Category Archives: Comedy

Hannah Gadsby

Original article here.


We only have an existing narrative framework for a stranger doing violence to you.”


The idea of “stranger danger” persists in the collective psyche, but we now know that sexual offences against children are the crimes least likely to involve strangers. Most children will be abused by opportunists in adult relationships: the married relatives, the family friends, the pillars of the community, the good blokes. “A lot of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of people they’ve trusted take responsibility, and that is what’s toxic,” Gadsby says.

“Shame has its place,” she says. “Shame is what you do to a kid to stop them running on the road. And then you take the shame away and immediately they’re back in the fold. You should never soak anybody in shame. It’s the prolonged existence of shame that then flips out into destructive rage. We can’t exist in that. It’s like treacle.”

The burden of talking about complex issues usually comes down to the most marginalised people. On the rare occasions that a white, heterosexual man steps up – Louis CK pointing out, for example, that “there is no greater threat to women than men” – they are hailed as heroes.

“A joke is a wank, but a story is intimacy,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was in her late 20s, around 2006, that she tried her hand at comedy, and she credits the newfound creativity with saving her life. “Comedy is great in that it’s accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.”

“He’s obviously an unwell kid and there’s a lot of that in comedy,” says Gadsby. “It’s often young men trialling their philosophies on life, and we’ve got a generation of young men who believe that they are victimised, because they’ve been promised the world. That’s a poisoned chalice, because now there’s a gap between what the cultural narrative is and what their experience is. Looking back, I think it’s done me more good than harm to be promised absolutely nothing. I was always told I didn’t matter to the world, but the world still matters to me. That’s why I haven’t responded to the more brutal aspects of my life with violence or bitterness.”



Living With Your Parents

This sketch is so interesting to me, after having lived in Madrid and Bilbao for four years each.

In the USA and the UK, there is a deep shame to live with your parents when you are a young adult. When you turn 18, many many young people take their student loans and go to live in a big university city. For my parents, university was free. For my sisters, it was £1000 a year, for me, it was £3000 a year. I didn’t want to go to university and incur so much debt, but my family members insisted. The loans used to be publicly owned, but now they are a privately owned company. University is a big business, from the education itself to student halls and night clubs, and social pressure acts to strongly to push young people into economically precarious situations.

Here, it’s different. There is a more of a group mentality. People tend to live with their parents during their university years, and there is no loan system so only people who’s parents can pay can go. I know many people in their late twenties who still live with their parents, or if they live away from the family home, they live in one of the family properties, so they don’t pay rent. They also tend to live a short walk away from their parents, and go home for lunch during the week, and family Sunday lunch is a big thing.

The best week of my life in Bilbao was when I was invited for Sunday lunch at my friend’s house in Dima. Her mum, an immigrant for Bilbao as a young woman, was one of those foreigners who takes on the stereotypes of the place they have adapted to. The food was all excellent, and there was tonnes of it. When I was leaving, she gave me so many tuppers of food, so much cheese, so much meat, that the whole of the next week I didn’t have to go to the supermarket, cook, or clean up afterwards. It was heaven.

Sometimes, when I’m teaching, a student will say: “I had an argument with my mum because she lost my … when she was cleaning my room”. They are over 30 years old. I learnt in the masters that many women who are “housewives” are like workers, but they don’t get paid. They cook, they clean, they take care and organise everyone, so from a feminist stand point, all these tuppers and room cleaning comes with a price.

That being said, I am still envious of the young people here. I get annoyed when they (or my friends who have returned to their countries) complain about living with their parents. I’ve lived independently for 10 years now, since I was 18, in around 35 different houses. I am tired; so tired.How I would love not to have to call the electricity company, or pay rent, or take care of myself, I think.

One of the reasons I have never returned to the UK was that I don’t have a base there. My mother lived in a small town and I knew I would head into the depths of despair to return there. Now, it’s possible that a friend might let me live with her rent-free in London. The idea is starting to grow on me more and more.