"Hannah Gadsby: Something Special" Source: Netflix

Review: 'Hannah Gadsby: Something Special' is Sweet, Less Edgy

Karin McKie READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Hannah Gadsby is back, and they're happy. Sort of. Gadsby (they/them) got married after the last special, so they focus on that joy, mostly, in the new hourlong special, called "Something Special." They are calmer, but still remind the packed Sydney Opera House audience that they are quite socially awkward, suffering from autism and other social and sensory issues.

After the introductory land acknowledgment – "on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation" – and the walkout music of They Might Be Giants' "Birdhouse in Your Soul," Gadsby says "I owe you a feel-good show," but for whom? Them or the audience? They wonder that as well, as they perambulate around a stage edged by ferns and rocks, with a white paper rabbit downstage. That "Alice in Wonderland" foreshadowing holds multiple meanings.

Gadsby promises a rom-com, while still acknowledging that the world is indeed ending as we wait for our mass extinction. But love first – they married their wife in January 2021, after ending up together during quarantine in Australia. Wife Jenney – whom they call Jenno in the proud tradition of Aussie slang (adding O's and EE's to the ends of words) – is American, Jewish, bisexual, and Gadsby's show and tour producer. Jenno runs offstage tech for this production, so is witness to Gadsby's stories about her and the marriage proposal. They say they married a bisexual person "to upset particular men."

The details from their home wedding during COVID are cute: They ordered a great white shark nuptial cake, with two otters holding hands in the shark's mouth. Most of the special focuses on the proposal story. Since Gadsby has had three knee reconstructions and has a "problematic gait," as one doctor diagnosed, there was no bended knee. But there was a panic attack, and a proposal that was more of an ambush. Gadsby likens their relationship to the winter Olympic sport of curling, where Jenno clears the path for her sometimes clumsy and unsure partner.

The youngest of five kids, Gadsby also talks about their parents and getting their storytelling skills from their mom (despite mom's loose and clacking dentures). They talk of "story planes" and how their dad hijacks others' tales and "lands on their face." Mom points out the differences between a story and a list of facts. Their parents often employ a "Bad Cop, Asleep Cop" strategy when dealing with their difficult child, and assign snarky nicknames to their partners. Jenno was called "Dora the Explorer" due to her omnipresent theater technician backpack.

Gadsby employed "reverse ghosting" in previous relationships, although thinking of the past often results in "memory soup." They also recall how difficult sudden fame can be, and recount several awkward celebrity encounters. "Tom Cruise? I want to slap that toothy menace," they say. Audiences will be glad that Gadsby has found some peace with their place in the performance hierarchy, but some of that previous frenetic energy is missed. Comedy comes from pain, and now that Gadsby is coupled and heralded, perhaps some of the edge is gone. Yet this story plane still lands sweetly and safely.

"Hannah Gadsby: Something Special" streams on Netflix starting May 9.

by Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com

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