“I am incredibly artistically satisfied at the moment,” comedian Hannah Gadsby tells Broadsheet. She’s just arrived back in Australia after touring for the last year in Europe and North America with her latest show Body of Work. The tour marks the first time Gadsby has been back on stage since the pandemic hit.

“It’s been really lovely. This [show] has been really well received. I built it up in Australia [and] it’s definitely got an unapologetic, Australian sort of laconic undertone,” she says.

Like her other shows, Gadsby decided on the title long before she figured out what it was going to be about. But she knew she wanted to keep it “open-ended for interpretation” and to “break the pattern of having a single name”, like Nanette and Douglas, the titles of her last two shows.

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The Emmy-winning stand-up comedian, whose 2018 Netflix special Nanette catapulted her to global fame, explains that when she does eventually get to writing, it comes down to asking herself: “What is the feeling I want to leave the room with and what do I want the audience to experience?” She ended up writing the show as we were coming out of lockdown, as a response to what the world needs right now.

Nanette was, I guess, a bit of a gut punch. With Douglas, I wanted to sort of reach inside people’s brain[s] and give it a bit of a massage,” Gadsby says. “And Body of Work is a hug. With this one, I really wanted to do a show that felt kind to perform. It’s a feel-good show. I mean, there’s always darkness in the corners of my work, but ultimately this is a very positive show.

Alongside getting back out in front of audiences, Gadsby released her memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette, in March. When we asked about the process of writing the book, and whether it was comparable to writing for a show, Gadsby was quick to describe it as “torturous”.

“I got the book deal years ago … but I’m very dedicated to avoiding deadlines. Originally, it was going to be a collection of essays about all my accidents and illnesses, but I also realised I couldn’t make sense of my life then because there was unresolved trauma, and of course, I’m diagnosed with autism, which is a heavy thing,” she says.

“So it wasn’t until on the other side of Nanette, and the diagnosis, [that] I was able to finally make sense of my life and write that memoir. To a certain degree, it certainly feels better to be out of my head.”

She adds that writing her 400-page memoir, now a New York Times bestseller, was like “picking up and holding memories – good and bad”. The book details weighty issues including marriage equality, particularly in Tasmania where she grew up, her struggles with anxiety and depression, sexual abuse, homophobia and ableism.

“That’s exhausting,” she says. “Memories tend to sit in your mind until you revisit them at your leisure, but when you’re writing about them, you interrogate them in a different way and it does take energy, and the worse memories take the most energy.”

As for what’s next for Gadsby, she says she wouldn’t shy away if there was opportunity for another Netflix show, but at the same time, she’s pretty content with where she’s at with her career.

“I am hyper-aware that I haven’t jumped on the success that Nanette offered me. I realised like, ‘Wow, it’s been three years since I’ve done a Netflix special’. I’m a slow mover and that’s just the way that I have to be.

“Creativity comes in all facets. But my career’s going well.”

Hannah Gadsby is performing Body of Work at Arts Centre Melbourne September 9–11 and at Sydney Opera House September 28–29. Find the full line-up of her shows at hannahgadsby.com. Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby, published by Allen & Unwin, is available for $49.99.*