‘Hannah Gatsby’s Gender Agenda’ Review: A Very Essential Queer Stand-Up With Funny And Heartfelt Performances 

Hannah Gatsby doesn’t try to hide her grudge against Netflix in the opening minutes of Hannah Gatsby’s Gender Agenda. As it happens, the new comedy special is produced by Netflix, and Gatsby, being a veteran in the stand-up comedy space, does the very right (and smart) thing by bringing up the origin story of it. It began with a very famous artist (I could guess who, but I am not going to drop the name since Gatsby didn’t) doing an anti-trans comedy special, which infuriated the LGBTQ community all over the world. Gatsby, who had already propelled herself into the stand-up comedy landscape thanks to her very viral Nanette, which should probably be considered one of the greatest stand-up specials of our time, didn’t wage a full-blown war against Netflix at first. All they did was an Instagram post, which was eventually brought to light by the Russians, as Gatsby says, and they ended up in a conversation with Netflix CEO Ted Sarabdos. Gender Agenda happens to be the result of that conversation only. It is exactly what you should consider a step in the right direction by the biggest OTT service provider in the world.

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Gatsby has been pretty vocal about Netflix making a lot of profit over transphobia (and homophobia as well) by endorsing cishet comedians who would thrive on anti-gay/trans jokes. And they are not exactly wrong, to be honest. Considering this whole context, Gender Agenda should be deemed a very important event and not just a comedy special. It is undeniable that Netflix has been the undisputed leader when it comes to the genre in recent years. Not only does Gatsby acknowledge that, but they even define the whole thing as going against their employer. Gatsby can’t help but give a humorous spin to it by saying that Netflix is more of a “Daddy”, than a father.

Gender Agenda,  however, is not only about Gatsby. They are the ringleader, but the comedy special stands on the shoulders of seven other very talented queer people, all of whom have been handpicked by Gatsby to perform mini sets. True to the title, the message of this special here is pretty clear, and all the performers adhere to that notion only. It is all about the necessity of starting a conversation, which should work as an awareness campaign as well. This is what Gender Agenda is, and thanks to Gatsby and their team, it mostly works like a charm. Sure, there are some minor hiccups here and there, but this comedy special mostly sizzles and barely fizzles.

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For something as heavyweight as Gender Agenda, the opening act is very important, especially when you’re following Gatsby’s brilliant, very on-point monologue. But American comedian Jes Tom does that effortlessly by candidly talking about their struggle with testosterone and suddenly finding straight men attractive, as opposed to the time when they used to find themselves attracted to women only. Tom’s short and snappy act is followed by Chloe Petts using her razor-sharp tongue to speak about male privilege. Thanks to her physical appearance, Petts is often mistaken for a man in many places, which obviously helps her understand the kind of privilege a straight man enjoys. Both Tom and Pete present straight men as mostly idiots, which many of you might find offensive because the truth is often difficult to digest, right? I’m just saying.

I have nothing against comedian Asha Ward, who’s the youngest ever writer on SNL, but unfortunately, in Gender Agenda, she turns out to be the only sore thumb. And that’s not because she appears on stage, seemingly high as a kite. Or she chooses self-deprecating humor as her medium of expression. It is only because her act is neither funny enough for people to laugh out loud nor moving enough to make us introspect. Especially after Tom and Petts set up the tone, Ward’s act falls really pale. 

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However, Gender Agenda soon finds its redemption thanks to a spectacular set by DeAnn Smith. Simultaneously hilarious and relatable, Smith’s performance is clearly the defining one and pretty much justifies the existence of this agenda-based standup. They start with a Russian doll joke where a woman is literally inside another woman, if you know what I mean, before bringing up the anxiety talk and their experience with top surgery. Smith doesn’t talk about anything that you haven’t heard before, but the magic here is how relatable it sounds. And then they expertly move on to an extended joke circled on areolas (and the lack of it), which surprisingly lands so well. Smith’s performance is hard to follow for anyone, but Mx Dahlia Belle tries their best, and despite a rather shaky start, they manage to hit the bullseye. The entire bit where Belle goes all sarcastic about how a man being good or bad depends on both the size and caliber of his genitalia is absolutely glorious and deserves to go viral. 

I really like how Gatsby, despite being the most popular name and clearly bigger than all the other performers, doesn’t take the focus away and allows everyone to flourish. And they are also bold enough to provide opportunities to relatively new standup comedians who are in need of a larger platform. London-based comedian of Indian descent, Krishna Istha, getting an opportunity is the result of that only. Istha was also the writer of the fourth season of Netflix’s Sex Education, where Gatsby played a supporting character. In Gender Agenda,  Istha’s act is a mix of self-trolling and cross-cultural jokes based on the two most important people in their lives: their mother and the trans man they’re currently dating. And it is a delight to watch them nail it on stage.

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I have to admit that, as a cishet man, writing about Gender Agenda has been both an honor and a challenge for me, and I was particularly glad to see the final performer, Alok, address the issue of the kind of confusion straight people have about pronouns. Alok also explicitly highlights the agenda behind Gender Agenda in a magnetic performance, at the end of which you crave for more. It is definitely the perfect way to cap off the whole show. Gatsby, being the ever-so-graceful icon, doesn’t forget to bring everyone on the stage in the end to bid goodbye. It’s a great sight to see all the happy faces, which clearly implies that Gender Agenda is a rousing success. Hopefully, we’ll get to see these performers get their own Netflix specials in the future.


Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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For something as heavyweight as Gender Agenda, the opening act is very important, especially when you're following Gatsby’s brilliant, very on-point monologue.'Hannah Gatsby’s Gender Agenda' Review: A Very Essential Queer Stand-Up With Funny And Heartfelt Performances