Why DeAnne Smith Featured Their Ex-Boobs in Hannah Gadsby’s Latest Netflix Special

It’s a cardinal rule of entertainment obsession that if any movie, TV show, or special explicitly offers you contact information — be it a phone number, a social media account, or an email address — you try to use it.

Following that lead out of “Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda,” which debuted March 5 on Netflix, DeAnne Smith discovered a bouncy and bold new reason for sneaking just that sort of bonus content into stand-up comedy. Commemorating their specific experience as a nonbinary person through a secret inbox for fans (something Smith is still managing in their spare time offstage months later), the agender comedian found a means of connecting to both cis and trans people through a shared interest: boobs.

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“I wanted to talk about top surgery because I know that’s not relatable to everyone, but I wanted to reach people that it was relatable to,” Smith told IndieWire. For the purposes of the LGBTQ variety special, Smith tidily described the elective mastectomy procedure, saying, “If you don’t know what that means, that means that I used to have boobs. Then, through no fault of their own, I got ‘em gone.”

“It felt important to me to stand in front of a crowd of people and talk about my body, which I know is really different from a lot of other people’s bodies,” Smith continued. “I wanted to do it with pride and do it with humor and continue to open up space for the weird little guys in the world.”

Credit: Photographer Brick Kyle
Credit: Photographer Brick Kyle

Smith’s sharp and sweet “Gender Agenda” runs just seven minutes (they’re one of seven performers in addition to Gadsby who hosts) and considers gender-affirming care through the lens of a funny philosophical quandary. “I didn’t do a good thing for us collectively,” Smith jokes. “Objectively, I was selfish. Right now, in this room, we are down one sick rack.

Acting as a counterbalance to that objective net negative, Smith’s time ends with a cheeky and community-minded invitation to continue talking online. Cue up “Gender Agenda” around minute 35 and Netflix subscribers can request photos of Smith’s ex-boobs through an email address (*) the comic provides to close out their set. Ping it and, in due time, Smith will respond with photos as promised.

(*) The specific email address has been redacted here at the comedian’s request.

“I just thought anybody who has the time and energy to email me, I have the time and energy to send a couple pictures back,” Smith said. “I mean, why not? To me, it’s just very funny. This isn’t even my body anymore, you know? That doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t necessarily feel protective of it in that way — or that [the photographs] are even all that private.”

The images Smith sends to viewers, as captured by photographer Jenni Walkowiak, depict the comedian shirtless, with their face covered by a rooster mask and/or lamp shade, standing against a monochromatic backdrop. Smith first used the photo a few years ago in support of a viral fundraiser for their top surgery. That effort was shaped by other GoFundMe campaigns (Smith specifically cites sex workers who used provocative pics to incentivize Black Lives Matter donations) and, in the end, supported both the procedure and their post-op care.

“My boundary was, ‘Keep this up for 24 hours and we’ll see how we do,'” Smith said. “I stopped counting donations at like $35,000. I knew then, ‘OK, this rack is powerful!'”

Credit: Photographer Jenni Walkowiak/Courtesy DeAnne Smith
Credit: Photographer Jenni Walkowiak/Courtesy DeAnne Smith

Why give the goods away for free now?

Per Smith, just a few days before taping “Gender Agenda,” cast members were tasked with trimming down their material significantly. Setting aside a few minutes they had planned for a finale about fascism, Smith was suddenly in need of a comedic button on short notice. They came up with the idea to send around those snaps of their former fun-bags again, this time as a last-minute fix, and in the end, that pivot became a touching reflection of not only their part in this special, but of the increasingly active role LGBTQ folks play in a complex comedy landscape.

“At first, I thought that I would, if not set up an auto-reply, at least have something I copy and paste. But I can’t keep myself from writing specific responses,” Smith said. The comic has received thousands of messages with intrigued onlookers reaching out from across the globe. “It feels really lovely to get this nice energy in my direction. And I feel compelled to send back a little bit myself.”

Screenshot: Courtesy DeAnne Smith
Screenshot: Courtesy DeAnne Smith

Speaking with IndieWire shortly after the special’s release in March, Smith reported receiving five emails in just 12 minutes. In late May, they say they’re still getting new notes, albeit less frequently, with inquiries ranging from goofy and horny to sentimental and hyper-specific.

One fan, taking a joke Smith made in the special about nipples and NFTs to its most literal extreme, offered advice: “If you’re actually looking for a way to keep a QR code connected to a digital image of your nipples, a Persistent Identifier (PID) would probably be a better solution…” That’s a response Smith said they didn’t even know they wanted.

They’re also hearing a lot from other nonbinary people who see the details of their lives reflected in the comedian’s words and experiences.

“To anyone that’s been considering [top surgery] for a while, I say that if your heart is telling you to do something, it’s well worth doing,” they told IndieWire. Simultaneously, Smith acknowledged the “generous energy” of myriad fans who for whatever reason have felt compelled to send pictures of their own “sick racks” unprompted.

Screenshot: Courtesy DeAnne Smith
Screenshot: Courtesy DeAnne Smith

There’s an inherent risk to offering yourself up on any stage, something Smith knows all too well as a genderfluid comedian. But when asked if they’ve had any hate from pro-Dave Chappelle types native to Netflix in their inbox, the “Gender Agenda” innovator described standing strong amongst a good crowd.

“It feels like in the cultural climate right now being visible in any way can invite hate,” Smith said. “But as far as I’m concerned, the solution is not to hide and be invisible. I’m someone with enough resilience at this point in my life to be able to handle it. I would rather stand visibly.”

Credit: Photographer Brick Kyle
Credit: Photographer Brick Kyle

DeAnne Smith will have their solo show for Netflix Is a Joke Fest at the Upright Citizens Brigade — Franklin on May 12 at 9:45 p.m. PT. “Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda” is now streaming on Netflix.

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