Several celebrities were still milling around when Hannah Gadsby arrived at the microphone, so the Australian comedian — no stranger to letting her audiences wrestle with discomfort — waited a few awkward minutes for everyone to take their seats at the “Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment” gala Wednesday.
“There is, after all, nothing a comedian aspires to more than a breakfast gig,” Gadsby quipped as she addressed the sharply dressed crowd.
Pleasantries aside, Gadsby said she would be using the opportunity to talk about men — specifically, “the good men.”
The audience burst out into whoops and applause.
“You’re going to regret that clap,” Gadsby said dryly. Without missing a beat, she launched into why, with the same acerbic candor that made her 2017 Netflix special, “Nanette,” a hit.
“I find good men talking about bad men incredibly irritating, and this is something the good men are doing a lot of at the moment,” Gadsby said. “Not this moment, not this minute, because the good men don’t have to wake up early for their opportunity to monologue their hot take on misogyny. They get prime-time TV and the late shows.”
She joked about turning on the television each night “to find anywhere up to 12 Jimmys” in the midst of monologues about misogyny and “how other men should just stop being ‘creepy’ — as if that’s the problem.”
Men who reject the humanity of a woman? That wasn’t “creepiness,” Gadsby insisted. “It is misogyny.”
“My problem is that, according to the ‘Jimmys,’ there are only two types of bad men. There’s the [Harvey] Weinstein/Bill Cosby types who are so utterly horrible that they might as well be different species to the Jimmys,” Gadsby said.
“And then there are the FOJs. The friends of Jimmys. These are apparently good men who simply misread the rules. Garden variety consent dyslexics. They have the rule book, but they just skimmed it, you know?"
Gadsby said it was critical to talk about “good men” because they are the ones who draw “the line in the sand” when talking about “bad men.” The problem, she said, was that men were constantly moving the goal posts to place themselves on the excusable side of that line to distance themselves from bad behavior.
"We need to talk about how men will draw a different line for every different occasion — a line for the locker room; a line for when their wives, mothers, daughters and sisters are watching; another line for when they’re drunk and fratting; another line for nondisclosure; a line for friends and a line for foes,” Gadsby said.
She continued, pointing a finger down between each word for emphasis: “And guess what? All men believe they are good.”
By now, the room was silent.
“Guess what happens when only good men get to draw that line? This world,” Gadsby said. “A world full of good men who do very bad things and still believe in their heart of hearts that they are good men because they have not crossed the line. Because they moved the line for their own good. Women should be in control of that line, no question."
The room at last broke out into applause again, though anyone who had watched “Nanette” might have guessed Gadsby wasn’t yet done.
“Now take everything I have said up unto this point and replace ‘men’ with ‘white person,’ " Gadsby continued, to tepid laughter. “And know that if you are a white woman you have no place drawing lines in the sand between good white people and bad white people.”
The same, she said, could be said for those who are “straight,” “cis,” “able-bodied” or “neurotypical.”
“Everybody believes they are fundamentally good, and we all need to believe we are fundamentally good because believing you are fundamentally good is part of the human condition,” she said. “But if you have to believe someone else is bad in order to believe you are good, you are drawing a very dangerous line.”
Online, Gadsby’s monologue was praised as “real,” “absolute perfection” and “required viewing” — but also panned by some (mostly men) who said they had “done nothing wrong” and called the monologue a “rant about a non-issue.”
“Jimmys of the world, pay attention,” one Twitter user responded.
Gadsby has long been performing as a stand-up comedian in Australia, but she broke out in the United States last year after Netflix released “Nanette,” her hour-long act performed at the Sydney Opera House. The special has a rare 100 percent critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many praising Gadsby for upending the entire genre of comedy in the service of long-overdue introspection and self-preservation.
"You’ll laugh, but you also may cry several times while watching ‘Nanette,’ " The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi wrote. “It’s not a comedy special that offers escapist laughs but, instead, demands that the audience not shy away from considering harsh truths.”