For many, a stand-up show themed around the worst moments of a performer’s life sounds like the least comedic thing imaginable, but Hannah Gadsby’s show is nothing if it is not a preconception-buster and this one-woman performance is a wonderful piece of stand-up comedy.
Gadsby’s comedy career-path has been a long and winding one and the subjects she focuses on draw upon her experiences working as an itinerant farm worker in rural Australia as well as formative moments in her youth. Stylistically, she’s close to fellow Aussie Felicity Ward - her performance borders on a confessional and blends a quasi-motivational story with quick, witty humour.
Her precise sense of timing and a honed knack for self-deprecation serve Gadsby well, and she comes across as a genuine individual as well as a skilled and funny comedian. Gadsby uses both sharp, incisive observation and an excellent rapport with the audience to her advantage, all whilst confronting hard-hitting issues like bullying and childhood obesity.
Such a show would fail with a lesser comedian and to her credit Gadsby knows exactly when to pull back from the brink of serious material and refocus upon comedy. Her skill when it comes to alleviating tension in the show is brilliant, and ultimately allows the performance to be powerful and funny at the same time.
Happiness is a Bedside Table is a clever, smart piece of stand-up, featuring excellently pitched storytelling mixed with sharp laughs. The Tasmanian has a fast wit and lets it loose chiefly upon herself – blending an inspiring narrative alongside her signature barbed gags – ultimately producing a show that is cathartic as well as comedic.