Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby became a global star with her Netflix special Nanette. It’s a remarkable piece of work, and it does what great art is supposed to do: Give you a sense, however fleeting, of what it is like to live inside another human’s experience. Gadsby’s new special, Douglas, takes that a step further: It explores her autism diagnosis and gives you a sense of what it is like to experience the world through another person’s mind.
The first half of my episode with Gadsby is about her experience moving through the world as a neurodiverse person. Gadsby didn't receive her autism diagnosis until she was almost 40 years old, after decades of struggling to navigate systems, institutions, and norms that weren't built for people like her. Her story of how she got to comedy — and how close she was to simply falling off the map — is searing, and it helped me see some of the capabilities and social conventions I take for granted in a new light. As in her shows, Gadsby, here, renders an experience few of us have had emotionally legible. It’s a powerful conversation.
Then, we turn to the topics of free speech, safety, and cancel culture. For years, comedy has been undergoing many of the very same debates that have recently become front and center in the journalism world, and Gadsby has done some of the most powerful thinking I've heard on these issues. We discuss what it means for people in power to take responsibility for their speech, how to navigate the complex relationship between creator and audience members, why Twitter is a “bullying pulpit,” the role of recording technology, and the new skills those of us privileged with a platform are going to need to develop.
This is one of those conversations I’ve been thinking about since I had it. Don’t miss it.
Book (and painting) recommendations:
Saint Sebastian as a Woman by Louise Bourgeois
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers
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