Hannah Gadsby’s Mom Is a Comic’s Worst Nightmare

Hannah Gadsby's Nanette is probably the most discussed and acclaimed stand-up special in years. It's a self-deprecating look at gender, sex, and comedy itself, and it's won Gadsby international praise and, as she tells Jimmy Fallon, a surprisingly nice hug from Emma Thompson.

Though she had been performing the show for a while, filming Nanette for Netflix was a stressful feat for Gadsby, and not just for all the general reasons you might think. She was nervous because her mother would be in the audience—her mother who notoriously dislikes stand-up comedy. As she describes it, growing up in Tasmania didn't really afford them the chance to see many comedians, and the ones they caught on TV embodied her mom's two least favorite things: men yelling and men thinking they're funny. So Gadsby expected her (otherwise very supportive) mother to heckle her.

But she didn't expect her mom to heckle all the opening acts, too.

It started when a relatively short comic came on stage, and Gadsby's mother yelled, "He'd be taller if he sat down!" But she really showed her flair for derailing a performance when another comic started a routine about Starbucks. "What's Starbucks?" she asked, catching the comic off guard. He responded pretty quickly, saying, "It's McDonald's for coffee." But as Gadsby tells it, that was only the beginning.

But that's how perfect my mum's timing is: She waited until he got his rhythm back before she continued her conversation. And so he got his rhythm back and she said, "Oh, I thought you were talking about a movie." And so he lost his rhythm again. And then she thought, I'll let him get his rhythm back. And he did, and just as he got his rhythm back, Mum's going, "Oh, no, I was thinking about Star Wars."

It sounds like maybe Seinfeld reruns haven't made it as far as Tasmania yet. On the bright side, if Gadsby can weather her own mom's heckling, she's well-equipped to perform anywhere.