Gadsby, by contrast, has bigger fish to fry, which might explain why “Nanette” — taped at the Sydney Opera House — has struck a nerve with many.
Like Seinfeld, Gadsby talks a good deal about the nature of stand-up comedy. But where he revels in the form, she suggests that she might have to quit comedy altogether, concluding that in a comedy show, “There’s no room for the best part of the story.”
Speaking soberly about the pain she experienced growing up as a lesbian, Gadsby rejects self-deprecating humor, discusses painful moments of victimization and flatly tells her audience that she isn’t there to make them feel comfortable or defuse the tension inherent in her act.
Although that bubbles over into what sounds like rage, she stresses that anger is never constructive, citing the need to share her story because of the difference it would have made to hear others do so when she was younger.
Speaking of the predatory men who historically “control our stories,” Gadsby delivers a plea to combat that by creating forums for new voices.
“Laughter is not our medicine,” she says. “Stories hold our cure.”
For his part, Seinfeld — among the biggest establishment figures the comedy landscape can claim — tends to embrace anything that’s funny, even if the person responsible for it comes with baggage. That would explain his waffling about Cosby and recent comments about Roseanne Barr, suggesting that ABC likely overreacted by canceling her sitcom, before turning that into a joke by telling Entertainment Tonight, “Why would you murder someone who’s committing suicide?”
Watched together, Seinfeld’s series and Gadsby’s special provide windows into a conversation about what comedy is, and a debate about what it should be. While that wasn’t necessarily the effect that Netflix was seeking, it’s a serendipitous case of generating a thoughtful bang for its bucks.
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” returns July 6 on Netflix, and “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette” is currently playing.