Culture

Hannah Gadsby Opened Up To Monica Lewinsky In A Powerful Live Interview

"When we have an easy punchline, I think we have to acknowledge that we're dehumanising actual human beings."

Monica Lewinsky has revealed she “bawled” while watching Hannah Gadsby perform Nanette as the two women took the stage at a Vanity Fair summit in Los Angeles for an extended discussion about comedy, fame and dealing with trauma in the public eye.

“I have never gone to a standup comedy show and bawled my eyes out as much as I did,” Lewinsky told the Australian comedian. “And given my history, that was pretty surprising.”

“On social media, actually, I’ve noticed, even if people don’t reference Nanette, there have been many more people who have referenced their regret at having seen me as just a punchline,” she added. “I think that comes from what you put into the world.”

In Nanette, Gadsby criticises comedians who made fun of Lewinsky rather than going after President Bill Clinton.

“It was a genuine attempt to extend an apology from an art form that profited off shaming you,” she told Lewinsky. “When we have an easy punchline, I think we have to acknowledge that we’re dehumanising actual human beings.”

Gadsby also spoke about her feelings on the state of comedy today, admitting that the writing of Nanette was driven, in part, by “professional jealousy”.

“I was frustrated by the rise of mediocrity that was happening around me,” she said. “I try not to say it with arrogance, but I do believe firmly that I was so much better than those guys who were getting breaks, because they’re just forgiven for their mediocrity.”

“When people close their eyes and are asked to think of a comedian, more often than not they just take their idea of a doctor, and take off his suit and put on jeans and a t-shirt. As soon as a straight white guy walks on stage, people are conditioned to trust them to take care of their comedic needs. And that trust has been betrayed.”

“There are so many comedians who think the only thing they need to answer to is the laugh they’re getting … but I happen to believe that just because an audience laughs doesn’t mean it’s funny. It’s not actually a good measure of the worth of what you’re saying.”

“When I first started performing I was horrified by how many comics used rape as a subject matter in their material,” she continued. “People were using the shock as a tool to create tension … as soon as a comedian brings it up, people are automatically tense. As soon as you make people tense, it’s so easy to make them laugh. And that was the only reason they spoke about it. They didn’t use it because they thought ‘hey, I want to turn rape culture on its head’ because they didn’t even know rape had a culture.”

You can watch Monica Lewinsky’s full interview with Hannah Gadsby via Vanity Fair