Tig Notaro Is Officially More Badass Than You
Tig Notaro has had kind of a shitty year. She’s also had kind of a great year. Insert “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” reference here. In the span of four months she went through two major illnesses, a break-up, the sudden death of her mother, a breast cancer diagnosis, and a double mastectomy. Any one of those things might be enough to convert an upright person into a fetal ball on the floor–but Tig Notaro is not just any person: she is a certified badass with super powers.
Though she has cancelled her North American tour (and her much anticipated performance at our beloved Fun Fun Fest) in lieu of all of this Job-ian madness, she has still managed to get a book deal, move to New York from LA to start writing on and appearing in a new show for Comedy Central, release an album and, oh yeah, SURVIVE FUCKING BREAST CANCER. Her new CD, “Live” (the call to action verb that acts as both a battle cry and exclamation of victory) was released last Friday on LouisCK.net and is available for $5. Some of the proceeds will go to various charities that exist to help beat cancer (because anything that hates boobs should be destroyed). The recording of her performance at LA comedy club Largo, which took place shortly after her breast cancer diagnosis, has been lauded by the great Louis CK himself as being one of the best performances he’s heard in his almost three-decades long career in comedy.
We were able to catch up with Tig before her album release to chat about cancer, comedy, and what exactly happened that made her performance at Largo an instant comedy legend.
How tired are you of talking about all of the stuff that’s been happening to you this last year?
People seem to have different questions and a different spin on it so I actually have just been more surprised that people have such an interest in it.
The internet and it’s vast minion of cruel commenters have all seemed to put their usual vitriol aside and show nothing but support and love for what you’ve been going through.
Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about. I’m sure that if we talk about it, people will be like, “oh, ok then, I’ll be mean now.”
Oh, no. I’ve just cursed you, haven’t I?
Oh, no. No, no, no. I have no idea what that’s about. Maybe people are looking to have something to feel positive about. I feel very lucky and happy that anybody would want to be feeling positive and happy about my story just because I ultimately do. It was a brutal four months that life [dragged] me through but, right now, [I] am coming out just so healthy and I feel oddly lucky. I feel good, so if people want to be a part of that then I couldn’t ask for anything more, you know?
Do you feel any pressure to lend your story to the burgeoning number of stories about having cancer? Do you feel like you’re now being pushed into the spotlight or do you accept that mantle happily?
Nothing’s really come up where I’ve felt any sort of pressure. I don’t typically feel too much pressure to do anything other than what I want to do and so, if things feel right, I’ll always do it and if they don’t, then I’m not going to do it. I can’t imagine I’m going to inauthentically do something and switch my life or mindset in order to cater to anything.
It’s certainly opened me up in a way that I wasn’t before. I was a little more private and, with my story going viral, you’re pushed into it and now I’m pretty much settled into it and I get it and I’m more than happy to help in ways that I can.
You have a lot on your plate right now: a new album, a book deal, another appearance on “This American Life,” and a movie that you received funding for via Kickstarter.
Well, I mean, the movie isn’t really going on right now just because I was supposed to film it right when I got my diagnosis, so that’s put on hold because now I’m going to be working on Amy Schumer’s show in New York for Comedy Central. I would say it’s gonna be another few months before I start working on that. I raised the money and it’s a short film that I wrote a while back. It’s about me, oddly enough, going through another rough patch in life years ago and thinking that the one thing that would make me feel better would be to have a clown come over to my house and entertain me one-on-one.
That sounds terrifying, just having a clown coming over specifically for a one-on-one performance.
It sounds terrifying?
I think it could go either way–it sounds like it has the potential to be pretty awkward.
The awkwardness is what excites me. You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out happens.
How many of the things that you’re actually doing right now were things that you already had in the works prior to all this…shitstorm, I guess, is the not-at-all-articulate way to put it.
Everything! I was already planning on going back on “This American Life.” I had been hired to work on Amy’s show, and I was working on a book proposal to try and get a book, and everything was already set up to go, and then all of this happened and it just got a little more high profile, to say the very least. The day that I went in for my surgery there was a bidding war for my book, so that was a little more than I was expecting when I was writing my book proposal. Yeah. But I’m happy. I’m happy about it.
What about the album?
Well, I guess the album is the surprise twist. I mean, I was planning one eventually. I just didn’t have any immediate plans. Maybe in the next year or two I would’ve but this was Louis C.K.’s idea to release the audio for my show so it launched me into releasing this album. I’m happy that I’m releasing one but it was just not originally part of the plan.
What are you doing moving forward? What does life after all this look like for you?
I feel it’s an odd place. I feel like I was just born. I’m starting over, but I feel all at the same time that I have all of the necessary tools that I could possibly need in life. It’s like if the day you were born you were fully armed with everything you need. That’s kind of how I feel right now.
So you feel like a total badass at this point in your life?
Yeah, I mean, it was the cancer, my breakup, my mother falling and passing away unexpectedly. And everything happening all at the same time and then coming through it and being like “Wow. I’m alive. And I’m okay. And I’m going to be okay.”
It does—it makes me feel like a badass.
Speaking of badass—you now have reached internet-legend status with the talk going around about your performance at Largo. The recording of this is what makes up the new album “Live” and has generated buzz like nothing we’ve heard in a long time. What’s all of the fuss about?
Once something’s happened it’s hard to remember life before sometimes. It’s so funny to think when I was on stage I had no idea that the world was going to know I had cancer the next day. I just thought “Oh, these 300 people in this sold-out room, they know, they’ll tell some friends, it’ll trickle out, and probably a couple of years from now some comedy friends of mine will be like, ‘I heard you had cancer, you okay?’” But on stage, it was so personal and intense and every person in that audience was just perfect and carried me perfectly through the experience.
I remember feeling like this might be a very special moment that’s happening, just for my life. I felt keenly aware that I was having a special moment in my life. And when I got off stage, Louis CK and Mary Lynn Rajskub and Ed Helms and Bill Burr were all there and they were just embracing me. It was the most genuine, authentic, oh-my-gosh-that-was-amazing kind of feeling. And then when Louis called me the next day, he was on set in San Francisco shooting a film with Woody Allen and he said “I’ve been telling Woody about you and your performance and I think it’s really important for people to hear it.” At first I wasn’t open to it, and I told him I appreciated it and I needed to think about it because, as a comedian, I spend so much time perfecting what I’m doing on stage before I release it, and for me to just go on stage so raw, and freshly after a diagnosis, it never crossed my mind to release this. I listened to it one time and then I thought, “You know, if I donate a portion of the proceeds to charity then I can remove myself a little bit and feel better about releasing it.” If I feel like I’m helping anybody.
I feel good, I feel proud of it, and if people are listening to it thinking it’s going to be the strongest comedy set start to finish, then it’s not the right show to look forward to. There’s comedy, there’s laughter. I was on stage actually seeing people crying in the audience and it was a real up and down raw performance. I think that that’s what my comedy peers recognized and that’s what they were tweeting and talking about, was that it was just very raw.
I feel like you’re now entitled to blatantly tell everyone that you’re better than them.
Yeah. [laughter] Yeah, it is tricky because people feel weird talking to me about stuff…and of course I still want to have friendships——and talk to people but they always stop themselves and they’re like “Oh, never mind.” And I’m like “No, no, no!” I do feel like bad just feels bad. When my mother passed away, it was…a whole different level of bad that I felt. But I do feel like, feeling rotten just feels rotten across the board. And I certainly, I…, I don’t want to complain. I mean every, every horrible thing has birthed an amazing thing in my life. And so, I think that’s what leaves me feeling lucky is the ability to look at it all through a different lens. I feel like I have a superpower now.
Tig Notaro‘s new album, Live is out now.