[“Bobby Reid” plays]
♪ There’s blood in the water ♪
♪ Won’t you cut me down? ♪
♪ ‘Cause people keep on calling ♪
♪ Won’t you cut me down? ♪
♪ Bobby Reid, won’t you please ♪
♪ Cut me down? ♪
Thank you very much. Thank you. Might’ve peaked a bit early, but… Welcome to my show. My show is called Nanette. And the reason my show is called Nanette, is because I named it before I wrote it. I named it at around the time I’d met a woman called Nanette… who I thought was very interesting. So interesting. “Nanette,” I thought, “I reckon I can squeeze a good hour of laughs out of you, Nanette, I reckon.” But… turns out… no. I met her in a small-town café. Now, I feel… I don’t feel comfortable in a small town. I get a bit tense. Mainly because I am this situation. And in a small town, that’s all right from a distance. People are like, “Oh, good bloke!” And then… get a bit closer and it’s like, “Oh no! Trickster woman, what are you doing?” I get a lot of side-eye. So I feel quite tense in a small town.
Now, I’m from a small town, a very small town in… I’m from Tasmania. Now, of course, Tasmania is that little island floating off the… arse end of mainland Australia there, just… Lovely place. Famous for a lot of things. Potatoes. Very… And our frighteningly small gene pool. That’s… I wish I was joking. But I am very partial to the potato. Very versatile… vegetable. And not all the branches go directly away from the trunk in our family tree, I will admit. It’s a bit… topiary. But… I love Tasmania. I loved growing up there. I felt right at home, I did. But I had to leave as soon as I found out I was a little bit lesbian. And you do find out, don’t you? Yeah. I got a letter. “Dear Sir/Madam.” Wasn’t a great letter to receive in mid-’90s Tasmania. Because the wisdom of the day was if you chose to be gay… I say “wisdom”, even though homosexuality’s clearly not a choice. Wisdom is always relative, you know. And in a place like Tasmania, everything’s very relative, but I… But the wisdom of the day was that, if you chose to be gay, then you should just get yourself a one-way ticket to the mainland, and don’t come back. Gays… why don’t you just pack your AIDS up into a suitcase there and fuck off to Mardi Gras?
Because homosexuality was a crime in Tasmania ’til 1997. Not long enough ago. And I took a long time to come to terms with my sexuality. There’s a few reasons for that. A lot of it has to do with bad press. Yeah, they didn’t get a good rap when I was growing up, the homosexuals. We didn’t have social media like we do now, but… “Letters to the Editor,” let me tell you. Slow Twitter. Brutal. But in all the debate about… homosexuality… no one ever really talked about the lesbians. You know? It was all the gay men. They’re the problem! Anal sex. That’s when the devil will get you! But lesbians, they’re like, “No… What even are they? What they do, though, really? Do they even exist if no one’s watching, really? No, don’t worry about them. No harm in a cuddle.” For a long time, I knew more facts about unicorns than I did about lesbians. Another reason I struggled with– There are no facts about unicorns. Another reason I struggled to identify as gay was the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Precisely that. The Mardi Gras was my first introduction to my people. I watched it on… my TV in my little living room in my small town. That was my first introduction to my people. The Mardi Gras. My people… flaunting their lifestyle in a parade! I used to watch it, going, “There they are, my people. They’re busy, aren’t they? Gosh. Don’t they love to dance and party?” I used to sit there and watch it and go, “Where… where do the quiet gays… go? Where are the quiet gays supposed to go?” I still do. I’m just like… the pressure on my people to express our identity and pride through the metaphor of party is very intense. Don’t get me wrong, I love the spectacle, I really do, but I’ve never felt compelled to get amongst it. Do you know? I’m a quiet soul. My favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of a teacup finding its place on a saucer. Oh, it’s very, very difficult to flaunt that lifestyle in a parade. I don’t even like the flag. Controversial! But there, I’ve said it. Now… the Pride flag, now, I love what it means, that is perfect. Pride. Wonderful. But the flag itself? Bit busy. It’s just six very shouty, assertive colors, stacked on top of each other, no rest for the eye. An afternoon of that waving in my face, I need to express my identity through the metaphor of a nap. I don’t… I don’t think I’m very good at gay. I’m not the only who thinks that. I’ve… I’ve been getting a bit of negative feedback of late from my people, the lesbians. Bit of negative feedback. ‘Cause, gosh, don’t my people love the feedback. Not… Not shy! Not shy with the feedback. One of our spokespeople last year… Self-appointed. One of our spokespeople approached me straight after one of my shows to give me a bit of feedback, and that’s my favorite time for feedback. Straight after a show? Yes, please! That is when my skin is at its thickest. The feedback? Apparently, she said, “I was very disappointed in your show this year, Hannah. I just don’t think there was enough lesbian content.” I’d been on stage the whole time. I didn’t… even straighten up halfway through, you know?
Perhaps I’ve been slacking off a bit. When I first started… the comedy, over a decade ago, always, nothing but. Nothing but lesbian content. Wall to wall. My first ever show… was classic new gay comic 101. My coming out story. I told lots of cool jokes about homophobia. Really solved… that problem. Tick. I told… a story about the time this young man had almost beaten me up because he thought… I mean, he thought I was cracking on to his girlfriend. Actually, that bit was true, got that right, but…. there was a twist. It happened late at night, it was at the bus stop. The pub had closed, it was the last bus home, and I was waiting at the bus stop. And I was talking to a girl, and… you know, you could say flirting. I don’t know. And… out of nowhere, he just comes up and starts shoving me, going, “Fuck off, you fucking faggot!” And he goes, “Keep away from my girlfriend, you fucking freak!” And she’s just stepped in, going, “Whoa, stop it! It’s a girl!” And he’s gone, “Oh, sorry.” He said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I don’t hit women,” he said. What a guy! “I don’t hit women.” How about you don’t hit anyone? Good rule of thumb. And he goes, “Sorry, I got confused. I thought you were a fucking faggot… trying to crack on to my girlfriend.”
Now I understand I have a responsibility to help lead people out of ignorance at every opportunity I can, but I left him there, people. Safety first. The main part, the centerpiece, of that show, was coming out to my family, and particularly my mom. Because my mom is very funny. She lives a comedy better than I can ever write it. Her response to me coming out, when I told her I was a little bit lesbian… Baby steps. Her response… was this. She’s just gone,”Oh, Hannah. Why did you have to tell me that? That’s not something I need to know. I mean, what if I told you I was a murderer?” It’s still funny. And it’s a fair call. Murderer. Murderer. You would hope that’s a phase. Real jokes.
But I reckon I’ve been slacking off in recent years with my lesbian content. I don’t think I’ve been representing my people as much as I should be. You know, last year, my grandma asked me if I had a boyfriend. And I realized, in that moment, that I’d… quite forgotten… to come out to Grandma. I thought I’d… I remember it being on my to-do list. I thought, “I’ll wait till it comes up in conversation.” But it never does. But finally it did. But I did not take the opportunity! No, I deflected it like a real man. I said, “No… No, Grandma. No, I don’t have time for boyfriends.” Plural. Confident, wasn’t I? “But if I had time, heaps!” And she said, “Ah, well, you never know. One day you might walk around the corner, and there he’ll be!” “Mr. Right,” she called him. And I have been approaching every corner with caution since then. No offense to Mr. Right, if you are out there. But you’re also Mr. Very Very Too Late. ‘Cause I’ve done quite a lot of work on this lesbian situation here and I don’t imagine I’ve got a tight turning circle on identity. Imagine the feedback. Not enough lesbian content.
Do you know what I reckon my problem is? I don’t lesbian enough. Not in the scheme of my existence. Not a lot. I mean, I keep my hand in. Bit of lesbian content there. I’ll be sprinkling it throughout the show. Keep your feedback forms to yourselves. No, I mean, if you were to plot my week, I don’t… Not a lot. Not a lot of lesbian-ing… gets done. I cook dinner more. I cook dinner way more than I lesbian. But nobody every introduces me as “that chef comedian,” do they? Not enough lesbian content.
I should quit. I’m a disgrace. What sort of comedian can’t even make the lesbians laugh? Every comedian ever. That’s a good joke, isn’t it? Classic. It’s bulletproof, too. Very clever, because it’s funny… because it’s true. The only people who don’t think it’s funny… are us lezzers… But we’ve got to laugh… because if we don’t… proves the point. Checkmate. Very clever joke. I didn’t write that. That is not my joke. It’s an old… An oldie. Oldie but a goldie. A classic. It was written, you know, well before even women were funny. And back then, in the good old days, lesbian meant something different than it does now. Back then, lesbian wasn’t about sexuality, a lesbian was just any woman not laughing at a man. “Why aren’t you laughing? What are you? Some kind of lesbian?” Classic. “Go on. You gotta laugh. Lighten up. Stop taking everything so seriously! Fucking learn to take a joke. You need to lighten up. I’ll tell you what you need to lighten up. You need a good dicking. Get a cock up you! Drink some jizz! You know?” Actual advice? It’s counterproductive.
I do think I have to quit comedy though. And seriously. I know it’s probably not the forum… to make such an announcement, is it? In the middle of a comedy show. But I have been questioning… you know, this whole comedy thing. I don’t feel very comfortable in it anymore. You know… over the past year, I’ve been questioning it, and reassessing. And I think it’s healthy for an adult human to take stock, pause and reassess. And when I first started doing the comedy, over a decade ago, my favorite comedian was Bill Cosby. There you go. It’s very healthy to reassess, isn’t it? And I built a career out of self-deprecating humor. That’s what I’ve built my career on. And… I don’t want to do that anymore. Because, do you understand…
…do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission… to speak. And I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or anybody who identifies with me. [audience cheers] And if that means that my comedy career is over, then so be it. I got a letter… on Facebook recently. And I say “letter,” ’cause I’m very bold. Controversial. But I call it a letter, because it said, “Dear Hannah,” comma, new line… Bit of feedback. And it said, “You owe it to your community to come out as transgender.” All jokes aside, I really do want to do my best by my community. I really do. But that was new information to me. I’m not… I don’t identify as transgender. I don’t. I mean, I’m clearly “gender not normal,” but… I don’t think even lesbian is the right identity fit for me, I really don’t. I may as well come out now. I identify… as tired. I’m just tired.
There is too much hysteria around gender from you gender-normals. You’re the weirdos. You’re a bit fucking hysterical. You’re a bit weird, a bit uptight. You need to get a grip. You gender-normals… Seriously, calm down, gender-normals. Get a grip. “No, a man in a dress, that’s fucking weird!” No, it’s not. You know what’s weird? Pink headbands on bald babies! That’s weird. I mean, seriously, would you put a bangle on a potato? No, that’s organic. I paid a lot for that potato. Of course I understand why parents do it. Clearly they’re sick and tired… of their beautiful baby girl… being mistaken for a boy baby because of the no hair situation. I understand that. But the thing is, I don’t assume bald babies are boys. I assume they’re angry feminists, and I treat them with respect. How about this? How about we stop separating the children into opposing teams from day dot? How about we give them, I dunno, seven to ten years to consider themselves… on the same side?
Did you know human men and human women have more in common… than they don’t? Did you know that? I don’t think many people do know that because we always focus on the difference. The difference between men and women. They’re very different. Now, dogs are heaps different to… “Men and women are very different. We’re from different planets!” Men are from Mars, and women are for his penis. Here’s an idea. I say we get rid of pink and give all the babies blue. I’ve thought about this and it’s not because blue is a masculine color. ‘Cause that… is false. I love that people go, “Blue, yeah, a very masculine color. Very reliable. Very rational color, blue. Yeah, you can trust blue. It’s why we’ve got it on flags. Lot of blue on flags. Navy blue. Everyone trusts a boat.” Blue, if anything, is a feminine color. It really is full of contradictions. You know, blue is a cold color. It’s on the cold end of the spectrum. But the hottest part of the flame? Blue. If you’re feeling blue… you’re sad. But optimism? Blue skies ahead! Make up your mind. A blueprint is a plan, but if something happens not on the plan, where does that come from? Out of the blue! Blue’s a wonderful color to start life with. There’s room for every kind of human in blue. There’s a whole spectrum, ’cause blue doesn’t demand… it doesn’t demand action like all the other colors. Think about this. You’re stuck in traffic… and the lights turn… blue. Less road rage, people. Less road rage. More accidents, ironically enough.
I get mistaken for a man quite a lot. But not for long. My masculinity doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. I’m only a man at a glance. Which means it happens in a customer service situation, usually. Because I’m only a man at a glance, it means I’m very much right there still. Right in front of the person who’s just called me “sir”… and deeply regrets it. The really good ones just erase my memory of being called “sir.” They’re clever. It’s a clever trick. They do that with a combination… of hypnosis, and the magic word. They go, “Can I help you, sir? Madam.” And it works. Gone. I do not remember being called “sir” if someone calls me “madam” immediately after. Because “madam” is a very triggering word for me. It is. It’s what my mom used to call me when I was in a lot of trouble… for opening a brothel. Can we just have more words?
It’s the apology I don’t understand, when people apologize for mistaking me for a man. I got it on a flight recently. Walking on, the cabin manager, “Welcome aboard, sir. Oh, madam, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” I was like, “It’s okay! It’s not like you called a man ‘madam’. That could have been…” So I said, “Don’t worry.” She said, “I’m so sorry.” I said, “Don’t apologize. In fact, I should thank you. I enjoyed it. Thank you. Never apologize. Don’t apologize. Look, I don’t identify as transgender, but I’m partial to a holiday. I love being mistaken for a man, ’cause just for a few moments, life gets a hell of a lot easier. I’m top-shelf normal, king of the humans. I’m a straight white man. I’m about… I’m about to get good service for no fucking effort! Do not apologize. I was going to take my assigned seat and both the armrests. Your knee space? No.”
Just jokes, though. Clearly… just jokes. Just jokes. I wouldn’t want to be a straight white man. Not… right now. This is… Not at this moment in history. It is not a good time to be a straight white man. I wouldn’t want to be a straight white man. Not if you paid me. Although the pay would be substantially better.
But, no… I don’t think it’s an easy time for you fellas, I do feel for you. Very difficult, very confusing time. Because– And you’re not coping. Because, for the first time ever, you’re suddenly a sub-category of human. Right? “No, we invented the categories. We’re not supposed to play! We’re human-neutral.” Not anymore. I’ve always been judged by what I am. Always been a fat, ugly dyke. I’m dead inside. I can cope. But you fellas… Bit soft in the belly? You hear “straight white man,” you’re like, “No. No, that’s reverse sexism.” No, it’s not. You wrote the rules. Read them. Just jokes. Banter. Don’t feel intimidated. It’s just locker room talk.
Just jokes, though. Just jokes. Do you know why I love picking on, telling jokes about straight white men? ‘Cause they’re such good sports. They’re like, “Oh, good joke about me. That’s a refreshing perspective. If you hate men so much, why do you try so fucking hard to look like one?” ‘Cause you need a good role model right now, fellas. [audience cheers] Dropping like flies. Jokes aside, if I may just give you a little human-to-human advice. Because I do understand it is a difficult and confusing time for you now. You know, it’s changing, it’s shifting, and I understand that. But… may I just, you know, suggest that you learn to, sort of, move beyond your defensiveness. Right? That’s your first point, you’re stuck on it, but you need to get some space around it, learn to develop… try and develop a sense of humor about it, or you need to lighten up, learn to laugh. Tell you what might help. How about a good dicking? Get a cock up ya, drink some jizz! You gotta laugh! That’s weird advice, isn’t it? It’s weird. It doesn’t… It’s not good, is it? It doesn’t feel very nice, does it?
Laughter’s the best medicine, they say. I don’t. I reckon penicillin might give it the nudge. There is truth to it, though. Laughter is very good for the human. It really is. ‘Cause when you laugh, you release tension. And when you hold tension in your human body, it’s not healthy. It’s not healthy psychologically or physically. That’s why it’s good to laugh. It’s even better to laugh with other people. When you laugh, in a room full of people, when you share a laugh, you will release more tension because laughter is infectious. You stand to release more tension when you laugh with other people than you would if you laugh alone. Mainly because when you laugh alone, that’s mental illness and that’s a different kind of tension. Laughter doesn’t help. Trust me. Tension isolates us. And laughter connects us. Good result. Good on me. What a guy. What a guy. I’m basically Mother Teresa. But just like Mother Teresa… my methods are not exactly charitable.
Let me explain to you what a joke is. And when you strip it back to its bare essential… components, like, its bare minimum, a joke is simply two things, it needs two things to work. A setup and a punch line. And it is essentially a question with a surprise answer. Right? But in this context, what a joke is is a question that I have artificially inseminated. Tension. I do that, that’s my job. I make you all feel tense, and then I make you laugh, and you’re like, “Thanks for that. I was feeling a bit tense.” I made you tense. This is an abusive relationship. Do you know why I’m such a funny fucker? Do you? It’s because, you know, I’ve been learning the art of tension diffusion since I was a children. Back then it wasn’t a job, wasn’t even a hobby, it was a survival tactic. I didn’t have to invent the tension. I was the tension. And… I’m tired of tension. Tension is making me sick. It is time… I stopped… comedy. I have to quit comedy… but I mean… I can’t quit you. No, I can’t quit you. I can’t. Because I don’t have a backup plan, guys. What have I got? Fifteen years ago, I barely graduated from an Art History degree. Fifteen years ago. Art History. Fifteen– They were dead then. They’re just deader. My CV is pretty much a cock and balls drawn under a fax number. Could you imagine me working in a gallery with an asymmetrical woolen poncho with an aggressive… fringe? Nasty jewelry, having the opinion? No. There’s… You know, art history is highbrow. I don’t belong in that world, I’m not from that world. I’m not from money, or even that much chat, if I’m honest, but… high art, you know, that’s what elevates and civilizes people. You know, galleries, the ballet, the the-a-ter. All these things, you go there, you get better. Comedy? Lowbrow. Well, I’m sorry to inform you, but nobody here is leaving this room a better person. We’re just rolling around in our own shit here, people.
But I– A couple of years ago, a man came up to me after… my show. He had an opinion. Lesbians give feedback. Men? Opinions. Now, in the show, I’d spoken about taking antidepressant medication, and he had an opinion on that. Now, interestingly, I’d also spoken about how unhelpful unsolicited advice is in a… mental health plan, but he mustn’t have heard that bit. He came up to me after the show to give me his opinion. He said, “You shouldn’t take medication because you’re an artist. It’s important that you feel.” He said, “If Vincent van Gogh had have taken medication, we wouldn’t have the sunflowers.” I never, ever, ever thought that my art history degree would ever come in handy. But, oh, my lord. I tore that man a college debt-sized new arsehole. I said, “Good opinion, mate. Except that he did medicate. A lot. He self-medicated a lot. He drank a lot. He even nibbled on his own paints. Problem. And also, you know what else? He didn’t just paint sunflowers, he did quite a few portraits of psychiatrists. Not even random ones. Psychiatrists who were treating him. And medicating him. And there’s one particular portrait of one particular psychiatrist, and he’s holding a flower, and it isn’t a sunflower. It’s a foxglove. And that foxglove forms part of a medication that van Gogh… took for epilepsy. And that derivative of the foxglove plant medi-fucking-cation…” I must have skipped a dose that day ’cause I was feeling. “The derivative of the foxglove, if you overdose it a bit, you know what happens? You can experience the color yellow a little too intensely. So perhaps… we have the sunflowers precisely because… van Gogh medicated. What do you honestly think, mate?” I said. “That creativity means you must suffer? That is the burden of creativity? Just so you can enjoy it? Fuck you, mate. If you like sunflowers so much, buy a bunch and jerk off into a geranium.”
Know what he said? He goes, “No need to be so sensitive.” I’m not being sensitive. I’m an artist. That’s feeling. “Don’t be so sensitive.” That is the most common nugget of advice I get. ‘Cause I’m a very sensitive person. And I get told to “stop being so sensitive” an awful lot. And it is always yelled. Which I find very insensitive. I don’t get it. “Stop being so sensitive.” I don’t understand. Why is insensitivity something to strive for? I happen to know that my sensitivity is my strength. I know that. It’s my sensitivity that’s helped me navigate a very difficult path in life. So when somebody tells me to “stop being so sensitive,” you know what? I feel a little bit like a nose being lectured by a fart. Not the problem. I feel like, in a comedy show, there’s no room for the best part of the story… which is the ending. You know, in order to finish on a laugh, you know, you have to end… with punch lines. Like, take my coming-out story, for example. The best part of that story is the fact that Mum and I have a wonderful relationship now. More than mother and daughter, we’re friends, we trust each other. Look what I did to the room. No tension. You’re just going, “Good on you. Got a good relationship with your mum, have you? Can you go back to the tension? That was hilarious.”
But, yeah, Mum said to me last year, she said, “I’m very proud… that I raised you kids without religion.” I’d love to give you guys context on that, but that’s not how my mum runs a conversation. I have no idea why she brought that up in Target. No idea. She said, “I’m very proud that I raised you kids without religion because, you know, I’ve raised five children with minds of their own.” And I’ve just sort of gone, “Good on you. What aren’t you proud of, Mum?” I was home for a week. We had time. Because Mum and I have established jokes around this difficult time in our life. We really do. The banter, if you will. I say things like, “Mum, you made my life very difficult.” And she’ll go, “Yeah, well, I don’t think I liked you very much.” And we laugh! ‘Cause you’ve got to laugh. And… But not this day. She went quiet and… got tense. But what my mum eventually said to me is pretty much… at the core of why I’m questioning… comedy. She said to me, “The thing I regret is that I raised you as if you were straight. I didn’t know any different. I am so sorry. I’m so sorry. I knew… well before you did… that your life was going to be so hard. I knew that, and I wanted it more than anything in the world not to be the case. And I know I made it worse, because I wanted you to change because I knew the world wouldn’t.” And I looked at my mum in that moment and thought, “How did that happen? How did my mum get to be the hero of my story?” She evolved. I didn’t. See… I think part of my problem is comedy has suspended me in a perpetual state of adolescence. The way I’ve been telling that story is through jokes. And stories… unlike jokes, need three parts. A beginning, a middle, and an end. Jokes… only need two parts. A beginning and a middle. And what I had done, with that comedy show about coming out, was I froze an incredibly formative experience at its trauma point and I sealed it off into jokes. And that story became a routine, and through repetition, that joke version fused with my actual memory of what happened. But unfortunately that joke version was not nearly sophisticated enough to help me undo the damage done to me in reality. Punch lines need trauma because punch lines… need tension, and tension feeds trauma.
I didn’t come out to my grandma last year because I’m still ashamed of who I am. Not intellectually. But, right there, I still have shame. You learn from the part of the story you focus on. I need to tell my story properly. Because the closet, for me, was no easy thing… to come out of. From the years 1989 to 1997, right? This is ten years. Effectively my adolescence. Tasmania was at the center of a very toxic national debate about homosexuality and whether or not it should be legalized. And I’m from the northwest coast of Tasmania, the Bible Belt. Seventy percent of the people… I lived amongst… believe that homosexuality should be… a criminal act. Seventy percent of the people who raised me, who loved me, who I trusted, believed that homosexuality was a sin, that homosexuals were heinous, sub-human pedophiles. Seventy percent. By the time I identified as being gay, it was too late. I was already homophobic, and you do not get to just flick a switch on that. No, what you do is you internalize that homophobia and you learn to hate yourself. Hate yourself to the core. I sat soaking in shame… in the closet, for ten years. Because the closet can only stop you from being seen. It is not shame-proof. When you soak a child in shame, they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thought… you know, carry thoughts of self-worth. They can’t do that. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in. But when you do that to a child, it becomes a weed so thick, and it grows so fast, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes… as natural as gravity. When I came out of the closet, I didn’t have any jokes. The only thing I knew how to do was to be invisible and hate myself. It took me ten years to understand I was allowed to take up space in the world. But, by then, I’d sealed it off into jokes like it was no big deal. I need to tell my story properly. Because I paid dearly for a lesson that nobody seems to have wanted to learn. And this is bigger… than homosexuality. This is about how we conduct debate in public about sensitive things. It’s toxic, it’s juvenile, it’s destructive. We think it’s more important to be right than it is to appeal to the humanity of people we disagree with. Ignorance will always walk amongst us because we will never know all of the things.
I need to tell my story properly because you learn from the part of the story… you focus on. Take Vincent. Old mate… Vincent van Gogh. The way we tell his story… it’s no good. It’s destructive. Because we’ve reduced it to a tale of rags to riches. He only sold one painting in his life. You know? Now look at him. “He’s quite dead.” Yeah, but very successful! Only sold one painting in his lifetime. And people believe, with that story, that van Gogh was this misunderstood genius. You know, he was born ahead of his time. What a load of shit. Nobody is born ahead of their time. It’s impossible! Nobody’s born ahead of their time! Maybe premmie babies, but they catch up! Artists don’t invent zeitgeists! They respond to it. He was not ahead of his time. He was a Post-Impressionist painter, painting at the peak of Post-Impressionism, while Peter was picking his pickled pepper. He wasn’t born ahead of his time. He couldn’t network. ‘Cause he was mental. He was… crazy. He had unstable energy. People would cross the street to avoid him. That’s why he didn’t sell any more than one painting in his lifetime. He couldn’t network. This whole idea, this romanticizing of mental illness, is ridiculous. It is not a ticket to genius. It’s a ticket to fucking nowhere.
And artists are not these incredible, you know, mythical creatures that exist outside of the world. No, artists have always been very much part of the world, and very… very firmly attached to power. Always. Power and money, art is always there. Right back to the Renaissance. Oh, the Turtles? All of them. All of them, they knew how to network. Leonardo? Raphael? Donatello? They’re right up there, painting their own business cards, schmoozing. Michelangelo was a bit difficult, he was a bit… crazy. But, you know, he still networked. He gave gobbies to the Pope. Kissed his ring. Literally. But… I think it’s a shame that art history is such an elitist sport. It taught me a lot, you know. Useless… as far as a money-earner’s concerned, but I learned a lot about the world because of art history. I understand this world very well. I understand the world I live in… because of art history. I understand the world I live in and my place in it. And I don’t have one. And do you know how much time that saved me? I’m quite old, but look at the skin! That’s ’cause I haven’t wasted time looking… for how I fit in. I don’t. A lot of naps. Art history taught me there’s only ever been two types of women. A virgin or a whore. Most people think that Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift invented that binary, but it’s been going on thousands of years. There’s only ever been two options for a little girl to grow up into. Virgin or whore. We were always given a choice. Take your pick. Ladies’ choice! That’s the trick. The patriarchy, it’s not a dictatorship. Take your choice!
And I don’t fit very neatly into either of those categories. Virgin or whore? I mean, on a technicality, I’d get virgin. I know. Do you know, if you go into a gallery with ye olde paintings there, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that women have existed for a very long time. Longer than clothes. But not this masculine, off-center, lesbian situation here. And I… Art history taught me, you know, I look at these history women and I don’t feel like I’m the same species. There’s a lot of things that I do, and it’s not an identity construction. No, I’ve… Just things happen naturally. And art history taught me that these things are not really the place of a woman, you know? One of the things I do, I can generate thoughts in my own brain… unprompted. I can do that, all the time! Had another one. They just come all the time, and… Art history taught me, you know, historically, women didn’t have time for the think-thoughts. They were too busy napping, naked, alone, in the forest. Even biologically… I don’t feel like I’m the same species. For a start, I’ve got a functioning skeletal system. If you go into the galleries, you see, if a woman’s not sporting a corset and/or a hymen… she just loses all structure. Just sort of like… Just flopping about all over the place, going, “Oh, what does, furniture?” Sidesaddle, tits akimbo. No wonder we can’t reverse park, ladies! Dumb history women couldn’t even reverse park their arse onto a chair! Another thing I do that’s not very ladylike is every day I seem to be able to finish the getting of the dressed. Every day! Not a problem. All the buttons, all the way up. I’m quite a vague and forgetful person, but… Seem to do it quite easily. Especially if I’m leaving the house to get my portrait painted. Never once have I thought, “You know what, today, I must just leave a cheeky one out.” High art. I’m going to call it, guys. Bullshit. High art, my arse.
The history of western art is just the history of men painting women like they’re flesh vases for their dick flowers. Having… said that, I think I’ve ruined any chance of getting a job in a gallery now. I mean, I could pay to be a volunteer guide. ‘Cause it doesn’t get any better with modern art, I tell you. I trip on the first hurdle. Pablo Picasso. I hate him, but you’re not allowed to. I hate him. But you can’t. Cubism. And if you ruin… cubism, then civilization as we know it will crumble. Cubism. Aren’t we grateful… in this room… that we live in a post-cubism world? Isn’t that the first thing we all write in our gratitude journals? “Oh, thank god.” I don’t like Picasso. I fucking hate him. I really– I just– He’s rotten in the face cavity. I hate Picasso! I hate him! And you can’t make me like– But you get it a lot: “Oh, cubism…” And I know I should be more generous about him too because he suffered a mental illness. But you see, nobody knows that. Because it doesn’t fit with his mythology. They go, “I think you’re thinking of Van Gogh.” No, I’m thinking about them all, actually… Because Picasso, he’s sold to us as this passionate, virile, tormented genius, man, ball sack, right? There’s no room in that story for… is there?
[audience member] No.
No. It’s rhetorical, but… There’s a… But he did suffer a mental illness. Picasso did. He suffered badly and it got worse as he got older. Picasso suffered… the mental illness of misogyny. Split the room. Didn’t I? And I bet you I know how that felt. Is misogyny a mental illness? Yeah. Yeah, it is! Especially if you’re a heterosexual man. Because if you hate what you desire, do you know what that is? Fucking tense! Sort your shit out. Yeah, he did suffer from a mental illness. Smarter men than I have proved he didn’t suffer a mental illness, but they’re– No, they’re wrong. They’d say he’s not a misogynist. They’re wrong. He was. If you don’t believe me, let me provide you a quote from Picky Asshole himself. He said, “Each time… I leave a woman, I should burn her. Destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents.” Cool guy. The greatest artist of the twentieth century. Let’s make art great again, guys. Picasso fucked an underage girl. And that’s it for me. Not interested. “But cubism… We need it.” Marie-Thérèse Walter. She was 17 when they met. Underage. Legally underage. Picasso was 42, married, at the height of his career. Does it matter? Yeah. Yeah, it actually does. It does matter. But as Picasso said, no, it was perfect. I was in my prime, she was in her prime. I probably read that when I was 17. Do you know how grim that was? Oh, I’m in my prime! Oh, there is no view at my peak.
But I wasn’t upset at the time, of course, because I was learning about cubism! Now, I should qualify this, though. Cubism is important. You know, it really is. It was a real game-changer. Picasso freed us from slavery, people. He really did. He freed us from the slavery of having to reproduce believable three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface. Three-point perspective, that illusion that gives us the idea of a single stable world view, a single perspective? Picasso said, “No! Run free! You can have all perspectives. That’s what we need. From above, from below, inside out, the sides. All the perspectives at once!” Thank you, Picasso. What a guy. What a hero. Thank you. But tell me, any of those perspectives a woman’s? No. Well, I’m not fucking interested. You just put a kaleidoscope filter on your cock. You’re still painting flesh vases for your dick flowers.
Separate the man from the art. That’s what I keep hearing. You’ve got to learn to separate the man from the art. The art is important, not the artist. You’ve got to learn to separate the man from the art. Yeah, all right. Okay. Let’s give it a go. How about you take Picasso’s name off his little paintings and see how much his doodles are worth at auction? Fucking nothing! Nobody owns a circular Lego nude, they own a Picasso! Sorry.
You won’t hear too many extended sets about art history in a comedy show, so… you’re welcome. And it’s bold, I know. Comedy is more used to throwaway jokes about priests being pedophiles and Trump grabbing the pussy. I don’t have time for that shit. I don’t. Do you know who used to be an easy punch line? Monica Lewinsky. Maybe, if comedians had done their job properly, and made fun of the man who abused his power, then perhaps we might have had a middle-aged woman with an appropriate amount of experience in the White House, instead of, as we do, a man who openly admitted to sexually assaulting vulnerable young women because he could.
Do you know what should be the target of our jokes at the moment? Our obsession with reputation. We’re obsessed. We think reputation is more important than anything else, including humanity. And do you know who takes the mantle of this myopic adulation of reputation? Celebrities. And comedians are not immune. They’re all cut from the same cloth. Donald Trump, Pablo Picasso, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski. These men are not exceptions, they are the rule. And they are not individuals, they are our stories. And the moral of our story is, “We don’t give a shit. We don’t give a fuck… about women or children. We only care about a man’s reputation.” What about his humanity? These men control our stories! And yet they have a diminishing connection to their own humanity, and we don’t seem to mind so long as they get to hold onto their precious reputation. Fuck reputation. Hindsight is a gift. Stop wasting my time! If you…
Look, I am angry. I apologize. I do, I apologize. I know… I know there’s a few people in the room going, “Now, look… I think… she’s lost control of the tension.” That’s correct. I went on it a bit there. So, I’m not very experienced in controlling anger. It’s not my place to be angry on a comedy stage. I’m meant to be doing… self-deprecating humor. People feel safer when men do the angry comedy. They’re the kings of the genre. When I do it, I’m a miserable lesbian, ruining all the fun and the banter. When men do it, heroes of free speech. I love… angry white man comedy. It’s so funny, it’s hilarious. They’re adorable. Why are they angry? What’s up, little fella? What are they angry about? Gosh, can’t work it out. They’re like the canaries in the mine, aren’t they? If they’re having a tough time… the rest of us are goners.
Do you remember that story about that young man who almost beat me up? It was a very funny story. It was very funny, I made a lot of people laugh about his ignorance, and the reason I could do that is because I’m very good at this job. I actually am pretty good at controlling the tension. And I know how to balance that to get the laugh at the right place. But in order to balance the tension in the room with that story, I couldn’t tell that story as it actually happened. Because I couldn’t tell the part of the story where that man realized his mistake. And he came back. And he said, “Oh, no, I get it. You’re a lady faggot. I’m allowed to beat the shit out of you,” and he did! He beat the shit out of me and nobody stopped him. And I didn’t… report that to the police, and I did not take myself to hospital, and I should have. And you know why I didn’t? It’s because I thought that was all I was worth. And that is what happens when you soak one child in shame and give permission to another to hate. And that was not homophobia, pure and simple, people. That was gendered. If I’d been feminine, that would not have happened. I am incorrectly female. I am incorrect, and that is a punishable offense. And this tension, it’s yours. I am not helping you anymore. You need to learn what this feels like because this… this tension is what not-normals carry inside of them all of the time because it is dangerous to be different! To the men… to the men in the room, I speak to you now, particularly the white men, especially the straight white men. Pull your fucking socks up! How humiliating! Fashion advice from a lesbian. That is your last joke.
All my life, I’ve been told that I’m a man-hater. I don’t hate men, I honestly do not. I don’t hate men. But… there’s a problem. See, I don’t even believe that women are better than men. I believe women are just as corruptible by power as men, because you know what, fellas, you don’t have a monopoly on the human condition, you arrogant fucks. But the story is as you have told it. Power belongs to you. And if you can’t handle criticism, take a joke, or deal with your own tension without violence, you have to wonder if you are up to the task of being in charge. I’m not a man-hater. But I’m afraid of men. If I’m the only woman in a room full of men, I am afraid. And if you think that’s unusual, you’re not speaking to the women in your life. I don’t hate men, but I wonder how a man would feel if they’d lived my life. Because it was a man who sexually abused me when I was a child. It was a man who beat the shit out of me when I was 17, my prime. It was two men who raped me when I was barely in my twenties. Tell me why is that okay. Why was it okay to pick me off the pack like that and do that to me? It would have been more humane to just take me out to the back paddock and put a bullet in my head if it is that much of a crime to be different!
I don’t tell you this… so you think of me as a victim. I am not a victim. I tell you this because my story has value. My story has value. I tell you this ’cause I want you to know, I need you to know, what I know. To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength. You destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents. I will not allow my story… to be destroyed. What I would have done to have heard a story like mine. Not for blame. Not for reputation, not for money, not for power. But to feel less alone. To feel connected. I want my story… heard. Because, ironically, I believe Picasso was right. I believe we could paint a better world if we learned how to see it from all perspectives, as many perspectives as we possibly could. Because diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference, you learn nothing. Picasso’s mistake was his arrogance. He assumed he could represent all of the perspectives. And our mistake was to invalidate the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, because we believed her potential… was never going to equal his. Hindsight is a gift. Can you stop wasting my time? A 17-year-old girl is just never, ever, ever in her prime! Ever! I am in my prime! Would you test your strength out on me?
There is no way anyone would dare… test their strength out on me, because you all know… there is nothing stronger then a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.
To the men in the room… who feel I may have been persecuting you this evening… well spotted. That’s pretty much what I’ve done there. But this is theater, fellas. I’ve given you an hour, a taste. I have lived a life. The damage done to me is real and debilitating. I will never flourish. But this is why… I must quit comedy. Because the only way… I can tell my truth and put tension in the room is with anger. And I am angry, and I believe I’ve got every right to be angry! But what I don’t have a right to do is to spread anger. I don’t. Because anger, much like laughter, can connect a room full of strangers like nothing else. But anger, even if it’s connected to laughter, will not… relieve tension. Because anger is a tension. It is a toxic, infectious… tension. And it knows no other purpose than to spread blind hatred, and I want no part of it. Because I take my freedom of speech as a responsibility, and just because I can position myself as a victim, does not make my anger constructive. It never is constructive. Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine. I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger. I just needed my story heard, my story felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because, like it or not, your story… is my story. And my story… is your story. I just don’t have the strength to take care of my story anymore. I don’t want my story defined by anger. All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story. Do you know why we have the sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world. And that… is the focus of the story we need. Connection.
[“A Better Son/Daughter” by Rilo Kiley plays]
♪ Then you hang up the phone ♪
♪ And feel badly for upsetting things ♪
♪ Crawl back into bed ♪
♪ To dream of a time ♪
♪ When your heart was open wide ♪
♪ And you loved things just because ♪
♪ Like the sick and the dying ♪
♪ And sometimes when you’re on ♪
♪ You’re really fucking on ♪
♪ And your friends, they sing along ♪
♪ And they love you ♪
♪ But the lows are so extreme ♪
♪ The good seems fucking cheap ♪
♪ And it teases you for weeks ♪
♪ In its absence ♪
♪ But you’ll fight ♪
♪ And you’ll make it through ♪
♪ You’ll fake it if you have to ♪
♪ And you’ll show up for work ♪
♪ With a smile ♪
♪ And you’ll be better And you’ll be smarter ♪
♪ And more grown-up And a better daughter ♪
♪ Or son, and a real good friend… ♪