Here’s What The First Reviews Are Saying About ‘Douglas’, Hannah Gadsby’s New Netflix Special
With 'Douglas' now streaming, some critics are calling it her "best troll yet", while others are a little more skeptical.
Hannah Gadsby’s second Netflix special Douglas has arrived and, by the first reviews, will silence the snark surrounding the Australian comedian’s non-retirement after the smash success of Nanette, a routine which was predicated on being her last show.
Nanette, as a refresher, was Gadbsy’s 2017 show which tackled topics around sexual assault, art history, homophobia and mental illness while refusing to make the comedian’s trauma a punchline. After universal praise from Australian and US critics, the show ended up on Netflix, where it reached a mainstream audience — and catapulted Gadsby onto the comedian A-list.
In 2019, she returned to stand-up with Douglas, a show that acknowledged the immense pressure and expectation upon the comedian — yet continued to subvert mainstream stand-up in surprising, moving ways.
By reviews of the international tour, it was clear Douglas, named after Gadsby’s dog, was a worthy follow-up to Nanette: writing for Junkee, Brodie Lancaster called it “the first phase of a new comedy evolution”. And now that the show’s out, TV critics are following suit.
Writing for The Daily Beast, Laura Bradley calls Douglas Gadsby’s “best troll yet”, one which “intentionally disappoints” at first in order to surprise and shock. While the end result might be a little lopsided — the show being a little too formulaic and light at the beginning — Bradley says it’s best to trust where the comedian is going.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Inkoo Kang agrees, commending Gadsby’s somewhat ‘jarring’ decision to provide a ‘list of contents’ at the show’s beginning: we know she’ll discuss the patriarchy, a recent autism diagnosis and will make just one Louis C.K. joke.
“In other words, Gadsby is still Gadsby, breaking down the conventions of comedy to remake it into something that she (still) wants to be a part of,” writes Kang. “But with the cultural phenomenon of Nanette casting such a long shadow, Douglas finds the hyper-self-conscious comedian in a defensive mode.”
“Midway through, Gadsby explicitly addresses the critics who dismissed the earlier special as “not comedy,” but the entirety of Douglas seems intended to prove that the seriousness in Nanette wasn’t some cover-up of a lack of great jokes. This new special is Gadsby’s version of a crowd-pleaser, and it’s consistently, even boastfully, hilarious.”
The AV Club writer Patrick Gomez favourably compares the show’s format to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
“She starts with the laughs coming a mile a minute, teeing up jokes and then knocking them out the park (or whatever mixed sports metaphor you prefer),” Gomez writes. “But two-thirds of the way through Douglas, Gadsby makes it clear that class is in session.”
Much of this class centres on both the criticism of Nanette being more lecture than stand-up, as well as Gadsby’s autism diagnosis, with a notable section focussed on anti-vaxxer claims that needle jabs can cause it.
Variety critic Daniel D’Addario, in an otherwise positive review, is a little skeptical of the show’s function — saying it largely exists to create an anger of agreeance with its audience, rather than challenging views or comedy.
“Watching Douglas onscreen (as opposed to, perhaps, being in the audience as it happens) has a somewhat distancing effect: Gadsby tends, more than ever, to generate more powerful applause lines than audience laughs, and to generate admiration more from her ability to plainly state her beliefs than through the comic sleight-of-hand at which she’s adept,” he writes.
“The applause ringing through Douglas suggests that what one comes to Gadsby for is the humor, but what one leaves with, by the artist’s own design, is a sense of having done activism simply by agreeing with her.”
If not quite as earth-shattering as Nanette (possibly because the shattering has already occurred), Douglas, by early reviews, seems to be a solid ‘return’ to comedy from Hannah Gadsby. You can stream it now on Netflix.