It was the comedy performance heard ’round the world.
On Aug. 3, 2012, veteran stand-up comic Tig Notaro performed a largely extemporaneous set at the club Largo in Los Angeles. The next day, friend and fellow comic Louis C.K. 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.”
Notaro’s set quickly went viral – like supernova viral. Bootleg audio recordings circulated and eventually the performance was made available for purchase online. In the now-famous set, Notaro discusses her recent cancer diagnosis, which followed a life-threatening intestinal infection, the death of her mother, and a bad breakup – all in the span of a few months. It’s a tour-de-force performance, heartbreaking and impossibly funny.
Notaro has since made a full recovery and is in good health. The Largo performance upped her public profile considerably, and she’s finishing a book on her experiences, while touring pretty much constantly. Notaro will perform Tuesday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham as part of her “Boyish Girl Interrupted Tour.” She recently corresponded by email with the N&O about the Largo show, her new book and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
Q: Now that a couple of years have passed, what’s your perspective these days on the Largo performance and why it had such a booming resonance in the culture?
A: I always thought it was a very raw and unpolished and unrehearsed and vulnerable set. And the response was immediately so effusive that I felt lucky after it was released, and still do to this day, that people feel inspired or it has helped them in some way. In regard to why this has resonated so strongly, I think everyone is going to experience adversity in life.
Granted, there are varying degrees, and those four months I felt I was certainly at the extreme end of the spectrum. But I think people can relate to others going through a difficult stretch, even if they themselves have not been diagnosed with some severe illness like cancer or losing their mother unexpectedly. And I think for them to see that I was just trying to do my best at navigating through all of this, which is really all anyone can do, I think hit a chord. I feel so happy that it did.
Q: Can you talk about the book you’re working on?
A: Yes, I am finishing it up as we speak. The book details the horrific months of my life that I went through in 2012. And this book will take readers further into this experience and all the specific little details along the way. There are definitely funny parts, but I was also not shy to put in the darker details.
Q: How is the process different, writing material for a book instead of for the stage?
A: Well, I get an idea and will have bullet points, but as opposed to writing out my material, I work it out on stage live in front of everyone. I record the audio of my shows so I can see what works and does not work and continue to do so until a good chunk of material is finished. With writing for the TV or film, sometimes I’m collaborating with someone else, which has been a new experience but one that I fully welcome. As for my book, during my first draft I’ve been trying to go into as much detail to get it all on the page, before my editor starts shaping it.
Q: Looking at your tour schedule, you’re on the road a lot. Do you have any particular regimen for staying healthy and sane with all the traveling?
A: More than ever, I’ll be making an effort to stay healthy and keep sane. I usually find the nearest natural foods store, take walks and stretch. It’s really a less-than-exciting picture of a traveling comedian, I know.
Q: Is there a particular topic or theme in the new show?
A: The topics vary – I touch on everything from bombing at a comedy club in Vegas to stories about me and my friend searching for Santa Claus, to more personal events. There’s also just plain and simple ridiculousness.
Q: Will there be an opener, and if so, who it is?
A: There will be an opener, but it’s a surprise. Get your tickets now and come find out who this mystery person is!
Q: I read on your website, in the “Secrets” section, that one of your guilty pleasures is “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Can’t we, as a culture, just admit that “AFHV” is great and everyone secretly watches it?
A: “AFHV” is amazing, and people need to start being honest about it.