If you don’t follow comedy or cultural news or listen to Terry Gross or read the AV Club, you might have not heard of Tig Notaro. I can’t blame you, there’s a ton of internet out there and only so much time in the day to waste on it. However, if that’s indeed the case, then I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Tig Notaro – one of the coolest, funniest people on the planet (If you already know who Notaro is, you can skip this part). Tig is a longtime stalwart of LA’s cool comedy scene, that’s centered around small, non-cheesy clubs and home to comedians that all the critics think are great but whose pilots usually don’t get picked up by Comedy Central. What’s make’s Tig unique is she has this wry, mischievous, deadpan delivery that helps her sell jokes that are usually just silly. She went on Conan and spent a third of her set moving a stool around the stage. AND IT KILLED. She’s great. I’m saying.
Anyways, a couple months ago Tig went on stage at Largo in LA, a couple days after finding out she had breast cancer and threw out all of her old, admittedly silly material to talk about all the tragedy in her life (in addition to cancer, her mother had died tragically her girlfriend broke up with her and she got a life-threatening intestinal disease). And her rough, unrehearsed set immediately reverberated throughout the internet. I saw the morning after that Louis CK, current world champ of everything, had tweeted “in 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo” and a section the internet briefly imploded with desire to see the set and the news of Notaro’s diagnosis (though, almost immediately, the internet went back to writing frivolous thinkpieces about K-Pop, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and the meaning of the latest Paul-Ryan-tumblr-meme). After a month of speculation, it was announced that Louis CK would release the special, title “live” for $5 on his website. If you’re at all interested, you should just spend the money to check it out (some of it goes to cancer research). You’ll also probably want to hear Tig and Louis CK’s interviews on Fresh Air from a couple weeks ago, which were pretty good.
I’ve now listened to the special 3 or 4 times and thought I’d share a little bit of what it made me think about. I will try to avoid spoiling most of Tig’s jokes, but I will also assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve already taken the time to listen to the thing. Because why would you read this first?
1. This will never live up to the expectations. After Louis CK, literally my favorite writer/performer writer, said that this performance, which no one else would ever get to see was the best he ever saw, an immediate mythology got built around it. When I was first reading about the cancer/performance, I was like, ‘SOMEONE HAS TO PUT THIS OUT! IT MUST BE AMAZING!!!’ And then when it finally came out, I thought, ‘Well this certainly going to change my life and probably change the world. It’s going to be like if someone packed the cultural impact of the Beatles into one 35 minute mp3 of a comedy set.’ Not sure why I set myself up like that. It’s just what I do if I’m excited about a movie or album or whatever. And it’s always a letdown.
That’s not to say the album isn’t remarkably funny, personal and original. But it’s not perfect. Some jokes hit harder than others and there’s enough roughness around the corners that expose the fact that this is the first time Tig’s doing any of the material. Which would have been fine IF I hadn’t set myself up to be super excited for a perfect piece of art, like a cross between Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain and the Sistine Chapel. So it’s mostly my fault.
2. God I wish I’d been there. I mean, you can say that about any recording of a great performance. But the thing that I think blew everyone away was they didn’t know Tig had cancer before she came out and that her entire set was going to be about it. Louis CK, in the interview with Terry Gross, said that Tig only told him 60 seconds before she went on stage. I wish I could un-know the fact that Tig had cancer before listening to the set, because when she comes out on stage and opens with “Hello, good evening, I have cancer, how are you, hi, how are you, I have cancer…” you can’t get the visceral shock the audience must have had. The reaction, is ‘oh, that’s how she introduced it’. Funny, but not as funny it could have been if I’d been suckerpunched with it.
3. So, I’m probably going to get cancer. My dad had cancer. Everyone else in his family had it. I guess I should try to eat organic, right? Will that make a difference? Eff.
4. Murs. Do you remember Murs? He was a college-radio rapper in the early ‘00s, who I used to really like. (I guess he’s still around but not really). He had a song on his Varsity Blues EP where he opened by saying “I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is look in the mirror and say ‘I am going to die’”. It was super cheesy, and even to a stoned 20-year-old. I laughed at the idea that dude actually did that every morning. But something about listening to Tig, who at the time of recording, didn’t know whether she was going to live or die, made me think about my own mortality. And then I thought about how maybe I should do this every morning, to remind me to live life to the fullest and all that. I mean, it’s still cheesy, but it also kind of makes sense.
5. What woman is good enough for Tig Notaro? The one thing that Tig glosses over in her set is getting dumped by her girlfriend, presumably because it was personal and involved someone who was no longer in her life. But I couldn’t help wondering what kind of woman Tig would be dating, it seems like most comedians date other comedians, but there aren’t a TON of lesbian comedians. Wait, are there? I actually don’t know.
6. The dude who yelled out “this fucking is amazing” will go down in audience-participant history. I could never hope to be as funny as Tig Notaro, but maybe, just maybe, I could be in the audience for someone as funny as she is during the performance of her life time and yell out something so perfectly timed and cathartic as that guy did. Who is he? He should get a book deal.
7. Everyone should buy this thing. It’s pretty damn good.
Henry Goldman is the founder of YR AN ADULT, which he spells all caps now, consistency be damned.