Baby Reindeer: Is the Richard Gadd viral breakdown video real?

Baby Reindeer: Is the Richard Gadd viral breakdown video real?

If you’ve tuned into the impeccable new Netflix series Baby Reindeer, chances are you’ve asked the question: is Richard Gadd’s viral breakdown video real?

The new seven-part series is an adaptation of Gadd’s play of the same name, centering on Donny Dunn (Gadd), a comic/barman who is forced to confront his past trauma when serial stalker Martha (Jessica Gunning) sets her sights on him.

What’s been most surprising of all is the fact that Baby Reindeer is based on a true story, with the writer and creator drawing from his personal experiences being the target of a stalker — even the emails Martha sent to him are real. 

But what about the viral breakdown video, in which Donny gives an impassioned speech and reveals his deepest, darkest secret during one of his stand-up sets? Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Is the Richard Gadd viral breakdown video in Baby Reindeer real?

No, the viral breakdown video in Baby Reindeer isn’t real. But Richard Gadd did go on a brilliant tangent about the struggles of stand-up comedy during one of his sets in June 2011. 

You can watch the full set below: 

After speaking about a time he bombed terribly on stage, so much so that the audience didn’t even clap when he left, Gadd goes into the speech at around the 4:45 minute mark. 

He describes that moment as “a disappointment like nothing else,” and that comedians set themselves up for their own failure. “When you do comedy, it’s kind of like a rock and a hard place,” he says. “You’re stuck between confidence and vulnerability.”

Gadd goes on to say that comedians often “strive for perfection,” an impossible task when it’s subjective. “You can never be perfect, so when you’re a comedian you can never be happy,” he adds.

In Baby Reindeer, the viral video sees Donny opening up about how he was sexually assaulted by a writer who groomed him and promised he’d help his career. He goes on to say how it left him vulnerable to his stalker and destroyed his relationship with Teri (Nava Mau). 


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In real-life, Gadd put these experiences into his one-man show, Monkey See Monkey Do. And the outcome was similar to the reaction shown in the Netflix series. Speaking to The Guardian, he recalled doing the technical rehearsal before the first performance. “I remember cracking up, because it was all going so badly, and the producer said, ‘What do you want from this, man?’ And I turned to him with tears in my eyes, and said, ‘I just want to make it out alive’,” he explained.  

“Little did I know that it would provide a lifeline for me. The way people received that show, and received me, and accepted what happened to me: it saved my life. It’s mad that it happened that way.”

The 2011 set footage has received numerous supportive comments from viewers who saw Baby Reindeer and realized the significance of his words. “I just finished watching Baby Reindeer,” wrote one. “Thank you for being vulnerable and real. Your art will be a hallmark signature for so many reasons in this life.”

Another said, “Baby Reindeer really touched my heart. Genuinely, thank you for sharing Richard Gadd. This show was a masterpiece into the inner workings of a tortured mind and how inevitable it is that we confront our truths. I’m left in shock and awe of what you guys produced.”

How real is Baby Reindeer?

In real life, Richard Gadd was sexually abused and was the target of a stalker. Although certain elements such as the order have been tweaked and names have been changed, everything in the Netflix series is true. 

“It’s very emotionally true, obviously: I was severely stalked and severely abused,” he told The Guardian. “But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it’s based on.”

Gadd’s stalker targeted him for four years, during which time she sent him a staggering 41,071 emails and 350 hours of voicemail messages, as well as 744 tweets, 106 pages of letters, and 46 Facebook messages.

Similarly, his relationship with a trans woman fell apart as a result of the traumatic experiences he was going through. Things came to a head while preparing for Edinburgh, telling the outlet, “I could almost cut a line, with a knife and fork, through my anxiety. I could feel it emanating from my body.”

Turning these experiences into art has been a cathartic process. Appearing on ITV’s This Morning, Gadd explained, “When you are struggling with things and everything is on your shoulders or just tight in your chest, just getting it out there, writing it down, putting it into something. It’s been the best therapy for me, it’s kind of been a lifesaver.”

Baby Reindeer is streaming on Netflix now. You can find more TV shows to add to your watchlist this month here.

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