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  • My name is Hannah.

  • And that is a palindrome.

  • That is a word you can spell the same forwards and backwards,

  • if you can spell.

  • But the thing is --

  • (Laughter)

  • my entire family have palindromic names.

  • It's a bit of a tradition.

  • We've got Mum, Dad --

  • (Laughter)

  • Nan, Pop.

  • (Laughter)

  • And my brother, Kayak.

  • (Laughter)

  • There you go.

  • That's just a bit a joke, there.

  • (Laughter)

  • I like to kick things off with a joke because I'm a comedian.

  • Now there's two things you know about me already:

  • my name's Hannah and I'm a comedian.

  • I'm wasting no time.

  • Here's a third thing you can know about me:

  • I don't think I'm qualified to speak my own mind.

  • 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 seems a bit of a contradiction, then,

  • that someone like me, who is so bad at the chat,

  • could be something like a stand-up comedian.

  • But there you go. There you go.

  • It's what it is.

  • I first tried my hand at stand-up comedi -- comedie ... See?

  • See? See?

  • (Laughter)

  • I first tried my hand at stand-up comedy

  • in my late 20s,

  • and despite being a pathologically shy virtual mute with low self-esteem

  • who'd never held a microphone before,

  • I knew as soon as I walked and stood in front of the audience,

  • I knew, before I'd even landed my first joke,

  • I knew that I really liked stand-up,

  • and stand-up really liked me.

  • But for the life of me, I couldn't work out why.

  • Why is it I could be so good at doing something I was so bad at?

  • (Laughter)

  • I just couldn't work it out, I could not understand it.

  • That is, until I could.

  • Now, before I explain to you why it is

  • that I can be good at something I'm so bad at,

  • let me throw another spanner of contradiction into the work

  • by telling you that not long after I worked out why that was,

  • I decided to quit comedy.

  • And before I explain that little oppositional cat

  • I just threw amongst the thinking pigeons,

  • let me also tell you this:

  • quitting launched my comedy career.

  • (Laughter)

  • Like, really launched it, to the point where after quitting comedy,

  • I became the most talked-about comedian on the planet,

  • because apparently, I'm even worse at making retirement plans

  • than I am at speaking my own mind.

  • Now, all I've done up until this point

  • apart from giving over a spattering of biographical detail

  • is to tell you indirectly that I have three ideas

  • that I want to share with you today.

  • And I've done that by way of sharing three contradictions:

  • one, I am bad at talking, I am good at talking;

  • I quit, I did not quit.

  • Three ideas, three contradictions.

  • Now, if you're wondering why there's only two things

  • on my so-called list of three --

  • (Laughter)

  • I remind you it is literally a list of contradictions.

  • Keep up.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, the folks at TED advised me that with a talk of this length,

  • it's best to stick with just sharing one idea.

  • I said no.

  • (Laughter)

  • What would they know?

  • To explain why I have chosen to ignore what is clearly very good advice,

  • I want to take you back to the beginning of this talk,

  • specifically, my palindrome joke.

  • Now that joke uses my favorite trick of the comedian trade,

  • the rule of three,

  • whereby you make a statement

  • and then back that statement up

  • with a list.

  • My entire family have palindromic names:

  • Mum, Dad, Nan, Pop.

  • The first two ideas on that list create a pattern,

  • and that pattern creates expectation.

  • And then the third thing -- bam! -- Kayak. What?

  • That's the rule of three.

  • One, two, surprise! Ha ha.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, the rule of three is not only fundamental to the way I do my craft,

  • it is also fundamental to the way I communicate.

  • So I won't be changing anything for nobody,

  • not even TED,

  • which, I will point out, stands for three ideas:

  • technology, entertainment

  • and dickheads.

  • (Laughter)

  • Works every time, doesn't it?

  • But you need more than just jokes

  • to be able to cut it as a professional comedian.

  • You need to be able to walk that fine line between being charming

  • and disarming.

  • And I discovered the most effective way to generate the amount of charm I needed

  • to offset my disarming personality

  • was through not jokes but stories.

  • So my stand-up routines are filled with stories:

  • stories about growing up, my coming out story,

  • stories about the abuse I've copped for being not only a woman

  • but a big woman and a masculine-of-center woman.

  • If you watch my work online, check the comments out below

  • for examples of abuse.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's that time in the talk where I shift into second gear,

  • and I'm going to tell you a story about everything I've just said.

  • In the last few days of her life,

  • my grandma was surrounded by people,

  • a lot of people,

  • because my grandma was the loving matriarch

  • of a large and loving family.

  • Now, if you haven't made the connection already,

  • I am a member of that family.

  • I was lucky enough to be able to say goodbye to my grandma

  • on the day she died.

  • But as she was already cocooned within herself by then,

  • it was something of a one-sided goodbye.

  • So I thought about a lot of things,

  • things I hadn't thought about in a long time,

  • like the letters I used to write to my grandma

  • when I first started university,

  • letters I filled with funny stories and anecdotes

  • that I embellished for her amusement.

  • And I remembered how I couldn't articulate

  • the anxiety and fear that filled me as I tried to carve my tiny little life

  • into a world that felt far too big for me.

  • But I remembered finding comfort in those letters,

  • because I wrote them with my grandma in mind.

  • But as the world got more and more overwhelming

  • and my ability to negotiate it got worse, not better,

  • I stopped writing those letters.

  • I just didn't think I had the life that Grandma would want to read about.

  • Grandma did not know I was gay,

  • and about six months before she died,

  • out of nowhere, she asked me if I had a boyfriend.

  • Now, I remember making a conscious decision in that moment

  • not to come out to my grandmother.

  • And I did that because I knew her life was drawing to an end,

  • and my time with her was finite,

  • and I did not want to talk about the ways we were different.

  • I wanted to talk about the ways were we connected.

  • So I changed the subject.

  • And at the time, it felt like the right decision.

  • But as I sat witness to my grandmother's life

  • as it tapered to its inevitable end,

  • I couldn't help but feel I'd made a mistake

  • not to share such a significant part of my life.

  • But I also knew that I'd missed my opportunity,

  • and as Grandma always used to say,

  • "Ah, well, it's all part of the soup.

  • Too late to take the onions out now."

  • (Laughter)

  • And I thought about that,

  • and I thought about how I had to deal with too many onions

  • as a kid,

  • growing up gay in a state where homosexuality was illegal.

  • And with that thought, I could see how tightly wrapped

  • in the tendrils of my own internalized shame I was.

  • And with that, I thought about all my traumas:

  • the violence, the abuse, my rape.