Hannah Gadsby Gets Real

Hannah Gadsby

Comedian Hannah Gadsby is returning to Perth this month to perform a show entitled ‘Donkey’ to her devoted west coast fans. Gadsby took some time out of her busy schedule to chat to OUTinPerth from the writer’s room of ABC2 show ‘Please Like Me’, where she’s contributing to the cult favourite alongside its principle creator and fellow comedian, Josh Thomas.

Gadsby said that work on season three is coming along nicely. “We’re under the pump. We start filming pretty soon!”

In the show, Gadsby portrays the despondent Hannah, who befriends Josh’s mother in a psychiatric hospital. Behind the scenes, Gadsby said she’s also responsible for Hannah’s journey and character development. But how much do the fictional Hannah and real Hannah have in common?

“There’s no acting. It’s a documentary.” Gadsby said. “She is me. It’s really me not doing much but with a sad face. Which is just me.”

People seem to be enjoying Gadsby’s sad face, as she sardonically puts it. Her show ‘Donkey’ has been getting rave reviews at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where it’s been running for four weeks. Gadsby says a weekend in Perth will be a delightful respite after the madness of a month long festival. “You’re just going to get such the best of me because I’ll have had a few weeks off, I’ll be itching to get out of Melbourne, I’ll come across, I’ll enjoy the sun, I’ll catch up with my brother and I’ll be happy to be onstage.” She mused. “It doesn’t often happen but I’m projecting that. It’s going to be a cracker.”

Gadsby offered an explanation for her show’s mysterious title. “I’m the donkey. Actually I really wanted to talk about donkeys in art because they get a bad rap. They’re known as the idiots and the fools. I don’t mind if idiots and fools are called idiots and fools but don’t bring the donkey into it, the donkey’s quite a nice animal. Anyway, then I got sidetracked from that idea. The show’s not about that at all. Then it was going to be about my bike, which I called Donkey, and then I didn’t- it’s not about that at all. And then I got a diagnosis of ADHD which explains why I don’t stick to my ideas. So it’s about ADHD. Trying to explain it to a room full of people who are generally not convinced it actually exists.”

The diagnosis comes as a relief for Gadsby, who explained that attention deficit issues are often victim to misconceptions and frequently associated with hyperactive children even though it’s a condition that stays with you throughout adulthood. “It doesn’t go away and often you don’t get it diagnosed because the H can be a misnomer, not everyone has to be hyperactive. I’m certainly not. I’m inattentive. I’m a daydreamer, space cadet. Mouth breather, you know the one. Lots of thoughts going on but no evidence.” she laughed.

Gadsby said the diagnosis provided an explanation for certain behaviours that’s allowed her to approach life a little differently. “I don’t think people who’ve known me over the years will go ‘Oh, she’s changed dramatically’ but certainly there is some sort of transition going on. Which is nice, it’s exciting. I’m certainly not hating myself as much as I used to. Now I make sense.”

While some may find it uncomfortable to speak about issues like their mental health and sexuality onstage, for Gadsby it’s all part of a day’s work. “It’s just what’s going on. I don’t really speak for much of the year and then I turn it into a show and it makes sense.”

Hannah Gadsby is performing at the Octagon Theatre on May 15th and 16th as part of the Perth International Comedy Festival. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Sophie Joske

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