The Skinny

Tig Notaro – Live!

5/5 stars


Comedy has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. Aggresive, misogynistic, tolerant of rape and, worst of all, a bit pointless. That final charge is the most damaging to anything that aspires to being an artform. How can you defend something that is at its core nothing more than mindless banter?

And then something like this arrives, a bolt from the blue that reminds you what really makes comedy so great. Recorded just a few days ago, Tig Notaro performs to a Los Angeles comedy club mere hours after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Starting off with a slighlty baffled “I have cancer?” riff, she expertly nudges the audience to somewhere between tears and hysterical laughter before launching into routines about the bizarre sub-culture of ‘I Heard You Have Cancer!’ greeting cards and the impact a double masectomy is going to have on her already-androgynous appearance.

And that’s not the only misery she’s suffered recently: Notaro had only just recovered from a bout of C.Difficile in the previous few weeks when her mother was killed in an accident, leading to perhaps the funniest passage of the show when the hospital that treated her mom accidentally sends out a customer service questionnaire.

This 30-minute show, available to download form Louis CK’s site for $5, is rough, raw and hilarious, packed with some of the most brutal gallows humour in comedy history. More than anything else, it bears a certain resemblance to the Bill Hicks routine about his cancer diagnosis. Hicks bears a lot of responsibility for the brutal, transgressive comedy that haunts the scene these days, a schtick that has been appropriated by young men who didn’t really understand the logic behind it all.

Notaro has here recaptured what was magical about Hicks, and all great comedy. Her show is absurd, existential, hilarious; an immediate, intimate reaction to the weirdness of life. It’s just jokes. And it’s so much more than that. [Bernard O'Leary]