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03Jun

Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby audiobook review – startling candour

The standup narrates her soul-baring work, which pushes the boundaries of comedy

Hannah Gadsby’s memoir begins, in typically contrary fashion, with the epilogue. Here the self-styled “stand-up performance artist” discusses the runaway hit that was her 2018 show, Nanette, a visceral, soul-baring work that pushed at the boundaries of comedy and, thanks to a Netflix special, turned her into a global sensation. She recalls turning up to the Netflix Emmys party where her most pressing thought was: “What kind of monster would choose a white carpet for an outdoor event?” There she was summoned for an audience with Jennifer Aniston, who confided she hadn’t watched Nanette but she was sure she would love it when she did. Gadsby asked, “But what if you hate it?”, at which Aniston patted her hand reassuringly and replied: “I won’t tell you.”

Gadsby goes on to plot her journey from rural Tasmania as the youngest of five children, her queer coming-of-age (homosexuality was illegal in Tasmania until 1997), her experiences of sexual violence and misogyny, her early career as a stand-up and a brief flirtation with cocaine. We also learn of her diagnoses, as an adult, of autism and ADHD, a condition that, she notes, “makes a lot of people very, very angry … Too many people have been conditioned to believe ADHD is a nonsense disease that is not so much over-diagnosed but entirely under-existing.” Fans of Gadsby’s standup will find much to enjoy in her narration, which is similarly quizzical, self-deprecating and sardonic but also contains moments of startling candour and intimacy. The footnotes, in which she provides contextual asides such as “In my defence, my best friend, Douglas, is a dog”, are also to be savoured.

• Ten Steps to Nanette is available from WF Howes, 13hr 47min

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