Why Hannah Gadsby's message about self-deprecating humour made me listen

If you haven’t watched the Netflix show Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, then drop everything you’re doing and turn it on.

I’m not going to go into specifics about how and why this groundbreaking piece of ‘comedy’ has become so popular because I don’t want to ruin it for you, however, I do want to point out something that Hannah said that woke. me. up.

<em>Netflix</em>‘ Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is a groundbreaking piece of comedy. Source: Netflix
Netflix‘ Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is a groundbreaking piece of comedy. Source: Netflix

“I built a career out of self-deprecating humour,” Nanette says on stage. “That’s what I’ve built my career on and I don’t want to do that anymore.”

“Because do you understand,” she says to applause, “Do you understand what self deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins?

“It’s not humility, it’s humiliation,” Hannah says.
“It’s not humility, it’s humiliation,” Hannah says.

“It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak. In order to seek permission to speak and I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or anybody who identifies with me.”

Self-deprecating humour. The absolute saviour to my insecurities, my self–worth and above all, the way I give others permission to view me.

Some people would call me a funny person, others haven’t seen that side of me yet.

But get me super comfortable and confident, and my personality shines far brighter when I’m making people laugh.

A few years ago, I went through a full body transformation, dropping 17 kgs, getting fit and healthy.

The reason? One day in my office, we were talking about weight and someone called me out for how I looked.

While, this was, in hindsight, completely unacceptable behaviour, rather than sticking up for myself, I laughed and said, “at least I’m funny!” to which the same person responded, “no one wants to be the funny fat girl!”.

No I certainly did not – so I became obsessed with how I looked and changed my attitude. I was determined to never hear those words again.

Now, five years later, I’ve put all of that weight back on, and the self deprecating thoughts and words have entered back into my vocabulary.

How I look now versus how I looked five years ago. Source: provided/ Anita Lyons
How I look now versus how I looked five years ago. Source: provided/ Anita Lyons

“Oh when I used to be skinny, I looked like her,” I say, when strangers say I resemble a very famous Duchess.

“Oh, god forbid someone wants to marry me,” I joke when someone asks why I’m still single at 32.

“Oh, it’s because of my chubby cheeks,” when someone compliments me for looking younger than I am.

All of these insecurities come out in self-deprecating talk when I want to be heard, when I want someone to hear, when I don’t want them to beat me to the punchline.

Just like the above post, I thought I had put on weight. So naturally I screamed it from the rooftops on Instagram before anyone could tell me otherwise.

In hindsight, I would kill for a body like that now and I want to shake that girl and tell her to think better about herself.

Yes, Hannah’s stand-up is groundbreaking.

She talks about being in the minority (something that I am not), but she also refuses to use herself as the butt of a joke just to make people like her.

And this, my friends, is so important.

The only way to build yourself up is from within and Hannah has learnt this.

In turn, she has raised some serious alarm bells, and just like her, I refuse to do it anymore.

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