Thursday, August 13, 2020

The great Gadsby: How a love of art fostered the comedian's appreciation for history

Aug 02. 2020
Geoff Edgers and Hannah Gadsby on July 17 in Edgers' twice-weekly Instagram Live show
Geoff Edgers and Hannah Gadsby on July 17 in Edgers' twice-weekly Instagram Live show "Stuck with Geoff." MUST CREDIT: The Washington Post
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By  The Washington Post · Geoff Edgers · ENTERTAINMENT, COMEDY 

Like so many, national arts reporter Geoff Edgers has been grounded by the novel coronavirus. So he decided to launch an Instagram Live show from his barn in Concord, Mass. 

Every Friday, and many Tuesday afternoons, Edgers hosts "Stuck With Geoff." So far, he has interviewed actress Pamela Adlon, musician David Byrne, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others. 

Recently, Edgers chatted with comedian Hannah Gadsby from her home in Australia. Here are a few excerpts from their conversation.

Q: We're living in a weird moment of time. Two things have happened: the pandemic, which has changed everything, and the horrific killing of George Floyd. When I originally wanted to have you on here, you said: "I don't think it's my time to come on. I think it's the wrong time." That was interesting to me because you were theoretically promoting a comedy special, and it's rare that people in the entertainment industry will decline to promote something. 

A: It just felt gross to promote a comedy show at that time. It still feels a little weird. Self-promotion is not my natural habitat. "Go watch it!" The killing of George Floyd didn't seem to me, as an outsider, a particularly new thing. These things keep happening, and they happen here as well. We have Aboriginal deaths in custody here. I didn't feel like me going, "Watch my comedy show, please" seemed appropriate.

Q: It is hard to know how to proceed at a moment like this. I think you have two options: One is if you're working, you have to decide how you go about doing what you're doing because it seems inconsequential in the universe. You also have to ask: What can I do to help in this situation? 

A: It should feel like that all the time. Even when there isn't mass upheaval, how can you be a productive citizen? I think that's a decent question. Also, there's an intense amount of pressure to go, "I've got to do the right thing right now." There's no harm in a long-term strategy. I've only just figured out how to help in the post-bush fires here six months down the track, because I'm really slow. Sometimes we just react to whatever's hot in the news. And then, you know, the devastation of the fires is still occurring, but we're not talking about it anymore. So I always think: Play the long game. It's not just about the moment, but long-term strategic, systemic change. And you've got to do whatever you can in your sphere of influence, I believe. 

Q: Your relationship to art history is fascinating. I love how you take art history and art into our world and mock it openly. But you must have a great love for art as well. 

A: I love art. I'm a visual thinker and seem to be able to get a lot more information out of pictures than I do words. To this day, I still prefer my books have pictures in them. When I was a kid struggling at school, I discovered the art books, and the whole world opened up and sparked my curiosity and depths of thinking. I've been kind of obsessed ever since. And I studied art history as a way, I think, of trying to understand the world I like. I have a greater appreciation of history because of art history. What I tend to mock in art history is the decisions people have made of what should be remembered. 

Q: You have always identified as someone who doesn't really fit in. But suddenly your Netflix special "Nanette" comes out and everybody is hailing you as a revolutionary and someone who changed the face of comedy. But where do you fit in in the world of comedy? Do you hang out with, like, Gilbert Gottfried, or do you feel like comedians in the States have embraced you? Rejected you? 

A: I don't know that they embraced me or not. Just the thought of going to a comedy club and hanging out with comics fills me with dread. Like, "Oh, I'm going to wait backstage in this cool room and go onstage to a bunch of people who don't care because they just come in from the suburbs." ... I hate comedy. 

Q: You hate comedy? You don't mean that, do you? 

A: Wow. You ask the hard questions. No, I don't hate comedy. I just think I got to a certain age where that lifestyle was killing me. And in some ways, it was easy when I first started because I would go onstage and no one knew who I was. And then it was like, "What is this strange creature? I'll let them entertain me while I wait for the big guy, the big guy at the end." And then as my career developed, I became, in Australia, the headliner. I'm sure if I made an active effort to be involved in the U.S. comedy scene, maybe people would like me, but I didn't. And now I don't feel like I want to because I'm old. 

 

 

 

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