Crazy Town


In which someone who laughs loudly and often discusses weeping through a comedy album.
By Rachel James (Treasurer/Writer)

“Hello!  Good Evening.  Hello.  I have cancer.  How are you?”


In the digital age of 24 hour news cycles and instant analysis of everything ( was up before the debate was even done on Tuesday), skepticism abounds when someone calls any recent piece of art “great” or “masterful”.  Which is why I didn’t pay much attention when Louis C.K. tweeted this in August:

in 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets.One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.


However, the rest of the world did pay attention.  And what was supposed to be a small set in front of 300 people at Largo has now become one of the most successful comedy albums of the year.

First some backstory: After going through the worst four months ever (illness, followed by the death of her mother, followed by the break up of her relationship, and topped off with a cancer diagnosis), Tig Notaro got up on stage to work out some material for a segment she was supposed to do for This American Life.  However, having just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer three days before, all she could really talk about was that.  So she did.
Tig discussing her recent tragedies on Conan. Trust me, you’ll laugh.

The album, Live (rhymes with “give”), was born.  Lots of people had been telling me how great this album was.  Many people have written about it, and for costing only $5 and being available exclusively on Louis C.K.’s websiteit has made around $250,000.  Clearly this was reaching beyond a niche of comedy nerds.

I finally decided to download the album, if for no other reason than to see what all the hype was about.  It’s $5.  I can always use a laugh.  What more could it be than that?

“It’s weird because, with humor, the equation is tragedy plus time equals comedy.  I’m just at tragedy right now.  That’s just where I am in the equation.”

Now, *touch wood*, I have never been dealt this crazy of a hand.  The closest I’ve ever come to this kind of tragedy in my life was in 2008.  My maternal grandmother passed away in March, I got into a massive fight with my best friend on my birthday in May (which thus ended our friendship), and then my paternal grandmother was killed in a car accident in June.  Four years on and I still mourn these losses, but the pain does dull with time.  And you learn to smile and find humor in life again.

Tig Notaro managed to find humor in the middle of a disaster. In the well of her grief and loss, she could still laugh.  And make others laugh as well.  But what was most surprising to me about this album was the cathartic release throughout.  I was laughing and crying in equal measure.  And, from the sounds of it, the audience was reacting the exact same way.

Do yourself a favor: Go to Louis C.K.’s website, pay $5, and have a good laugh.  And a good cry.  At some point, we all need both.

RACHEL JAMES is a native New Yorker and theatre baby. Her plays have been produced by The 52nd Street Project and Starfish Theatreworks. She currently makes a living as a Broadway treasurer.