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Hannah Gadsby: Happiness Is A Bedside Table

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Like Mickey Mouse has his ears; Hannah Gadsby has her hips: an instantly identifiable silhouette that could be her global brand – at least if the encounter with one young fan, related here, is anything to go by.

It is one of many self-deprecating anecdotes that almost entirely constitute this hour. But Gadsby has not always been comfortable enough with her body to make such jokes, and the thread that binds this show together is how she came to accept herself.

But there’s a bit of groundwork first; chit-chat about her finally becoming a proper adult at 35, belatedly getting to grips with responsibilities such as driving, doing her taxes, and buying her own furniture. Hence, Happiness Is A Bedside Table.

This doesn’t especially zing, although it is very engagingly told, with a smattering of good lines. Gadsby’s monotone has softened and warmed over her seven years in stand-up, and while she’s never going to be an over-excitable morning radio presenter, there’s a winning comfort in her folksy approach.

She acknowledges that having a good year and putting her life in order is smug, not funny, so moves on to tales of her past humiliations, which are initially quite mild. But the embarrassing teenage moment on a kids’ slide, proves a brilliant routine of verbal slapstick – and watershed moment in the show. From thereon the show soars, precisely as her own life is circling around the plughole.

This builds up, through toxic relationships, terrible jobs and an unhealthy approach to porridge, to a deliciously-told moment of epiphany when she was literally and figuratively all at sea. Although turning around a life is not as neat as this, the story certainly gives her show a powerful conclusion, tying up the themes and narratives laid down before, and makes the audience feel uplifted on behalf of their new-found comedy friend.

It was stand-up that finally allowed her to accept herself. Now jokes about her looks have paid for that bedside table, and more besides, so no wonder it makes her happy. Us too.

Review date: 20 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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