Tig Notaro’s command over her audience is hugely impressive. Like all the best underworld dons, she controls though calm, quiet confidence, making it clear she has the comic firepower to maintain her authority, but rarely having to deploy it.
Her delivery is as cold and dry as the most perfectly-mixed martini, neither shaken not stirred. The poise is perfect, the tone half a degree above deadpan, drawing the audience inward rather than forcing her witticisms on them, Sometimes it’s only a barely-perceptible inflection that shows she’s actually joking, the verbal equivalent of a raised eyebrow of distain, but that’s more than enough.
Yet beneath the implacable exterior, the Mississippi-born comedian can be surprisingly playful, she riffs – albeit in her own good time – with audience members who interject, either prompted or otherwise. It’s a compellingly engaging, almost hypnotic, performance.
In previous shows, including her stint at the Headliners strand in Melbourne last year, I found her interminable pregnant pauses and lazy pacing hugely frustrating, but here she strikes a more perfect equilibrium of awkward tension and on-the-nose laughs. I’m not sure if she’s changed or I have, but either way her deportment has few rivals.
For material, she slowly weaves long routines around the most unlikely of subjects: she spins out for a good ten minutes her surprisingly frequent encounters with Eighties singer Taylor Dayne that seem forever destined to repeat themselves. The obvious gags about the Spanish for ‘do not disturb’ – ‘no moleste’ – is painstakingly spelt out, line-by-line, but there’s humour in the anticipation, and an occasional left-turn to keep you on your toes.
You have to board her train of thought at the first station, however, otherwise you may be left behind. Routines about GPS navigation or how to deal with shark attacks seemed rather too clichéd, and never quite took hold, although plenty in the audience would disagree. But by then they were under her spell as surely as brainwashed cult members, soaking up the highly polished wit from a calm and collected craftswoman.
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