Event Review: Nanette Screening

Nick Cherryman – Sociology Department (University of Warwick)

Queer History Warwick welcomed Dr Sharon Lockyer (Brunel centre of Comedy Studies Research), Amy Zala (Leicester) and Joe Harrison (Warwick) to a screening and discussion of Nanette, the stand up Netflix special by Hannah Gadsby. With papers ranging from how Netflix shapes the way we now view comedy to discussions on survivor stories to the role of comedy in telling stories, all three participants contributed a fascinating element to the discussion.

After a screening of Nanette, we listened to the papers. Joe Harrison contrasted the viewing of Nanette with the presentation of comedy on Netflix, and the ways Netflix both simultaneously dictates but delineates the viewing experience across borders, temporal boundaries, and even within the viewer’s own expectations. Amy Zala talked about how Nanette both immerses the audience in Hannah Gadsby’s own survivor story and questioned how complicit one is when telling others or how enforced the viewer may feel when listening to stories of survival. Finally, Dr. Sharon Lockyer presented her work on the very structures of comedy and how Hannah Gadsby plays with these structures. She introduced the idea of how community is built through the role of the audience and questioned if Nanette really was a ‘genre redefining performance’.

Discussion of the papers was varied and interesting and drew on how community is shaped through the act of viewing comedy via online platforms and how this has the potential to be subversive. Conversation led to Dr Lockyer’s own research on the ‘unruly woman’ in comedy and how unruly bodies (i.e. bodies that are visibly different) change the way the viewer perceives jokes – with particular reference to Liz Carr, star of Silent Witness, comedienne and disability activist. There was also discussion on the responsibility of those presenting comedy and the medium it is presented through to those around them. The audience could have carried on,but time restraints unfortunately meant that we were unable to carry on this reflective and engaging discussion further!

Queer History Warwick extends an enormous thank you to all our speakers for an interesting and engaging discussion, and we hope to see everyone at our remaining events this year.

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