‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas’ review: Comic book feels the pressure of its success in following ‘Nanette’

'Hannah Gadsby: Douglas' review: Comic book feels the pressure of its success in following 'Nanette'

The Australian comic begins essentially by summarizing the phenomenon that was “Nanette” – a deep and personal presentation of his life experience – joking about wisdom, with the benefit of hindsight, of having exhausted all that revealing material and trauma in one big bang.

He then mockingly proceeds to precisely delineate where the latest show will go and how various parts of it will affect the audience. Like “Nanette”, she is adding another level to comedy by letting the listener enter her carefully constructed shot, almost like a special effects artist inviting him into her studio.

It’s bold, or at least it would be, if it didn’t feel like a small replay of his previous work. And while there are some hilarious parts, clever observations, and yes, personal information strewn along the way, perhaps inevitably nothing will come of the raw intensity of their debut.

In “Nanette,” which toured the Netflix universe by word of mouth, Gadsby noted that his intention was to confront the audience with his story. If that made you uncomfortable, the message was, look in the mirror.

Here, anticipation of a deeper resonance level than the special stand-up average is incorporated into the Gadsby act. And that’s a high bar to clear.

The appreciative audience, in particular, does not seem particularly concerned. From that perspective, “Douglas” is certainly not disappointing, but telegraphed targets, from the anti-vaccine crowd (“Polio is bad!”) To Louis CK, specifically, to patriarchy and misogyny in general, don’t. do convey the same sense of risk.

Granted, the list of comedians who can broach topics with Gadsby’s mix of social commentary and lacerating wit remains a small club, especially if limited to current practitioners. And the unique nature of her voice, like a lesbian from below who has powerfully tackled discrimination, goes far beyond her accentuated delivery.

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During that aforementioned introduction, Gadsby confronts her critics, including those who she says derided “Nanette” as a “glorified TED talk.”

“Douglas” could be many things, but it certainly isn’t. However, it is also not the unique experience that “Nanette” provided, proving that the most daunting challenge any artist faces after an artistic and commercial breakthrough is what to do for an encore.

“Hannah Gadsby: Douglas” opens on May 26 on Netflix.

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About the Author: Will Smith

Alfred Lee covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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