Tig Notaro is a very lucky comedian to be the subject of two documentaries in the same year.
Wow, you think, she must be doing something right.
She is: She’s surviving. More than that, she’s thriving. And she’s very, very funny.
Earlier this year, Showtime aired the first documentary about the Mississippi-born comic called “Knock Knock, It’s Tig,” which followed Notaro around the country as she did house concerts for groups of people in small towns, urban neighborhoods and even a corn field.
In a way, the newer film, “Tig,” available Friday on Netflix, could be called a prequel to “Knock Knock” because it takes us back to the time when Notaro’s entire world seemed to come crashing down.
While preparing a stage version of “This American Life” with Ira Glass, she was diagnosed with the extreme intestinal infection known as C. diff. A week after she was finally able to leave the hospital, her mother fell, hit her head, seemed to be fine, but died 12 hours after she was disconnected from life support. Around this time, Notaro was planning to explore having a child, but then developed cancer in both breasts and underwent a double mastectomy. She also broke up with the woman she had been seeing.
All of this became a prelude to what is remembered by everyone who saw it as a tour de force of courage and comedy at LA’s Largo in 2012.
She wanted to fulfill the club commitment but what would she say?
Plenty. Her set began – famously, as it turned out– with the words, “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer.”
Cameras weren’t allowed to film the set, but comic Louis C.K. was there to capture it on audio, which he later made available for downloading.
You’ll hear pieces of that historic night in “Tig,” as well as Notaro’s candid discussions of what was going through her mind in the weeks leading up to that date, in the film written by Jennifer Arnold and directed by Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York.
The pile of calamities in Notaro’s life was devastating, but as she talks about them, you come to understand that, in a way, surviving one challenge strengthened her to deal with the next.
On the other hand, she could recover from disease, but there was no recovery from the loss of her mother, which has clearly left a void in her life.
As Notaro re-assembled her career, she gradually re-assembled her personal life in the process.
You could conclude that nothing seems to be easy in Tig Notaro’s life, but that’s not because she’s unlucky as much as it’s because she is determined to live her life and maintain control of her own destiny.