Right as Hannah Gadsby was getting to the emotional pinnacle of her TED talk, the microphone cut out.
She'd just told the audience how after her grandmother's death, she was bereft, but that then ... nothing. There Gadsby stood, awkwardly in the red TED circle, the wind up to her story suspended in silence as she and the audience waited for the tech folks to arrive with a fix. When they finally fixed it, she noted that the delay might affect the momentum of the rest of the speech. The audience laughed, and she launched right back in, not missing a beat.
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It was an interruption that would have ruined other talks. But this was not other talks. This was Gadsby, the person who broke comedy with her stand-up special Nanette , in which she discussed being raped and announced she was quitting comedy. Gadbsy's TED talk, which she delivered live last week in Vancouver at the annual TED Ideas conference and which is now finally available for everyone to watch, is about how things don't work the way they're supposed to, and yet they still work.
"I dont think I'm qualified to speak my own mind," she reveals at the beginning of the talk. "Bold way to begin a talk, yes, but it's true. I've always had a great deal of difficulty turning my thinking into the talking, so it's a bit of a contradiction then that someone like me who's so bad at the chat could be something like a stand-up comedian."
Throughout a speech in which words are her primary vehicle for conveying humor, pathos, and insight, Gadsby repeatedly explains that she's really bad at talking. And yet, despite that, she's good at standing on stage and using words to be funny. Strange? For Gadsby, it's just one more contradiction in a life punctuated by them.
Her whole talk is about those contradictions, about how she can be so bad at the thing she is best at. It's about how how her career took off the second she gave it up. It's about how she had lived her entire life feeling like normal existence was harder for her than for other people, and how after she was recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder she finally made sense to herself.
It's inspiring and funny and weird and honest, and it's embedded below for your viewing pleasure.
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