Ten Steps to Nanette

A Memoir Situation


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March 29, 2022 | ISBN 9780593210147

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About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Multi-award-winning Hannah Gadsby broke comedy with their show Nanette. Now they take us through the defining moments in their life and their powerful decision to tell the truth—no matter the cost.

Don’t miss Hannah Gadsby’s Something Special, now streaming on Netflix!

“Hannah is a Promethean force, a revolutionary talent. This hilarious, touching, and sometimes tragic book is all about where their fires were lit.”—Emma Thompson


“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself,” Hannah Gadsby declared in their show Nanette, a scorching critique of the way society conducts public debates about marginalized communities. When it premiered on Netflix, it left audiences captivated by their blistering honesty and their singular ability to take viewers from rolling laughter to devastated silence. Ten Steps to Nanette continues Gadsby’s tradition of confounding expectations and norms, properly introducing us to one of the most explosive, formative voices of our time.

Gadsby grew up as the youngest of five children in an isolated town in Tasmania, where homosexuality was illegal until 1997. They perceived their childhood as safe and “normal,” but as they gained an awareness of their burgeoning queerness, the outside world began to undermine the “vulnerably thin veneer” of their existence. After moving to mainland Australia and receiving a degree in art history, Gadsby found themselves adrift, working itinerant jobs and enduring years of isolation punctuated by homophobic and sexual violence. At age twenty-seven, without a home or the ability to imagine their own future, they were urged by a friend to enter a stand-up competition. They won, and so began their career in comedy.             

Gadsby became well known for their self-deprecating, autobiographical humor that made them the butt of their own jokes. But in 2015, as Australia debated the legality of same-sex marriage, Gadsby started to question this mode of storytelling, beginning work on a show that would become “the most-talked-about, written-about, shared-about comedy act in years” (The New York Times).           

Harrowing and hilarious, Ten Steps to Nanette traces Gadsby’s growth as a queer person, to their ever-evolving relationship with comedy, and their struggle with late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, finally arriving at the backbone of Nanette: the renouncement of self-deprecation, the rejection of misogyny, and the moral significance of truth-telling.
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Praise for Ten Steps to Nanette

“For fans of Gadsby, [their] delivery on the page will delight just as it does on screen. [They] remain honest, with stories that draw laughter over situations that are always based in truth—harsh or otherwise.”Time

“Enthralling.”—The Washington Post

“A joyful read . . . Gadsby’s voice is intimate and close, and spending time with it is a lot like listening to a good friend relay a fascinating life story over a couple of pints at the bar.”Oprah Daily

“Similar to [their] groundbreaking comedy specials Douglas and Nanette, Gadsby’s memoir reads like a conversation with a longtime friend. . . . A can’t-miss memoir that will make readers laugh, cry, and everything in between.”Library Journal (starred review)

“In this stunning debut, Emmy Award–winning comedian Gadsby guides readers on a tour of [their] life that’s every bit as intimate, gutting, and untidy as the performance referenced in the title. . . .This stirring tale of resilience laughs in the face of the ‘inspiration porn’ industry.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Consistently self-effacing and contemplative, Gadsby acknowledges that [their] unique brand of deadpan observational comedy isn’t for everyone, especially since it often skewers ‘the two most overly sensitive demographics the world has ever known: straight white cis men and self-righteous comedians’. . . A witty and provocatively written life story.”—Kirkus Reviews
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Ten Steps to Nanette



I had to know if the lawn was real. It looked too perfect to be made of organic matter, the vast green square around the picture-perfect pool had a uniformity that bordered on unsettling, every single blade of grass was as tall and as straight as its neighbour. Surely, I thought, it had to be plastic. But then again, that didn’t make any sense. Fake grass is for people who are house-proud but water and/or time-poor. Fake grass is not for the stupidly rich who have a household staff with a gardening division. I broke free of the mingling and quietly made my way to the edge of the path, dropped my serviette and, as I bent down to pick it up, I brushed my hand over the mysterious lawn. F*** me. It was real. I made my way back to the party, with a new mystery to solve: Why would you manicure real grass to make it look fake?

I knew I was behaving abnormally. And by “abnormal,” I don’t mean my failure to blend in with all the celebrities and Hollywood power players who had gathered in Eva Longoria’s unnervingly perfected garden. Personally, I think that it’s normal to be abnormal in the midst of that strange a milieu. I didn’t feel at all bad that I’d rocked up in jeans and a T-shirt while everyone else was wrapped in fancy, because I don’t think it’s abnormal for a Hollywood outsider to not know that a dress code is an actual code that has to be cracked. The invitation had said dress for brunch, and because brunch is not a real meal, I took that to mean I didn’t have to make a real effort. So, I felt perfectly normal about my inability to match the ethereal magnificence of Janelle Monáe. What is not normal, however, is abruptly walking away from a conversation with Janelle Monáe to satisfy a sudden urge to pat some strange-looking lawn.

It was not the first time I’d been distracted by underfoot landscaping decisions in the presence of celebrity. At the Netflix Emmys party a few months earlier, I couldn’t think about anything other than the white carpet. What kind of monster would choose white carpet for an outdoor event? The outdoors, no matter how fancy, is just not the natural habitat of carpet—white or otherwise. The issue plagued me so doggedly that I failed to notice I was in the middle of what could have easily been a genuine fever dream.

When John Stamos introduced himself to me and gushed glowingly about my work, I could only watch his mouth move and hope he didn’t notice that my mind was elsewhere. The only thing I really wanted to talk about was under our feet: What do you reckon will happen to this carpet tomorrow? Will it have a life beyond this event, Sir Stamos? It was only much later—months in fact—that I was able to process the fact that I had been approached by Uncle Jesse because he knew who I was and wanted to let me know that he liked my work. There is nothing reasonable or logical about that set of facts.

When Jodie Foster asked to have her photo taken with me, I failed to be as flattered as I should have been because I was too worried about all the damage the carpet was doing to the turf underneath it. And when I was introduced to three of the Queer Eye boys, I was not curious about the absence of the other two, the only thing on my mind was how it was possible that the white carpet could still be so white hours into a crowded schmooze-and-booze fest.

I couldn’t accept that it was one single piece of carpet, the area was huge and it didn’t have a straight-edged perimeter like an indoor room would, but I was having trouble finding any joins. Even I knew, however, that it would be inappropriate to get down on my knees and start sweeping around with my hands to feel it out, so I decided to make my way to the edge and see if I could find some answers there. That was when I bumped into Norman Lear. He turned around and apologised to me. What a nice man, I thought, and smiled back as he introduced himself, which was just as well, because I had no idea who he was. I made a note to google him later and then politely left to resume my quest, failing to seize my opportunity to pick the brains of the king of television sitcoms himself.

My obsession with the carpet situation was finally broken when I got a tap on the shoulder by a very small woman.

“Are you Hannah Gadsby?”

I nodded, praying that she would introduce herself, because I had no idea who she was, but she simply nodded back and then announced, “Jennifer Aniston would like to meet you.” I expected that the introduction would take place where I stood, but the small woman instead told me to follow her before turning abruptly and disappearing into the crowd. How curious, I thought; this was not an invitation, it was a summons. Intrigued, I trotted after her, forgetting all about the white carpet.

Jennifer Aniston greeted me with great enthusiasm and incredible warmth, which is not at all what I expected from somebody who curates their own mingling experience without moving an inch. If that were me, I would surely be messing with people.

After Jennifer Aniston told me how excited she was to meet me, I told her that I was also very excited to meet her. I was being polite, of course, I was not excited, I was terrified. I am autistic, I don’t know how to navigate small talk with my best friend, so the prospect of conversing with one of the most enduringly beloved famous people there is, was not at all relaxing. What level of admiration does she expect from riffraff? Would she require that I confirm her identity and status through the metaphor of flattery? Should I inform her that I had not seen Friends? I needn’t have worried, because apparently Jennifer Aniston just wanted to let me know that she had not seen my show. Touché.

It had the rhythm of a compliment, but really, it was just a fact. As a fact, it might have been an insult but somehow, Jennifer Aniston managed to make it sound like enthusiastic approval. It was shocking nonetheless, and I forgot myself, and replied more bluntly than appropriate: “Why are you telling me this?” My question gave her pause, and as she did, I began to regret my whole existence. “I don’t know,” she laughed. I laughed too. It seemed like the polite thing to do. She continued, “It’s just that I was on location and everyone kept telling me that I had to see Nanette, and I didn’t have the chance and when I heard you were here, I just wanted . . .” She trailed off, almost embarrassed, but I was just relieved that I wasn’t the only one who had no idea what the endgame was. She grabbed my hands as if to reassure us both. “I will watch it! And I know I will love it,” she promised, offering me a clear path out of the awkwardness, which I did not take. “But what if you don’t? What if you hate it?” She patted my hands and replied, “I won’t tell you!” Classic L.A.

This was my first-ever Emmys party and I have to say, I think I did a pretty good job at not making a buffoon of myself. Unlike with my brunch couture disaster, I came close to cracking the dress code, I’d had a shower, but I still managed to bring a raggedy incongruence to my presence. I put it down to the fact that my gown had not been made for the occasion and I was wearing my own shoes. I was not wearing a gown, of course, I was wearing my only suit. But you know what I mean. My only regret is that I did not stay long enough to use the bathroom. I wanted to know what kind of strange flooring decisions had been made for the occasion of fancy people abluting.

The show that Jennifer Aniston had not yet seen was my stand-up comedy special, Nanette. When it had dropped on Netflix on June 19, 2018, it made such a big splash that within a few months I’d become the talk of the town, and by that I mean THE TOWN. I’d only ever been to L.A. on layovers before, and so it was a bit rude that on my first time in the city proper I had to pass my own giant face plastered on billboards and bus stops as I was being dragged all over town, rubbing shoulders and having the kind of meetings that my peers would kill for.

The few months that followed the release of Nanette were amongst the strangest and most unsettling of my life. I went from relative obscurity to intense visibility in such a short period of time that I sustained spiritual whiplash. Ironically, all the chaos that followed my “overnight success” is actually a lot funnier than the show itself. Like way, way funnier. But that is hardly surprising, given that on paper, Nanette is arguably the most deliberately miserable, unfunny hour of comedy ever made.

For the record, as of yet, Jennifer Aniston has not found me to tell me that she loved Nanette. I suppose I could take that to mean she hated it—she wouldn’t be alone. But I think it is more likely that she is quite busy and may not even remember having a conversation with me. But I do hold out hope that one day I will get a tap on my shoulder and a small woman will tell me that Jennifer Aniston wanted me to know that she didn’t think Nanette lived up to all the hype. That would be Amazing.

About the Author

Hannah Gadsby
Hannah Gadsby stopped stand-up comedy in its tracks with their multi-award-winning show Nanette, which played to sold-out houses in Australia, the UK, and New York. Its launch on Netflix, and subsequent Emmy and Peabody wins, took Nanette (and Hannah) to the world. Hannah’s difficult second album (which was also their eleventh solo show) was named Douglas, after their dog. Hannah walked Douglas around the world, selling out and scoring another Emmy nomination. Before all of this, Hannah appeared as a character called Hannah in Please Like Me (Hulu) and toured their native Australia and the UK as a stand-up comedian. They made art documentaries and did plenty of other things over the course of more than a decade in comedy, but that will do for now. More by Hannah Gadsby
Decorative Carat