In 2012, comedian Tig Notaro delivered a set at Largo, a Los Angeles club, that would change her life. Notaro had lost her mother, lost her relationship, contracted a life-threatening intestinal disease and just been diagnosed with breast cancer -- and she says she felt compelled to share her misfortunes on stage, in a performance that would later be released as her CD Live. After the show, she received an overwhelming amount of support from fans and the comedy community, with comedians like Louis C.K. saying it was one of the greatest sets he had ever seen.
Two years later, Notaro is happy and healthy and embarking on a new tour, Boyish Girl Interrupted, which will bring her to the Paramount Theater on Sunday, November 9. In advance of her visit here, Westword spoke with Notaro about life after rock bottom.
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Westword: Can you tell me about your set at Largo? Before you went on stage, did you know you were going to do something big?
No. I knew I was doing something big by taking a risk, because I hadn't been that nervous to walk on stage since I started doing stand-up. I was shaking, and my breathing was off. I knew I had decided to walk out on stage and deliver the fact that I had cancer with the same tone of asking if people were having a good time. I had no clue it would be such a big thing. There's no part of me that would have ever guessed that.
How did you decide to share that part of your life?
Well, I didn't feel like I could do my normal set, because I had never been that rock bottom in my life. I still wasn't able to eat food. I had lost twenty pounds. I just lost my mother and my relationship and had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn't know if I was going to live or if I was ever going to perform again. I wanted to be authentic and mention what was going on in my life and make light of it somehow. I was essentially asking for help from the audience: "Is this funny? Can you help me through this?" I felt like we were all helping each other navigate through that night and experience.
Do you feel like you got the support you asked for?
I feel like I was carried by that entire audience. They were really amazing. As awkward as the show was, they really rolled with it, and they didn't shut down. They didn't deny what I was presenting to them. It didn't really ruin the whole night. Under the horrible circumstances, it oddly gave everyone some hope for a moment.
That's what it feels like in the set, just like a completely authentic moment.
That's what it felt like. And I didn't typically do that in my standup before that. So it was a whole other level of what was making me nervous -- revealing so much personal information.
Keep reading for more from Tig Notaro.
So now coming out on the other side of all those terrible events, how do you feel looking back? How has your life changed?
I'm healthy. I'm in remission. I can eat food. I'm in love. I'm working. I'm really happy. I don't have a complaint in the world, and I feel lucky to have gone through what I went through. I'm thankful for that perspective that I have. I feel like I'm ahead of the game in life. I feel like I have such a better understanding of what's important. It all sounds so cliché, but I think it's impossible to go through that and not feel that way. I don't feel like I was some out-of-touch person who needed that desperate wake-up call, but it definitely made me a better person and a happier person
Tell me about your new tour.
In the new show, I touch briefly on what I went through and where I am now. I also have stories from my life that have nothing to do with anything heavy, just silliness and ridiculousness peppered in there. I'm very proud of the material, and I'm enjoying telling it.
How'd you get the name Boyish Girl Interrupted?
It's just a playoff of being androgynous, and how I was at a point in my life where everything fell apart and now I'm trying to get back on track.
You've said before how, after going through all of this, some of your jokes feel too silly. How has your comedy changed?
I think in just the way that even before the Largo set, I started telling this story of how I ran into pop singer Taylor Dayne. I guess that was my first crack at sharing something. Even though it wasn't super-personal, it resonated with people and became one of my greatest hits. After sharing my personal story about my life falling apart, I think the way things have changed for me is that I'm realizing that's what the most interesting and people connect with the most is personal stories. I look at things more like that, rather than jokes. I kind of just scroll through my life and think what would be interesting to expound upon on stage. I never really looked at things like that before.
So what's next?
I have a book coming out next year, and a documentary that was made about me after everything fell apart and me putting it back together again. I have a show coming out on Showtime documenting a tour I did where I performed at my fan's homes, living rooms and back yards coming out early next year. I'm also developing a scripted TV show. And I'm also in a movie right now called Catch Hell, where I play a drugged-out woman in the swamps of Louisiana.
Tig Notaro will be at the Paramount Theater at 8 p.m. Sunday, November 9; Andrea Gibson and Andrew Overdahl will open. Tickets are $25 and are available at altitudetickets.com.
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Follow Amanda Moutinho on Twitter at @amandamoutinho.