Dave sits down with Tig Notaro, a veteran stand-up comedian who you might recognize from her Comedy Central special or perhaps her stint as “Officer Tig” on The Sarah Silverman Program.
She’s just released her debut album, Good One, on indie music label Secretly Canadian. You can also find her mixing comedy and thoughtful musing on a different topic each week on the Professor Blastoff podcast.
In our interview, she talks about why she chose to be the only comedian on a music label, the slightly unorthodox way she taped the album’s contents, collaborating with Sarah Silverman, and more.
DAVE HOLMES: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Dave Holmes in for Jesse Thorn. My guest this week is Tig Notaro. An accomplished comedian whose live act has been on this program many times before. Her first album, Good One, is out right now on Secretly Canadian Records. Let’s hear a clip from it.
Hi Tig Notaro, how are you?
TIG NOTARO: I’m good, how are you?
DAVE HOLMES: Good. So, Good One, out August 2nd, first comedy CD. How do you feel?
TIG NOTARO: I’m excited. I’ve been doing stand up for a really long time. Thirteen, maybe, years? I’m certain there are people that have done it longer than that, but it’s a decent amount of time. I just never really cared about putting out a CD. But then the record label that I’m on, Secretly Canadian, which is an indie rock label, they’re based in Bloomington, Indiana. One of their musicians, Jens Lekman, he’s a Swedish rocker dude.
DAVE HOLMES: Sure.
TIG NOTARO: You know Jens?
DAVE HOLMES: I do. Not personally, but yes.
TIG NOTARO: Well he was a fan of my stand up and asked me to go on tour with him. When I was on tour his label saw me all the time, and then they offered me this deal and I called my manager going, “I’m going to sign this contract.” And he’s like, well, we’ll look over it, and I’m like, yeah, look over it all you want, but I’m going to sign this contract.
I had got offers from other comedy labels, but I felt like I’m very aware of where I am in my career, and I know I’m not some huge household name. I felt like I’d just be floating around in this sea of everybody in releases. With this label, I felt like, because I’m their only comedian, I’m going to hopefully stick out.
DAVE HOLMES: Was it all one show? Did you string together a bunch of shows?
TIG NOTARO: I did one show, I had not been very good about taking care of recording a show and sending it to my label. Then I went on tour with Sarah Silverman, and were doing a tour through the Midwest in a big tour bus, all fancy style. We were going through Bloomington, Indiana, which is where the label is based. The president was like, you know, you’re coming through Bloomington with Sarah already, and you haven’t turned in your CD. We need it in a matter of hours, or days, whatever. What if we set up a show in Bloomington and record the CD? I was like, well, we have three days to promote, are you sure people will show up? He was like, yeah, we’ll take care of everything.
What they did was the coolest thing. At this recording studio, which is used for bands, and they invited an audience to come in, and I recorded my CD in this rock studio.
DAVE HOLMES: Are you serious? It really sounds like a comedy club!
DAVE HOLMES: Ladies and gentlemen, we are here with comedian Tig Notaro, whose album Good One is available for purchase and download now.
TIG NOTARO: And at local record stores.
DAVE HOLMES: And your local record store, if your town has a record store. Which it might not.
TIG NOTARO: And even if it doesn’t, you can go to another store and purchase it.
DAVE HOLMES: Yeah, you’re able to transport it between counties, right?
TIG NOTARO: That’s right.
DAVE HOLMES: You also recently did a project for the Logo Network, correct? What was that all about?
TIG NOTARO: I do a show regularly at Largo at the Coronet theater in Los Angeles. It’s a show called Tig Has Friends. It’s a themed show that’s a talk and variety show. And I’ll have my guests be – - that’s the theme. It’s all actors or comedians, singers, or could be all my old roommates. Whatever, just the theme. So I come out on stage, I do standup, then I introduce my guest. When the guests come out, I interview them, but not in a, “Hey, what’s your latest project?” or “Who are you dating?” It’s more ridiculous kind of questions.
Like, Dave, my father left when I was six months old. What was your most embarrassing moment?
Those types of questions, where you can answer it any way that you want. After that, my guests do hidden talents, so you can see your favorite singer or comedian balancing spoons on their face or doing the moonwalk. Which are things you want to see.
DAVE HOLMES: Of course, yeah.
TIG NOTARO: Just ridiculous that will endear you to the person. Then I go into the audience and do a Q&A so that the audience gets to ask the questions that I clearly did not care to ask. Sarah Silverman executive produced it. It was her idea, because she’d come to the show or she’s been on the show. One day she was like, “That needs to be a TV show.” I said, okay. She said, “I’d love to produce it.” Yeah, well, knock yourself out.
I knew Sarah had only produced her stuff, and not that she – - she’s not even close to flaky. But people say they want to do things, and I said, I don’t want you to send me into meetings saying, oh, Sarah Silverman’s attached to produce this. I said, if you’re going to produce it, I want you to take control and handle it. She said, I absolutely will, and she completely did and did an amazing job. We got cast members from Mad Men on the pilot, and we turned the pilot in and are waiting on a response. If the network doesn’t pick it up, then we can take it to other networks and do what we want.
DAVE HOLMES: What I’m getting is that Tig Notaro is easily persuaded into huge awesome projects, right?
TIG NOTARO: Easily.
DAVE HOLMES: It seems like people are coming to you saying, hey, record an album. Hey, let me produce your show, and you say, All right.
TIG NOTARO: All right. Do a good job. Be cool about it.
DAVE HOLMES: It’s a terrific attitude to have, it really is.
TIG NOTARO: Yeah.
DAVE HOLMES: You also tell a story on Good One about a man approaching you on the street, and we’d love to play a clip from that if we can.
TIG NOTARO: I live in Los Angeles, and I was walking through my neighborhood, down the sidewalk, and I was passing this guy. Right when we were passing each other he said to me, right when we were passing each other, he said, “Ahhhhhhh. Them a little titties. I thought she was a man!”
I was like, okay. Okay if you think that. And okay if you say that, to yourself. But that thought had to go through several layers of filters in his mind, and his checklist. He still decided yeah, I’m gonna need to say this.
Think of all the things he decided not to say. Things like, “Good Afternoon.” Or breathed in and said, “Oh, I was gonna say something, but I decided not to.”
But he went with, “Ahhhhhhh. Them a little titties. I thought she was a man!”
DAVE HOLMES: So this is sort of a true story?
TIG NOTARO: I’ve never heard that.
DAVE HOLMES: No?
TIG NOTARO: No, I’ve never heard of that.
DAVE HOLMES: So there it is. There it is for the first time.
TIG NOTARO: Yeah, that is a true story. I was walking on the sidewalk in Venice, California.
DAVE HOLMES: If that’s going to happen that’s going to happen in Venice.
TIG NOTARO: Or downtown. Or Hollywood.
DAVE HOLMES: Really? Certain areas of Hollywood. Playboy Liquors I feel like that could happen.
TIG NOTARO: It’s absolutely true. I was like, oh. My friends were like, what did you say? I went, nothing. What am I..
Excuse me, I’m a woman! Yeah…I know they’re small. Sir, please. I’d like to clear things up with you. You seem reasonable. I want to make sure we’re on the same pa….sir. That’s not a toilet.
DAVE HOLMES: People do feel free to just say whatever they feel, which is upsetting.
TIG NOTARO: I wasn’t upset. I really had a laugh to myself. I was just so sorry that I was alone. That bit actually was two different ideas that my brain had been working on separately. For awhile I was thinking about the concept of boring people, when they’re talking to me, I can’t fathom why they’re brain chose the story they’re telling me. It makes me wonder what is trapped in their head. Is that just a pool of more boring, or it actually fascinating stuff that they don’t know how to filter out. They’re just like, oh no, I’ll skip these details. Then they just go into these mind numbingly boring stories. Oh my gosh, why? You could have the exact same day as somebody that is so tremendously boring, and then they’re like, just, ehhhhhh. You’re like, oh my gosh. You need to be shot, or I do.
DAVE HOLMES: Somebody’s going down.
TIG NOTARO: Somebody has to die, and I would prefer it to be me.
DAVE HOLMES: Maybe they’re just not good at listening to non-verbal cues in the listener?
TIG NOTARO: It’s not just that. Yeah, they can’t read the cues, but the fact that they’re brain is like, “This has to come out now. You need to know this story about my banana bread.” I don’t need that information.
That concept has always fascinated me, the way people can have the same days, and an interesting person could take away something that a boring person did not. When that guy said that to me on the sidewalk, then I was thinking about the idea of filters and what people choose to say. Then I was like, ah, I can finish this bit. It took a couple of years for that to subconsciously bounce around my brain, the thought process that gets filtered out of your mouth.
DAVE HOLMES: We are here with stand up comedian Tig Notaro. Good One, out August 2nd, on Secretly Canadian Records.
TIG NOTARO: Good one.
DAVE HOLMES: How long were you doing stand up before you were able to support yourself doing it?
TIG NOTARO: Probably a little sooner than normal, only because of the generosity of friends and family. I used to work at Sam Raimi, the director, his production company. The president of his company was my boss, and after I left that job he offered to let me live in his house in the extra bedroom for a few hundred dollars a month, all bills paid. So I got to go out on the road opening for headliners, not making a lot of money but making enough to support myself because I was only paying like $300 for rent, which is unheard of in LA.
I probably started supporting myself maybe four years in? Which was pretty quick.
DAVE HOLMES: It’s incredible.
TIG NOTARO: It’s not even because I was doing so well, it was just generosity.
DAVE HOLMES: A three hundred dollar apartment.
TIG NOTARO: Yeah.
DAVE HOLMES: So know good people, and say things. Or live in – -
TIG NOTARO: Yeah, know very generous good friends that used to be the president of Sam Raimi’s company. And then just get out on the road and start paying your bills.
DAVE HOLMES: I hope everyone at home is writing this stuff down. I really do.
TIG NOTARO? I want to have kids. I think I’m going to have to get artificially inseminated. I love that it’s called that. Artificial insemination. It’s not like you’re not getting inseminated. You’re getting inseminated. If it was artificial, you’d go in for your doctors appointment, and they’d insert one of those sponge creatures inside of you that would expand, then nine months later, pfffffft. A velociraptor!
Hey, somebody artificially inseminated me. Who is the wise guy?
DAVE HOLMES: So you’re heading out to promote Good One. You’re going to be doing some of the talk shows?
TIG NOTARO: Sure, televised talk shows. Which this is.
DAVE HOLMES: Yes it is, of course. You see the cameras everywhere. Do you get nervous before doing a Fallon or one of those?
TIG NOTARO: Yeah, right before. When I get nervous right before I do television, my body starts to shut down. I start yawning and leaning on a wall. I remember one time before I went out on stage a producer came up and I was like [yawn]. She was like, counting down to when I’m going to be on television and I’m falling asleep. I said sorry, I’m just really nervous right now.
DAVE HOLMES: I do the exact same thing. The exact same thing. It reads like low energy or that I don’t care, but that could not be more the opposite. I care too much. My body doesn’t know what to do.
TIG NOTARO: Yeah, I just start to shut down. And then I go out and have a second in my mind where I’m like, whoa, am I on television? Oh yeah, I guess I am. And then I kind of get into it. Seconds before I’m napping, I’m in the fetal position napping on my X on the ground. My ready, go, start position.
DAVE HOLMES: Tig, thank you so much for being here.
TIG NOTARO: Thanks for having me!
DAVE HOLMES: What a pleasure!
TIG NOTARO: Yeah.