In 2012, comedian Tig Notaro went through a series of intense, significant personal crises that would be overwhelming in a four-year stretch, much less in merely four months. In a matter of a few months, Notaro faced a break-up, a sudden death in the family and two potentially fatal ailments. And in the middle of all of that, she had a stand-up gig at Largo in Los Angeles.
The rest, as the cliché says, is history.
Notaro ended up delivering a set of both heartbreaking and hilarious honesty, making light of an onslaught of dark. With the help and support of comic superstar Louis C.K., the show instantly became a comedy classic and rocketed her into popularity, with profiles in the likes of GQ, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly, an appearance in Lake Bell’s acclaimed film "In A World…" and a Grammy nomination for her 2014 album, "LIVE."
The buzz hasn’t calmed down either. 2015 is lined up to be a big year, with a new Showtime TV show called "Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro," a Ted Talk and a memoir all set to arrive throughout the year. Before all that, though, it’s time for more stand-up for Notaro, including a set Thursday night at the Turner Hall Ballroom. OnMilwaukee.com chatted with Notaro about her famous set and everything that’s come after.
OnMilwaukee.com: When did you realize that being a comedian was an actual, viable career for you?
Tig Notaro: Elementary school, probably second grade. One of my first jokes was this gem: What consists of a navel army? Bellybuttons! It’s still one of my strongest jokes to this day.
OMC: Who were the comedians you looked up to?
TN: I was always a huge fan of stand-up as a kid: Paula Poundstone and Richard Pryor. My mother and I would always watch Joan Rivers when she hosted "The Tonight Show," and it was always such an event to experience together. It was a fantasy of mine to pursue comedy as a career, but I never in a million years thought it would ever, ever be a possibility.
OMC: What will be some of the main topics that will be in this brand new hour of comedy that your tour is based around?
TN: 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 even more personal events. There's also just plain and simple ridiculousness, and that will always be there.
OMC: Did you feel any pressure to match or live up to your now legendary stand-up performance at Largo from 2012?
TN: I think the pressure I felt after that set was more the pressure I typically will put on myself with creating a new hour of stand-up. There is no way I could possibly follow up that CD.
OMC: How did you find the courage to talk about such difficult and emotionally raw topics? And in such a manner that was both powerful and humorous?
TN: I had been in the middle of a horrific four months, and my reality had become so dark. I had contracted this potentially deadly illness called c-diff, my mother had passed away after a freak accident, my girlfriend and I split up, and then I was diagnosed with cancer. To discuss anything other than what I was going through in my real life would have been inauthentic, so I tried to make light of what was going on. It ultimately really helped me process things. I feel forever grateful – especially to that crowd that night. They really carried me through it all.
OMC: How do crowds handle you talking and joking so candidly about your experience with cancer? Is there anything you've noticed that helps them relax into laughing, or is it still something you have to somewhat play by show?
TN: Well, that was a time and place performance, so my sets now are not nearly as heavy – if at all. I mean, I touch on what I went through but only briefly.
OMC: Where did you come up with the premise for your upcoming "Knock Knock, It's Tig Notaro"?
TN: It is an idea I had for a while and even did this on the road quite a bit in previous years. It’s me doing shows at my fans homes, rooftops, barns, basements – you name it. Before last year, it was never something that was filmed by a network to air, and being that these shows I previously did were so fun, I thought this could be a great idea for TV.
OMC: What was your recently recorded Ted Talk about, and what was that experience like?
TN: It was an incredible experience and felt really honored to be invited and proud to have such a cool opportunity. My talk was about the unknown, about how we all face the unknown and the fear that can sometimes stem from the unknown. And how that theme of the unknown has related to my life, stand-up comedy and those horrible four months that I went through. It all ties in really well, I think.
OMC: Any tips for any aspiring comedians out there?
TN: Get up on stage constantly. Like, now. Why are you even reading this? You should be on stage.
OMC: Have you ever been to Milwaukee before, and do you have any fun or interesting stories from your times here?
TN: I have only been once, while I was opening for Sarah Silverman on tour. I honestly and genuinely have always been fascinated with the city and would love to check it out more than we got to the first time around.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.