Hannah Gadsby Unveils 'Nanette' Follow-Up Show and U.S. Tour (Exclusive)

Hannah Gadsby Nanette - Still 1 -Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Netflix

Hannah Gadsby is going back on tour.

The stand-up comedian has announced her first-ever U.S. tour — for Douglas, her highly anticipated follow-up to Netflix critical sensation Nanette.

Douglas, named after her beloved dog, will be Gadsby's 11th stand-up comedy show and will feature new material that is inspired by the breakout success and lessons the comedian learned after her award-winning Nanette. (The latter was allegedly named after a random barista).

Gadsby will premiere Douglas in Melbourne (March 27-April 7) before embarking on the U.S. tour, which will kick off April 30 in San Francisco. Gadsby, who considered Nanette to be the tour in which she quit stand-up comedy, will then head to San Diego, Portland, Denver, Texas, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Nashville and wrap the tour July 12 in Los Angeles. Additional tour dates will be announced later, including stops in New York and, eventually, shows in Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The tour arrives after Gadsby opted to take a breather after Nanette became a pop culture phenomenon shortly after its June 20 debut on Netflix. The past year saw Gadsby, a writer and veteran stand-up comedian who grew up in rural Tasmania, sign with UTA and score a book deal for her memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette (due this year).

Below, Gadsby talks with The Hollywood Reporter about returning to the stage for the first time post-Nanette. (A full tour schedule follows the interview, below.)

In Nanette, you explained why you were quitting comedy — and are now returning to the stage. Why was touring with new material what you wanted to do as your follow-up to Nanette?

I feel like I had every opportunity thrown at me at once [after Nanette]. Everyone wanted a piece of this pie, so to speak. And I thought after some time that perhaps my best next move would be to do something that is what I'm really good at (laughing). So, tour instead of trying to learn a whole new skill set [like acting] and translate my creativity into a whole new genre or art form. My whole life and world has changed, so there's no real reason to change absolutely everything. There's a certain amount of comfort in going back on stage in an environment that I'm somewhat familiar with — although it's my first U.S. tour. It's still new. After what I did with Nanette, I'm not going backwards; I'm going to keep pushing forwards — and probably upsetting some comedy purists again. We can't please everyone!  

What inspired the new show, which is named for your dog, Douglas?

For my entire stand-up career, I've written at least one show every year and I generally tend to put out what I'm thinking about. It's always formed by what's at the forefront of what I've been stewing on preceding the writing. With Nanette, it was clear what I was stewing on. This year, of course, I've got a whole new sort of life that I've had to wrangle with. I'm deeply unsettled by the amount of positive attention that I'm getting; the negative attention, I'm well learned in handling that! It doesn't really upset me that I [received] a bit of hostility — because I know how to handle that. (Laughs.) I thought it was interesting for me and I've been thinking a lot about how does one who is well practiced in the art of negative attention deal with a sudden influx of positive attention? The show is around my inability to wrangle positive attention. I'll talk about that and expect applause at the end, which is a contradiction. But that's life! (Laughing.)

How will the material in Douglas build on the success and lessons you've learned following Nanette? How much of this is poking fun at Hollywood and the offers that have been pouring in since you crossed over to U.S. audiences?

It's not about Hollywood, per se. There is a little bit of insight into the clash of cultures. In Australia, it's an understating sort of a culture. That's my chief form of communication — understatement — and I think the way I described Nanette was, "It did alright." (Laughing.) My time in the U.S. has been a cultural experience for me because everyone is so positive! There's that aspect of it [but] it's more to do with my new life as opposed to Hollywood. People in Hollywood talk about themselves, they don't need me to talk about them.

You've been outspoken about a number of subjects of late — including blasting "good men" at THR's Women in Entertainment breakfast. Will you also be tackling topical subjects in Douglas?

Yes, that's generally the way I've always tackled my work: I start serious and before Nanette, I'd always finish funny. But with Nanette, I flipped that. With this show, the humor will be back in. I think that's an interesting thing, as far as a lot of people in the U.S. are concerned, Nanette was the only way that people know me and so that's the only prism that they view my work. So as far as whether they like or dislike me, it's pretty much [a view that], "I'm a comedian that's not funny." (Laughing.) I'm looking forward to this thinking, "Can do!" I don't have any intention of workshopping any of my traumas on stage again. That took a toll. And also, I kinda did that. Of course, I can't help but think about serious stuff. I tend not to try and dwell too much on specifics at this point of the creative process. There's about four hours of show that I'm whittling down. But I'm interested in the dynamics of power and privilege.

Are you already getting interest from streamers — like Netflix — and TV networks to film one of the performances?

I've gotten to the stage where my people talk to other people [Gadsby signed with UTA in August] and my people know not to talk to me about it because I just go, "What's this now?" I'm very happy to outsource that. So, I'm not sure where it's all sitting at the moment.

But is that something you'd be interested in?

One of the most rewarding things about the Netflix special was the places in the world that it went to that I could never go and perform. There's been such a huge response in India and all these sorts of places. I'm a big proponent of live performance — I think there's a lot to be said about experiencing live performance — but there's something to be said about the mass dissemination that is available through some of these things. So I wouldn't say no, but we'll see how it goes.

I'd imagine demand for your follow-up to Nanette will be huge, considering the market — Netflix paid Chris Rock $20 million each for a pair of stand-up specials and Amazon just entered the space.  

I'd be surprised if no one was interested! (Laughing.)

The plan is for you to add other dates to the tour schedule, below. How long are you going to be out on the road?

We scheduled it with an Australian sensibility. So it's like, let's not get too excited and put too many dates out. At this rate, I don't think I've got an eye on it yet. I've got to be careful because I really exhausted myself with Nanette and touring is a grueling thing. I'll see how the market responds. I don't want to force myself on people — that's an odd thing to do after everything I said in Nanette. If there's a demand, then I'll certainly look at adding more [dates]. There's nothing worse than performing in front of half-filled theater! (Laughing.) We'll see how it goes. I think it's important to respect your audience.

You sold out 11 shows at the Hayworth theater in L.A. in minutes.

(Laughing.) I know, right?!

Is the residency you're performing there, called "Work in Progress," material you're testing and hope to whittle down for Douglas?  

Yes, that's pretty much how I work best: work up a show through performing it. For stand-up, your best editor is your audience. People will let you know what's interesting, what is funny — these sorts of things — and also the rhythm of jokes really don't work on the page. What works on the page may not work in a crowd and vice versa. I really love the work-in-progress stage. It's somewhat dangerous and fun and everything is optional. I haven't written a new show for two years; I'm really looking forward to it — and I haven't looked forward to anything for a while —breakfast the other day — so I'm genuinely excited. (Laughing.)

Will you be adding any dates to that residency?

No because I'm off shortly afterward back home. I think there's a chance but I don't know. I really need to go be by myself once this tour goes out and find out where I'm going. I'll work it up here in L.A. and then come back and do a proper performance [the closing-night show]. When I worked up Nanette, the show that was filmed you wouldn't recognize it from the first month I was performing. That is the exciting thing of a live performance: the organic and festival nature of the performance. It takes me a long time to pare down a show.

You've been living in L.A. on a "probation" basis. What do you think of the town? 

I did plant some sweet peas, which just sprouted, so that will give me another eight months here. (Laughs.)

And half of those will be on the road!

Yes! But I'll be popping back in to check on the plants! (Laughing.)

In the past year, you've been offered film and TV acting roles and hosting gigs. Have you considered what's next after Douglas?

I'm writing a book and in the editing stage of that. That will be part of what my next step is. I'm thinking very hard about what's next but I haven't landed on anything. I think there might be a departure from stand-up, but what that is I don't know.

Anything else you'd like to say about the tour?

I'd be interested if anyone has any ideas about how to tour with full tea set. I'm really struggling with the idea that particularly in the U.S., hotels don't have kettles! (Laughing.) This is my most serious consideration of the tour: should I take tea bags — or is that over the top to tour with? (Laughing.)

Gadsby's current Douglas tour schedule is below. Tickets for all U.S. dates (save Washington, D.C., which goes on sale Feb. 13) go on sale Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. in each local market at HannahGadsby.com.au.

March 27 – April 7– Melbourne, Australia – Arts Centre Melbourne 
April 30 – San Francisco, CA – Palace of Fine Arts 
May 10 – San Diego, CA – Balboa Theatre 
May 15 – Portland, OR – Newmark Theatre 
May 22 – Denver, CO – Paramount Theatre 
May 30 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theatre 
June 2 – Houston, TX – Jones Hall for the Performing Arts 
June 8 – Seattle, WA – Moore Theatre 
June 13 – Minneapolis, MN – Pantages Theatre 
June 16 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theater 
June 23 – Philadelphia, PA – Merriam Theater 
June 25 – Washington, DC – Kennedy Center 
June 29 – Nashville, TN – James K Polk Theater 
July 12 – Los Angeles, CA – Theatre at The Ace Hotel