Following the resounding success of her 2017 smash hit, Nanette, the Australian comedian returns with a stellar follow-up show named after her dog. Douglas is, what Gadsby refers to as her “difficult second album”, the follow-up act that has to live up to the promise of its predecessor’s impressive achievements.
Setting realistic expectations
At the outset, Gadsby takes a moment (more like 15 minutes) to set expectations for what the audience is about to experience. She charts out a highly detailed roadmap of what each section of the show will be and also preempts the audience’s response. Anyone hoping for trauma humour is out of luck because in her own words, she’s “fresh the fuck out”. She does, however, promise, “gentle and very good needling of the patriarchy”, making fun of Americans, observational humour, a story that takes place in a dog park, a story about a misdiagnosis blamed squarely on “misogyny”, a section dedicated to “hate baiting”, then a lecture that will transition into a section on autism before ending on a cracker Louis CK joke.
Haters gonna hate
Gadsby gives a shout-out to her haters and critics, (mostly men who use the hashtag #NotAllMen, she points out) who insist that Nanette is not comedy but rather a “monologue,” “lecture,” “one-woman show,” or “glorified TED Talk.” She then riffs on Taylor Swift, saying she’s taking a page out of her book and is going to let “haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate” while pointing out that out of the two of them, Gadsby has been the one at the receiving end of a hate crime.
‘Douglas’ vs ‘Nanette’
Douglas is pretty impressive all on its own. Sure, it feels familiar to Nanette viewers as it’s crafted from recognisable building blocks and a list of topics that are something of a Gadsby signature: art history, misogyny, patriarchy, self-knowledge, wordplay, her childhood and winding anecdotes punctuated by tight punch lines. At the same time, it’s definitely not a redux of Nanette. Douglas is comparatively lighter than Nanette, which is not a bad thing.
Pop culture catch up
Gadsby clearly enjoys cultural references, and her show is chockfull of them. Like in Nanette, she refers to Harry Potter, Where’s Waldo, the aforementioned Taylor Swift and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In addition to this, the meat of Douglas’ “lecture” and tirade is aimed at anti-vaxxers. Gadsby was diagnosed with autism four years ago and feels uniquely qualified to tell people who don’t believe in vaccinating their children to “fuck off.” As she says, “I would much prefer to have autism than be a sociopath.”
WATCH OR NOT
Douglas is lighter and goofier than its predecessor, and this is a welcome direction for Gadsby. She easily exceeds the expectations she sets for us and her audience.
Director: Madeline Parry
Writer: Hannah Gadsby
Cast: Hannah Gadsby
Streaming on: Netflix