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Luis Eduardo BARRUETO
Trade and development

Luis BARRUETO is a journalist from Guatemala. Studied business and finance journalism at Aarhus University in Denmark and City University London.

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piqer: Luis Eduardo BARRUETO
Monday, 09 July 2018

Comedy Can Often Get In The Way Of Social Change: Why Hannah Gadsby Refuses To Become Her Own Joke

I have been thinking about social change in recent weeks. 

I read philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah's take on how moral revolutions have taken place in history when people's yearning for respect – from their peers and broader society – has operated in favor of ever increasing moves towards fairness and justice. But this is too abstract.

I have also had conversations on how the key problem in tackling discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is the lack of connection that LGBTIQ people have with their communities. 

A key thinker on this issue made a parallel with victims of torture that I found astounding: The key disconnect is not that between the person's mind and words, that is, their ability to speak out and tell their stories. It is a more substantive disconnect, between the person and his community. It's the tearing of the support network, of the basic humanity and solidarity most of us take for granted. 

This is why, when I saw Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, I thought it was a fit of genius. She almost seemed to link these ideas I had been thinking about in a stand-up comedy show, which sets out to rethink comedy itself. 

In her show, Gadsby delves into her identity and the perils of trying to fit in as a lesbian woman in conservative Tasmania. But as she develops this connection between her identity and her work, it becomes increasingly clear that she also believes comedy is unable to fully address the complexity of that identity.

She refuses to become the subject of her own joke. And while this makes Nanette a difficult watch, it is one that very much reinvents comedy, and speaks to the core of social change and valuing each person's individuality. Sometimes social change – and our personal worth – boils down to our ability to tell our own story, and Gadsby does it beautifully. 

Comedy Can Often Get In The Way Of Social Change: Why Hannah Gadsby Refuses To Become Her Own Joke
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