Queermedian Tig Notaro has turned her personal tragedies into stunning comedy… although she’d prefer not to live at ‘rock bottom’
Tig Notaro — comedian, star of Amazon Prime’s One Mississippi and new mom — has no complaints about the ride she’s found herself on as of late. While professional success is nothing new for Notaro, the unexpected loss of her mother and her own battle with cancer has haunted her personal life. But things are looking up for Notaro: She’s found domestic bliss with wife Stephanie Allynne and baby twin boys, Max and Finn.
Notaro is elbows deep in the babymoon and never tires of bragging about the lovely and talented woman she’s found. One might assume that so much happiness at home would be a distraction from work, but she has managed to channel her personal triumphs into even more professional success. Coming off of a recent performance at Carnegie Hall and news that One Mississippi has been picked up for a second season, Notaro knows how lucky she is and gives thanks for every little blessing that comes her way … including a new set for Dallas audiences this week. — Emily McGaughy
Dallas Voice: You recently achieved a career milestone, performing at Carnegie Hall. How was that? Tig Notaro: It was one of the greatest moments of my life, aside from my wedding and my babies being born. It was really something.
It seems like you’ve had a lot of great things happening lately, professionally and personally. How does it feel to have so much success all at the same time? I certainly am aware that I am the lucky one. It feels really great; I don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure. I know how quickly life and work and health and everything can change. In my personal life, Stephanie and I are very good at acknowledging how good things are and how lucky we are — more than once a day.
Speaking of your wife, many were introduced to her through your documentary Tig. Since then she’s appeared in a few films, like People Places Things, and on One Mississippi. How has it been to work together? We love working together. We’re always kind of trying to vie for that possibility in whatever we do. I feel like we inspire each other and I really can’t believe all of the things that I’ve found in one person.
Oh, that’s nice. She’s sitting here listening. She’s also not even looking up. She can’t even crack a smile — just working on something and hearing me gush about her.
It seems like you’ve mastered the art of using personal trials and struggles to create your comedy. Your cancer diagnosis, for instance, resulted in one of the most acclaimed standup sets of all time. Why do you think you do so well professionally when you’re going through difficult times personally? Well, I mean, I was thriving in ways that were obvious. My album was No. 1 around the world and I was getting all sorts of attention, but I wouldn’t say rock bottom is a place where I “thrive.” I feel like it was kind of thrust upon me and I had to do the best that I could. It’s not a place where I would really ever want to be again — in the spotlight when I’m at my lowest. It was definitely tricky.
I know it probably didn’t feel great, but what you put out there was wonderful and much appreciated by your audience. And we’re glad that you’re doing well now. I appreciate that. I’m thrilled that I’m doing well.
In your standup, you have a way of being really smart with how you deliver personal and social commentary. It comes across in a more heartfelt way. Is that on purpose or is that just in your nature? It is heartfelt and I’m glad it comes across that way. That’s how I feel like my TV show is. Stephanie just told me yesterday that she’s always surprised at how sensitive I am. I think I can’t help that it comes out in all that I do. I’m more comfortable with myself and my life. I think it all just comes out. It flows a lot easier.
Back to One Mississippi: I love your stepdad’s character. Yeah, it really is crazy around him, I have to say.
He so obviously loves his children, but maybe doesn’t always know how to say it or show it. I feel like we all know people like that. Is that reality? Is that how he really is or is that a character? It’s definitely how he is. It’s an exaggerated version. He’s changed and come a long way. But when people that know him see that portrayal and know him from years ago, it’s definitely something that people comment on. They’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s Rick.” That’s his name in real life — Bill on the show. It’s a pretty real part of it.
That is a big part of why I love One Mississippi — in a lot of shows about family going through difficult things, it’s delivered where everyone always knows what to say at the right time and that’s just not how it is in real life. It’s very relatable and realistic. Making a show different from the way that we did on One Mississippi didn’t feel right or authentic, I guess. I like the uncomfortable moments — the reality of it all. I feel lucky we were able to express ourselves the way that we did.
Do you feel empowered to make those kinds of choices? Yeah, for sure. As fun and rewarding as it is, there are so many hard aspects to having your own TV show. And there is no part of me — especially what I’ve gone through and what I know now about having a TV show — I would never have the energy, not an ounce of energy, to make anything other than absolutely what I want to make and what I feel passionate about because the hard elements to the business side of it all. It’s not worth it to fight so hard for something that means nothing.
Any ideas on what might be in store for Season 2? No, I just found out a few days ago that we were getting [renewed], and so right now, we’re just really going through the cast and crew — who’s available, who we want to bring back, if we want to bring new people on. There’s really just those elements that are getting locked in place and, in January, we go back into the writers’ room and start writing. I think we’re going to have maybe one or two new voices in the writers’ room. That’s always an unknown of what they’re going to bring to the story because, even though the skeleton of my story is in One Mississippi, there’s a fictionalized element and that only gets added to as people add their take and their part to the story. I have no idea where it’s going to go.
What can we expect from your show in Dallas Saturday? I think I have all-new material from the last time that I was in Dallas. It’s always a mix of stories and jokes and I do a lot of improvisational comedy. I think it’s a decent mix. I know a lot of people know me from having had cancer. There’s nothing about that in this show right now.
Does that bother you that a lot of people know you from having had cancer? Do you ever feel like you always have to talk about cancer? I don’t always have to talk about it. And it doesn’t bother me. Some people know me from my podcasts, from having cancer, from The Sarah Silverman Program, from This American Life. There’s just so many different places that I’ve picked people up. It doesn’t bother me for the different reasons — however they got there is fine with me.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2016.