCT: You are going to barely miss the Pride parade.
HG: Oh well, I will just be proud all month then.
WCT: Was your Nanette comedy act based on anything you had seen before?
HG: No. I worked on it for months. I had a lot of ideas that I needed to get out.
WCT: Many comedians don't tackle tough issues in stand-up. They must be inspired by you.
HG: I hope so. It's exciting to see what comedians will experiment with in the future. I did many festivals when I was back home. I used to do the circuit when I first started, which means you do about 10 minutes at the club. Now, I just write an hour show every year and I tour it around Australia and the UK.
I have a good idea how to structure an hour long stand-up. I knew with Nanette I had about 45 minutes to make the audience laugh, then I needed to do something. I needed a gear change. I kept them engaged for 45 minutes, not that I would lose them, but something just happens. I think people go a bit cross eyed or something. After around 45 minutes, I just give them a breather or change tactics. That is how I always structure my shows. That's when I thought about that gear change. Instead of using it for a ramp up the ending, I decided to tear it all down!
WCT: Did you look up to any American comedians like Joan Rivers or Lily Tomlin?
HG: You know what? Yeah, those guys are pros. I am a fan of other comedians. I really love Ali Wong. She's incredible.
Maria Bamford has always been super interesting and mind blowing. She does her own thing and I really like that.
I don't watch a lot of comedy religiously because I tend to be a mimic. If I watch too much comedy then I will pick up other people's cadences. Early on in my career I realized that when I am out on tour that I needed to not engage in comedy. It's really why I have a pretty unique voice, not with just my accent, but the way I do things.
WCT: Do you adjust your comedy for American audiences after performing it in Australia?
HG: I talk a little bit about that in the show. The differences are references that I will change. I changed very little of Nanette.
I was told one time that a particular expression was not the same in America and I needed to change it. I don't think Americans are that stupid. There's a reputation that you are. I don't know if you know about that…
WCT: I didn't know about that.
HG: [laughs] Well, there's a reputation that Americans are stupid, but I think audiences are smarter than people give them credit for. I honestly believe that, across the board, with all comedy. I don't dumb my stuff down. I put some really complex ideas in there and I think the American people will be into it.
See the great Gadsby at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Sunday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. with tickets at www.MSG.com .