Tig Notaro – “Can You Believe It” (Good One)
Over the last few years, Tig Notaro has drawn the attention of comedy nerds with guest roles on shows like The Sarah Silverman Program and a number of appearances on Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman’s podcast Comedy Bang Bang (formerly Comedy Death-Ray). The title for her first stand-up album, Good One, in fact, comes from a CBB episode in which she created a character called the “Good One Robot,” an automaton that sarcastically intones “good one” at lame jokes.
Notaro is incredible at constructing and delivering a joke, and much like Todd Barry, she has an extremely mannered, flat delivery that borders on affectless. Though it seems like it might be a character, listening to her in interviews or when she co-hosts her own podcast Professor Blastoff, her stage persona is really just a slightly-heightened version of herself, and the “joke” jokes (“joke” jokes are “set-up/punchline” kind of jokes as opposed to longer bits or story jokes) she writes are natural extensions of that personality and not jokes that anyone could tell. One of the biggest skills to have in comedy is timing — to build a “joke” joke correctly, you have to create a force where the audience expects X to happen, and then puncture that force by saying Y. Part of that skill is being able to place the pause correctly between the set-up and the punchline, and Notaro is amazing at building a number of pauses into her set-ups, really letting the audience dwell in those spaces, building the tension.
Notaro’s set on Good One is built in a very effective way, too. Starting off with more constructed, shorter jokes and building to two longer, looser pieces — one on 1980s pop star Taylor Dayne and another on self-defense, both of which contain riffing and crowd work — the album’s progression shows that Notaro isn’t just some joke delivery machine, but a well-rounded comic.
That said, the set doesn’t feel completely built for an album. There’s a number of visual pieces that lose their power, and while Notaro is good at describing what she’s talking about, those visual bits interrupt the flow. In that sense, Good One feels like a straight showcase for her act, one that doesn’t make concessions to the audio-only listener. Regardless, that’s a minor nitpick on an otherwise extremely well-crafted album.
By Andrew Beckerman