Culture Review: Week to 1 Oct

If you haven’t already watched Weiner, the all-access documentary which captures the 2013 political implosion of the nominatively-determined Anthony Weiner, then now is the time. Last Monday Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with an underage girl, and his wife Huma Abedin has filed for divorce. Weiner is the Hindenburg on repeat, in slow-motion, on the world’s biggest screen.

The other big political show is still underway, but this one is less comic. In August, when the rhetoric between North Korea and the United States reached peak posture (“fire and fury” vs. “the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees”), journalist Evan Osnos was in Pyongyang reporting for The New Yorker. His piece is a brilliant distillation of the conflict – but there’s only so much clarity you can bring to muddy water. The piece ends: “In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody … is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks.”

Closer to home, I saw Hannah Gadsby’s multiple-award-winning show Nanette at the Opera House on Thursday and it answered a long-standing question of mine: What can jokes do in the face of tragedy? Gadsby’s answer: Not enough. To illustrate, Gadsby tells a meta-story about her comedy career, beginning with her very first show (and serious spoiler alerts here) in which Gadsby talks about about an overprotective guy who mistook her for another guy flirting with guy girlfriend. The joke: Gadsby was flirting with her, ha ha, sucked in, idiot homophobic guy.

At the time of her first show, Gadsby withheld the conclusion of that story. Now, in Nanette, she doesn’t hold back. “I didn’t tell people the part about how the guy turned back around, and said ‘Wait, I get it – you’re a lady poofta, so I can bash you.’ And he did.” Comedy harnesses tension, and then finds a way to release it – laughter is quite literally the sound of relief. But what can laughter do when things are not okay; when the hurt is still raw? In those cases, laughter cauterizes the wound – which seals it off from more hurt, yes, but also from healing.