Two years after her not-comedy special Nanette made her a household name, Hannah Gadsby is back with Douglas, a stand-up special/one-woman show/glorified Ted Talk/lecture—whatever you want to call it, she really does not care. Gadsby herself compares the arc of Douglas to a romantic comedy in a fifteen-minute prologue, complete with a rocky misunderstanding right off the top. Douglas’s prologue serves as a bridge between Nanette and a more traditional hour of comedy, but it’s also the skeleton of the show, in which Gadsby outlines the jokes she will be telling, and it’s a testament to her control as a comic that even though you know a joke is coming, she still lands it in a surprising way. But, true to her promise in Nanette, there are no self-deprecating jokes in Douglas—even when Gadsby tells stories about funny things she’s said or done, she is not denigrating herself. She merely tells a story, and then contextualizes it in relation to her diagnosis.
Douglas is very funny, though Gadsby isn’t trying to win over anyone who did not like Nanette and was turned off by its “not comedy” tone. She seems unbothered by the people (men) who didn’t take Nanette in the spirit in which it is meant, but Douglas has a strong reactionary thread as Gadsby incorporates criticisms of her previous work into her new one. “You want a lecture,” she says mid-show, “fine, here’s a lecture.” And then she does a bit on High Renaissance art and the Ninja Turtles that is spectacular. In fact, Renaissance art plays a significant role in Douglas, proof that the Renaissance was unintentionally hilarious, and that Gadsby’s closest companion on the comedy shelf is Eddie Izzard.
Besides some observational jokes about America at the top of her show, Gadsby hasn’t changed her style to appease mainstream audiences. If you didn’t like Nanette, you probably won’t like Douglas, even though it does contain, pound for pound, more traditional jokes than Nanette. Gadsby is still talking about the patriarchy, and particularly addresses the notion that men aren’t hormonal. It’s not hard to imagine the type of person who won’t like these jokes—just look at the YouTube comments on her trailer, if you dare—just as it isn’t hard to imagine the people who won’t like her jokes about autism and anti-vaxxers.
What is delightful about Gadsby this time around is her devil-may-care attitude. As she says, she never intended to have this kind of success in her career, “making it in America” wasn’t on her map. She isn’t trying to coax a wider audience by going broad or feed the Nanette fans with more of the same, instead she doubles down on her unique combination of social indignation and brilliant, unexpected joke-telling (Titian and the Ninja Turtles is so good it makes me mad). She treats her success like an unanticipated fun toy, one she’s determined to enjoy until someone takes it away. Given the strength of Douglas, though, I don’t think anyone is coming for that toy any time soon. Hannah Gadsby made it to the world stage, and she’s here to stay.