Why Hannah Gadsby Is Taking a Breather Amid Success: "I Don't Recognize My Life Anymore"

Ben King/Netflix
Hannah Gadsby

Instead of riding the wave like so many others before her, the red-hot comic is ready to let it all cool down after finishing her final performance of Nanette, signing with UTA, penning a new memoir slated for 2019 and possible acting opportunities.

It took Nanette, a droll but wrenching routine with a "take this job and shove it" message to the stand-up community, for Australia's Hannah Gadsby to finally crack the U.S. But if her acclaimed Netflix comedy special, which dropped June 20, has indeed given her heat, instead of riding the wave like so many others before her, Gadsby is content to let it all cool down. "I don't recognize my life anymore," says the 40-year-old writer, who grew up in rural Tasmania. "I'll probably be an icicle in Hollywood by the time I'm done casing the joint."

A break seems like a healthy move for Gadsby.

Nanette shed an ugly light on the underlying pain of self-deprecating humor, and its 18-month tour saw Gadsby lay out her experiences with homophobia and sexual assault to strangers night after night. Early shows were marked by jeers from combative audience members (i.e., men) who were put off by her vulnerability. (Her final performance of Nanette, where you can bet there were no hecklers, took place at Montreal's Just for Laughs on July 27.)

But for all her talk of quitting comedy, Gadsby is doing the opposite. She signed with her first U.S. agency, UTA, in August. That same month, Ballantine bought her first book, memoir Ten Steps to Nanette, and has slated it for a 2019 release. Gadsby also has set up shop in L.A., but on a "probation" basis: "I won't be giving this city my whole heart until I feel safe or am dead inside, whichever comes first."

Gadsby's celebrated turn as an Emmys presenter in September prompted hosting offers, though she demurs when asked which ones. And acting is not out of the question if she can work on her accent. "There have been a few lesbian roles thrown my way," she says, "but unless they want to write these parts for a slow-moving Australian, I need some training."

Adds Gadsby, summing up her year: “I’ve gone and done something that is a lot bigger than I am. It would be naive and arrogant to think that I knew the impact it was having. I need to understand it all before I move on to what’s next, or I’ll go crazy.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.