by Rosie van Heerde.

Mention ‘art’ to Hannah Gadsby and you are sure to elicit a reaction. Now a seasoned stand-up comic and TV personality (Adam Hills Tonight, Please Like Me, Spicks And Specks) she also has a degree in Art History and Curatorship from the Australian National University. Her documentary series, Hannah Gadsby’s Oz, sought to combine Hannah’s comedic talent with her longstanding love of art; a unique combination that has proven to be comedy gold. There is little to hold Hannah back as she brings her latest show, Art Lite to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2015.

The Clothesline chats on the phone with Hannah during a break in the filming of critically acclaimed comedy-drama, Please Like Me with fellow comedian Josh Thomas. We ask how things are going.

“Yeah good – you know, acting’s not my strong point. I’d never really done it before and it’s surreal saying the same thing 20 times. And they’re like, ‘Yep, that’ll do’ and I’m like ‘OK, not sure what I did (differently)’. I don’t have many variables, you know?” Hannah says as a reference to her trademark deadpan delivery style. “But it’s really good fun and the crew is fun as well.”

You’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and have said it works well for you onstage. How do you keep focused? 

“I’m still getting used to it. I thought everyone was vague but looks like I’m a special kind,” she laughs. “I’m still getting used to the new idea of myself so life’s a bit of an adventure at the moment. Mostly it’s good. I’m writing at the moment so I work on my own stuff [between takes] or just be stupid. I’ve got a colouring-in book so there are all sorts of things I can do.”

Your first Adelaide Fringe show was in 2007 with Hannah Gadsby Is Wrong And Broken. What have you learned about your craft since then and are there things you do differently now? Hannah Gadsby Frame  - Art Lite - Adelaide Cabaret Festival - The Clothesline

“Oh wow! Hardly anyone saw that show,” Hannah replies with amusement. “Confidence is a really amazing thing to have on stage and I have that now. I had talent but nothing to really ground that in any sort of shape so this learned confidence, I think, has improved the quality of my work. I guess when you first start you’re mining your past a lot. Nowadays I’m thinking about things as its happening in my life which is new and it’s great. You tackle it differently when you’ve been doing it a while.

“Now when I go onstage the crowd is familiar with me which is a really lovely place to be. Their expectations are not a challenge because it’s more like ‘we know and trust you’ so it’s a lot easier, although, I always loved that part of being a new stand-up and surprising people a lot.”

The conversation steers toward Hannah’s passion for Art. She has done some very unique work in combining Art and comedy. Radio shows, television documentaries, and sell-out lectures at National Gallery of Victoria during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival have informed and entertained audiences across the country. Audiences love the irreverence Hannah brings to art, yet she manages to keep the joy of the works at the forefront. We ask what the reaction has been by stuffy old art critics.

“Art is just not as complicated as people want it to be. It’s interesting now with social media in that its exclusiveness just doesn’t have a place anymore. Hopefully it will be less stuffy and people feel less scared now, because art’s great. The reaction [from art people]has been just great, because you know, I know my stuff. And I just make people laugh. And it’s much easier to make people laugh when they expect you to be serious.”

You must love your idea of combining your passion and training in art with your comedy.

“Yeah it is a nice little niche, I’ll be honest,” she says. “I try to stand apart and comedy is definitely a saturated market and so doing this has definitely been a nice way to make your point of difference. It’s kept me interested as well, you know? It’s really been an enjoyable thing. They are a lot of work though which is a disappointing factor. I like to link things in and have it thoroughly make sense you know so that requires work.”

This brings us to your next visit to Adelaide – for the Cabaret Festival. Have you done cabaret before?

“No I have not. Can’t sing, can’t dance… but I love cabaret stuff. I’ll be doing an art lecture and then hosting the backstage club so that sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?”

We ask Hannah to describe her Art Lite ‘lecture’ for us. It is at this point in the interview where this famously deadpan voice really becomes animated.

“This is a ‘Best Of’, ‘Greatest Hits Of’ my jokes about art,” she replies with enthusiasm. “I’m going from ancient to contemporary, through Picasso, through Rembrandt. I’ll be looking at nudes, I’ll be looking at portraits, I’ll be looking at idiots… I’ll be looking at everything!”

How will you approach hosting the Backstage Club in the second week of Cabaret Festival?

“My solo shows tend to be very well crafted but when I do a hosting spot I become less structured. I just have all my jokes up my sleeve and if the right moment comes along I’ll throw em out!”

Hannah Gadsby presents Art Lite at Artspace Gallery, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 6.45pm on Sat 13 Jun and Sun 14 Jun.

Book at BASS on 131 246 and Click HERE to purchase your tickets.

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Hannah Gadsby hosts the Backstage Club at Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times from Fri 11 Jun until Sun 13 Jun.

Book at BASS on 131 246 and Click HERE to purchase your tickets.

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