Tig Notaro: Comedy Meets Tragedy

May 18, 2015

When comedian Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer she did what most of us would never dream of doing, she went on stage and told the packed house at the Los Angeles comedy club Largo the news. her cancer diagnosis was the culmination of a long line of tragic events that happened over a very short period of time in 2012, and even though she initially thought of backing out of the gig, unsure of what her routine would be, she realized she needed to acknowledge what she was going through.

"I was really at rock bottom. And so I could not bring myself to get on stage with a cancer diagnosis, and a skeletal frame of a body, and just be like: 'Oh my gosh, so I was traveling the other day!' You know? And just make light hearted jokes? I felt like I had something massive staring me in the face and I needed to acknowledge it." 

I felt like I had something massive staring me in the face and I needed to acknowledge it.

For a public figure, Notaro has always been a very private person and while she was not inclined to share intimate details of her life in the past, something changed after she was diagnosed. 

"This is what blew the doors off of privacy, and making me realize that it helped me to communicate. It helps every situation to be open and vulnerable and communicative. Every door opened in my personal life, my love life, my career, my family, my friends. There's rarely any time in life where you withhold and really see a pay off."

She's currently the subject of a Showtime documentary about her life and her cancer treatment called Tig. Seeing the film made her realize she was, in fact, a risk taker. "After I watched the movie I was like, 'Wow! I take chances and I take serious risks and I didn't realize that about my personality." Virginia asked if cheating death has emboldened her to try new things, and she said she realizes now that she's always been a person who tries new things, but she also sees life differently now. "I think cheating death makes me more open to be celebrating daily things and anniversaries, birthdays, just any celebratory moment."

It helps every situation to be open and vulnerable and communicative.

Tig Notaro is a stand-up comedian and soon-to-be memoirist. You can see her perform at the HOP at Dartmouth this Wednesday. She’ll also be performing at the Wilbur theatre in Boston on May 31st. 

Tig Notaro