Tig Notaro has been getting a heaping dose of publicity lately. It’s well-deserved. You may already recognize the charming comedian from her standup, or watched her play the feather-haired policewoman who briefly (and understandably) lesbianizes Sarah Silverman on the latter’s eponymous “Program,” or listened to her discuss her frequent run-ins with 80s pop star Taylor “Tell it to my heart” Dayne on This American Life. Maybe you’ve also read that earlier this month Tig released a half-hour standup comedy set (care of friend/comic superstar Louis C.K.), recorded after a diagnosis of breast cancer (in both breasts) only a few days prior. The performance was instantly touted as legendary, with audience member Louis C.K. calling it “one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can’t really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life.” Sounds promising, right? I bought the show the day it became available and had to put in my two cents here at Bitch to tell y’all: it really is that good. It’s one of the most honest, poignant, and yes- funny performances I’ve ever heard. In fact, I loved it so much that after giving it an initial, thorough listen I immediately needed to hear it all over again.
The set is stellar from the get-go as Tig walks out on stage pulling no punches. “Good evening, hello. I have Cancer,” she says. The audience laughs, and Tig repeats herself. “Hi, how are you? I have Cancer.” More laughter. She says it a few more times and the audience grows palpably nervous as they begin to realize she may not be joking. And that’s when the comedian lays everything bare. She has just been diagnosed with Cancer. Her mother died recently and unexpectedly. She broke up with her girlfriend. She’s been through hell (and at the time of the recording, one can only assume, was still in the midst of hell). And she’s sharing it with us. It is more than enough tragedy to go ‘round, yet despite the heaviness of her material, she is unequivocally hilarious. And the audience agrees. At one point, Notaro stops the set, worried she’s bumming out the crowd. This is after all a comedy act and she’s expounding on subjects not typically considered amusing- topics most of us would like to avoid talking about: death, illness, sadness. But her delivery is impeccable so we are laughing with her the whole time. She asks if she should revert back to some of her older, innocuous jokes and a man yells out “No! This is fucking amazing!” He’s absolutely correct.
The comedy set is remarkable: emotionally raw, hysterical and very very real. From many accounts, Tig had the crowd laughing and in tears- sometimes simultaneously. You actually hear her comfort sympathetic audience members distressed by what the comic has endured. Their reactions makes sense because aside from being a humorous person, Tig is also extremely likeable. And this performance is intimate, like you’re listening to a close friend recount an astonishingly terrible day they’ve had. Only in this case the terrible day is many terrible days. Thankfully, Tig has come out the other end of this nightmare and received positive news about her health. She underwent a double mastectomy removing the Cancer and is expected to recover. She’s now living in New York, working on a new series for comedian Amy Schumer.
If you’ve got $5 and are itching to hear some incredible standup, head on over to Louis C.K.’s site to download Tig Notaro Live. As an extra incentive (and additional reason to love Tig), she will be donating some of that money to Cancer research. You can also listen to her podcast, Professor Blastoff, right here.