Hannah Gadsby addresses her fight with her ‘Netflix daddy’ in Gender Agenda

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Hannah Gadsby had a very public falling out with the co-chief executive of Netflix.
Hannah Gadsby had a very public falling out with the co-chief executive of Netflix. Credit: Matt Crossick/Netflix

After their public scuffle with Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby is back on the streaming platform with a new special, Gender Agenda.

It’s a rousing showcase in which Gadsby shares the stage with seven lesser-known, genderqueer comedians who riff about their lived experiences with humour, bite and authenticity. In using their status to give time and space to other people, Gadsby is showing that the industry can be inclusive and not exclusionary and give voice to those that others seek to silence or ridicule.

But if you’re surprised to see Gadsby back on Netflix after their war of words with, as they said, “the hand that feeds” them, they’re addressing the fallout over the Dave Chappelle controversy head-on.

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A refresher, if you will. In October 2021, Netflix released a Chappelle special, The Closer, which was criticised for being transphobic. The title prompted an internal staff revolt as well as a public furore. Sarandos, an avowed fan of Chappelle, defended the comedian in memos that were leaked to the media. It didn’t help calm things down.

When Sarandos name-checked Gadsby as one of the ways Netflix was representing the LGBTQI community, the Tasmanian-born performer who gained international attention with their show Nanette, wasn’t having any of it.

Gadsby posted a statement on social media that specifically called out Sarandos which included the lines, “F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult… I do sh*ts with more back bone than you!”.

Hannah Gadsbys Gender Agenda. Picture: Matt Crossick/Netflix
Hannah Gadsby has opted to share her time, space and platform with a showcase of genderqueer comedians. Credit: Matt Crossick/Netflix

You would think that telling the boss of a multinational entertainment business to “f**” off would be signing your own career death warrant, you’d be wrong. Maybe the key word there is “business” and Netflix is in the business of attracting everyone, from the spectrum of transphobes to trans people.

In Gender Agenda, Gadsby said, “I came strong out of the gate and addressed it to my Netflix daddy. I call him my Netflix daddy because Netflix is like a family, once you’re in the fold, it really does feel like a family. And like most families, they don’t really like their queer kids.

“I said, ‘f**k you, Ted”. Bit harsh. But in my defence, I’m a Capricorn with a Pisces moon and a Cancer rising which directly translates to autistic. I don’t always get the tone right.”

But it wasn’t all for nought. Out of the conflict, Gender Agenda was born. Although Gadsby joked the showcase was something of a “carbon offset show”. “It won’t fix it, it’s not enough, it’s just one night,” they said on stage. “You don’t raze the Amazon and then plant a tree.”

Over an hour and 15 minutes, Gadsby introduces the line-up: Jes Tom, Chloe Petts, Asha Ward, Deanne Smith, Mx Dahlia Belle, Krishna Istha and Alok.

They’re excited to be there at London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre, and knowing the special will be available to Netflix’s 260 million accounts, and they’re every bit as crass and provocative as the blokier bloke comedians who make a living out of making fun other people.

Hannah Gadsbys Gender Agenda. Picture: Matt Crossick/Netflix
Chloe Petts on Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda. Credit: Matt Crossick/Netflix

Gadsby’s showcase doesn’t punch down. These comedians inject humour into sets that have been born out of challenging experiences, out of being marginalised. There’s a defensiveness to a lot of the lines, but it comes from collective pain.

Istha opens with, “If you don’t find me funny enough to laugh, that’s cool. Don’t worry about that, my personal kink is humiliation so this is a win-win situation for me as a trans person.”

Or when Petts recounts how the greatest term of endearment in the English language is being called “boss man” at the fried chicken shop. In one eviscerating line, Petts lays bare the casual, often unnoted but frequently experienced effects of male privilege.

Not every set is as tight, and Istha, Petts and Alok are the standouts.

But the common thread in Gender Agenda is that it’s about power, whether they are speaking directly about their identities or not. It’s a community of people who are coming into their power after being diminished and endangered by those with more power than them.

Gadsby now has power. By sharing it, it’s the ultimate flex.

Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda is streaming on Netflix

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