Hannah Gadsby: Something Special 2023 Movie Review
“I got married!” Hannah Gadsby exclaims in the opening seconds of their new comedy special, Hannah Gadsby: Something Special. The Australian comedian is back with more energy than ever. This third Netflix special does, however, feel like a departure from their previous, evocative work.
Gadsby, in this special, has dedicated themselves to “feel-good commentary.” They reiterate that fact numerous times, so much so that you’ll begin to believe it’s a ploy. But it’s not. Well, not on the surface. With lighthearted musings, the 45-year-old comedian still manages to segway between panic attacks, introducing their girlfriend to their mum, and heartbreaking breakups with optimistic resonance.
Previously, Gadsby barrelled through social commentary and stuck gold with their pointed and well-researched reasoning. Something Special lands on a looser form and a more relaxed approach. It’s a playful but conscientiously engaging tone to embark on following from the mighty predecessors of 2018’s searing Nanette and the self-aware Douglas in 2019. A lot has happened for Gadsby in the interim since their last special but they guide us through those tumultuous years with a loving hand.
Recounting their recent marriage to producer Jenney ‘Jenno’ Shamash, positioned just off-stage, makes for the structural spine of the show. The precious queer romance is fiddly for the rom-com hater (they told Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis as much!). Gadsby shares that their courtship began post-fame but they have quickly fallen into a domestic middle-aged romance. Such commitment has brought forth unexpected comparisons to the bizarre and unyielding standards of heterosexual romance that Gadsby doesn’t even try to understand.
With details of a panicked proposal and tricking a Christian baker into making a gay wedding cake (a novelty shark cake topped with two otters) – “Easy, so gullible!” – Gadsby floats on laughter and can’t seem to help their grin as they set up the next punchline. The self-depreciation still lingers, however, as they share they didn’t marry for love but “sweet, sweet, sweet administrative privilege” and then gag with disgust as they admit: “We tell couple stories now.”
Despite Something Special being marbled with witty personal anecdotes, Gadsby also takes pauses in proceedings to directly address the audience. When one punchline doesn’t get the expected reaction, they level with the crowd: “I feel like you’ve gone cold.” Gadsby’s energy dissolves into something intimate here that feels like a brief reincarnation of their past work. Such vulnerability also peers through in Something Special‘s material as Gadsby notes they fell flat after their previous comedy special. Then, with a new clean slate, the perpetual fear that the next thing wouldn’t be as good took over. Though, Gadsby need not worry, Something Special demonstrates a newfound buoyancy that is punchy and jubilant for the tremendous storyteller.
Reviews of Gadsby’s early tour stops detail a segment of the show dedicated to reflecting on their spat with Netflix and Dave Chappelle. Gadsby criticised Netflix for broadcasting Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer which was deemed transphobic for its offensive jokes. In the Netflix special, a recollection of that timely conflict is notably absent. Perhaps the decision to cut this segment is, in part, informed by Gadsby’s new perspective on fame. “If you take anything away from this show: prepare for fame,” they say, referencing being overwhelmed by the post-Nanette attention and being called on for comment.
That, too, has seemingly influenced this new special – with more digestible jokes and lighthearted humour. As they emerge for Something Special, the show becomes indicative of Gadsby reaching a new comedic chapter of their life. Things are very different to when we saw them last, but Gadsby remains the comedic raconteur of the moment.