Art criticism is generally about as far from stand-up comedy as it gets, and any comic with the notion that the two endeavors could be forged together seamlessly, let alone successfully, would be laughed right off the stage.
Or at least that was true before 2018, when Netflix introduced American viewers to stand-up comic Hannah Gadsby through Nanette.
The performance covered a lot of unusual turf for a stand-up show, especially the way she wove in critical assessments about certain revered art and artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso in particular.
Gadsby would go on to win a Peabody as well as an Emmy for the groundbreaking work. Striking while the iron was still hot, Gadsby followed with Douglas, another provocatively serious stand-up special, this one performed to sold-out crowds at large venues across the U.S. prior to its May 2020 release on Netflix.
Named after her dog, Douglas scaled back on the erudite excursions into art and art history, focusing on a series of personal anecdotes and cultural insights, related in characteristically astute and humorous fashion, touching on both her recent diagnosis of high-functioning autism, as well as newfound rise to fame and celebrityhood.
Next week, Gadsby arrives at the Kennedy Center with a three-night run of her most personal and light-hearted show yet.
“This is a feel-good show — I feel like I owe you one,” Gadsby has said of Body of Work, which also recounts the love that has bloomed in the intervening years between Gadsby and Jenney Shamash, a Douglas producer who became Gadsby’s wife at the top of 2021.
Critics have given the new show positive reviews, with particular praise heaped on her handling of quirky issues and norms related to love and marriage.
Body of Work will follow Douglas at least in terms of being a live show that is a completely “phone-free experience.” OKJust as it was in 2019, representatives of Yondr will lock up patrons’ smartphones and smartwatches in special proprietary cases until the end of the performance, and no other cameras or recording devices will be permitted.
Performances are Thursday, April 21, at 8 p.m., Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. In the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $39 to $75. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!