What is the purpose to my human?
August 16, 2019 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Three ideas. Three contradictions. Or not. Hannah Gadsby gives a TED talk about comedy and telling stories, while touching on grief, Autism, and trauma. "Speech has always felt like an inadequate freeze frame for the life inside of me."
posted by stoneweaver (19 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I watched this the other day, and it is excellent. Good share, thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:46 AM on August 16, 2019

I'm not a fan of TED talks normally but that was excellent. I love her. She's so great.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Awesome. Just Awesome.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just love her so much.
posted by nevercalm at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow, this was really helpful for me. I was one of the smaller minority who felt like Nanette was a punch in the face and I did not appreciate being dragged into her trauma; I have enough of my own.

I respect and appreciate her work and I totally get why so many people love the work she does. But I got done watching Nanette and felt sick and exhausted, and I already feel that way a lot. So it was useful for me to really hear her talk so I could appreciate the meta-aspect of why she made the choices she did, to do a "comedy" bit because she had felt totally disingenuous with the comedy she'd been doing up to that point.

But it does support a feeling that I'd had, that she feels, in many cases, oppositional to her comedy audiences because she felt like she was pulling her punches in order to get laughs. And I can understand why that made her feel like she wasn't living her truth and being real with them, considering all she's been through. And I feel better understanding what her point was to do that, to do a show that was 75% comedy and 25% raw pain. Thanks for posting this.
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on August 16, 2019 [13 favorites]

I was fortunate enough to see her show Douglas in Manhattan 2 weeks ago, which now looks like its last stop in the U.S., at least for a while. It was great, probably a little less emotional than Nanette, but still very personal, and really brilliant. It didn't feel oppositional to me, but very much in tune with the audience. She started the show by outlining what she was going to talk about, saying that she doesn't like surprises, and, as someone who way too often wonders how much longer something is going on (even something I'm enjoying very much), that made the whole show better.

It's there for a few more weeks, if people are nearby and interested.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:21 PM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I felt like Nanette was a punch in the face and that it was a punch in the face that I recognized and I appreciated her for saying out loud many things that have been true across the 30+ years since I came out. It's easy to be the joke (especially when you are the one making it), it's hard to be a true self (especially when you are the one trying to figure it out in the midst of a culture which screams against you at every turn).

I've watched it several times, and each time I find it a cathartic journey of recognition and not being alone in the midst of all the travails that life throws at LGBTQ people. Her stories were not mine literally, but they were emotionally, and I didn't mind being punched in the face by her stories because those punches were ones I had already known.

I'm sorry that you didn't find the hour she presented as unifying and healing as I did. I know what PTSD is like, and maybe this triggered you. It was deeply worthwhile for me, and I'm trying to work up the courage to share Nanette with mr. hippybear, because I know it will be a difficult journey for him (as it is for me every single time I watch it), but I think he will find it also worthwhile as I do every time I watch it.

My fear is that his journey has been different enough from mine that he won't agree. And it's a pretty strong thing. So I hesitate. And I look for framing. And I hope maybe someday I can share it, before Netflix decides to pull it and it will be no more.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, thank you for sharing this FPP. It's a context I am glad to have for Nanette which haunts me all the time since I first saw it. It's powerful. And it is Truth.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on August 16, 2019

Thank you hippybear for putting it into multiple words where all I had was one - one word is always inadequate, but it was all I had.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:24 PM on August 17, 2019

I didn't get the question.

I love her so much, and I understand her on so many levels, but ouch, I didn't get what she meant by "What is the purpose to my human?"

I know it's an allusion to how she thinks in hieroglyphics which are difficult to translate into vernacular english, and I *think* it has something to do with her feelings? The human part of her? Or her mortality maybe? It's also possible I am overthinking a statement that's supposed to evocative in a non-literal way.
posted by MiraK at 3:27 PM on August 17, 2019

and I *think* it has something to do with her feelings? The human part of her? Or her mortality maybe?


I think it's a shortcut to make you think of ALL of those many ways to think of it without actually saying it.

Of course, I could very well be very wrong. Isn't that great?
posted by DreamerFi at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve been pondering this too. I think perhaps it’s related to a line she says near the very end about how we all share what it means to be human, or something to that effect. So maybe it’s like asking, “what is the piece that I bring?”

I’m envisioning some sort of humanity potluck.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:15 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a huge crush on Hannah Gadsby and have seen her perform a bunch. While I enjoy this, it didn't quite land for me as well as the other work I've seen her do. Like MiraK I get a little confused by the question and what is answered. But it's a good reason to watch it more than once!
posted by rednikki at 10:20 AM on August 18, 2019

but ouch, I didn't get what she meant by "What is the purpose to my human?"

She begins to question the purpose after she never came out after her grandmother died. She questions it again when she admits that she's the end of her branch of the family tree she feels entangled with. The third time she mentions it, she's contemplating her feelings of isolation. Finally, she realizes the purpose of her human is to share her pain fully and really through the vehicle of comedy, to try to inspire individual empathy with her in a crowd that is usually a united crowd of laughter. And thus, Nanette.

That seems to be the answer I drew out of watching through this time.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

She also wraps up with the thought that "the purpose of being human is so much bigger than all of us".

And like, if you watched this talk once at the beginning of this thread post, go watch it again. It's more than you remember it being.
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you’re spot on, hippybear. The part I’m still tumbling over in my mind is why she uses ‘my human’ versus ‘my humanity’. Why all the distancing?

The only thing I can come up with is that my human is someone you control, and therefore they can become out of control, they can escape your grasp. Whereas my humanity is an intrinsic quality, it is always within me.

Even here, I struggle to write about my human in the first person, as it feels like I’m subjugating someone, if only a version of myself.

This still doesn’t feel quite right.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:55 PM on August 19, 2019

I think the question can't really be understood apart from autism. It's a really common autistic thing to feel alien and to feel like our humanness is Other or outside our other experiences. It's also a common thing among autistic people to leave out parts of sentences that other people feel are critical, and perhaps it would make more sense to people if they read the question as "What is the purpose to my being human?" Although, I think that phrasing leaves out a lot. I think it's a fairly uniquely autistic way of phrasing the question "What's the meaning of life?"
posted by stoneweaver at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's also a really common autistic thing to be told that our whole selves aren't really human, in some ways, and to feel like we need to consciously and deliberately reclaim our humanity, like autism has been defined outside of humanness. In that lens, I think the phrasing she chose is also more powerful because it invokes that struggle.

It's like poetry of any kind: you need to have the context to understand all the echoes the phrasing is intended to evoke.
posted by sciatrix at 11:47 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks, stoneweaver and sciatrix! I think there's a lot to what you both have said. Especially the poetry aspect. Hannah Gadsby starts off talking about contradictions and how performing is easier because she can craft her words and then deliver them. So in that context, I have a hard time hearing that phrasing as not completely deliberate. Which perks my ears up, what is she doing here? She definitely got my attention and I've been thinking about this for days now.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

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