REVIEW: Woof! Hannah Gadsby – Melbourne International Comedy Festival

After the international success of Nanette, Hannah Gadsby’s world changed. This isn’t Hannah’s first show since then, but it is the first one where they are having an existential crisis about possibly disappearing up their own arsehole.

Hannah’s shows can sometimes feel a bit scattergun, even though there is a solid supporting structure underneath. They are not leaping from topic to topic randomly, but developing a portrait of their life as it stands now.

Some of us have been fans of Hannah since before Nanette and there’s definitely been an evolution in their style but also in their preoccupations. Much of the change derives from Hannah coming to terms with their gender and their autism diagnosis – and more recently, finally dealing with their sleep apnoea. Hannah used to identify as “tired” but now wakes up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

But along with being more comfortable in life – Hannah used to work hard cleaning motels for little money and now she has loads of money from doing group therapy in a room full of strangers – they have much more time to worry about things.

Hannah didn’t think about feminism when they saw Barbie (Hannah didn’t need that film to tell them about feminism), they worried about plastic. Past, present and future plastic. Where have all the Cabbage Patch dolls gone? What about all the plastic in our bloodstreams? Are we all going to end up wrapped in plastic like Laura Palmer?

Woof is very self-reflective, if only because Hannah is worried that they are becoming less relatable and their comfortable life might separate them from the stuff that used to drive their comedy.

But at least they’ve still got panic attacks to keep them grounded.

Hannah’s self-deprecation of old has evolved into radical honesty and I don’t think anyone who has been swimming with the whales and seen a perfectly-formed poo in a Tim Tam tray at a country motel will ever disappear up their own backside. Surely Hannah’s haemorrhoids will save them from that!

As with most of Hannah’s shows since Nanette, they are preoccupied with the structure of jokes and the pay-off. They know the tension of the joke is released with the punchline, but the world doesn’t give us closure all that much these days. The news used to be a discrete half-hour in the evenings and now it scrolls 24/7 in our hands. Modern life is like a panic attack, experienced over and over.

This show is funny in a way that’s indirect and complicated. It’s not always easy stuff, but it’s definitely worth hearing. Hilarious and ridiculous, with no closure in sight.

- Keith Gow. Theatre First

Woof! is playing at the Arts Centre as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival until April 20