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Comedian Hannah Gadsby Shares How Her Autism Diagnosis Gave Her a New View of the World


Comedian Hannah Gadsby has found international recognition following her Netflix standup special “Nanette.” In the show, Gadsby says she’s quitting comedy, and on Monday she told The Guardian that her autism diagnosis three years ago helped her see why the “comedy lifestyle” isn’t for her.

The lifestyle is “a lot of noise and moving around,” she said. Though being on the spectrum clarified why the lifestyle isn’t for her, she also attributes some of her show’s success on her “ability to see patterns,” a strength she associates with being on the spectrum.

Gadsby attributing some of her strengths to autism highlights the importance of the neurodiversity movement. Promoting neurodiversity means accepting autism and other neurological differences as a variation in humans rather than a disease needing a cure. Neurodiversity lends itself to new perspectives and fresh ideas, which can allow for widely successful projects like “Nanette.”

Gadsby said being social exhausts her, but now she knows she doesn’t have to conform to how society thinks she should act.

“Having the framework of autism boils down to not looking out to the world to see how I should exist, but knowing I don’t actually have to be social, knowing that it exhausts me and that I will get confused and look like an idiot,” she said. “Because I also know that I understand things a lot deeper than a lot of people.”

Gadsby also told The Guardian that a difficulty in communicating with others and regulating emotions can give people on the spectrum a higher sensitivity to traumatization. People with disabilities are three times as likely to be the victim of serious crimes, and those with cognitive disabilities, including autism, have the highest rate of victimization.

Trauma, the emotional aftermath, and society’s blind eye to it is a major point of Gadsby’s “Nanette.” If you’re interested in seeing the show, you can stream it on Netflix.