I first caught Tig Notaro, an openly lesbian comedian, a few months back when she did a bit on Conan that absolutely killed. KILLED. She nailed the deadpan, and her physical comedy was awkward enough to elicit laughs from simple object work but edited and concise enough that she knew the perfect moment to end it before it went on too long and stopped being funny.
Well, Notaro has fallen on some hard times: not only has she recently lost her mother, but she’s also been diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. Anyone else would crumble under something like this. Instead, she turned it into one of the funniest, most heartbreakingly human comedy segments ever.
“Tragedy + time = comedy. But I don’t have the benefit of time. So I’m just going to tell you the tragedy and know that everything is going to be okay.”
So began Tig Notaro’s set last night at her show Tig and Friends at the Largo.
Actually, that wasn’t the beginning of her set. It began when Ed Helms welcomed her to the stage and she crossed over, took the microphone and said, “Thank you, thank you, I have cancer, thank you, I have cancer, really, thank you.”
Applause gave way to reticent laughter as she explained how she had planned a set about bees flying alongside her car on the 405, but that she couldn’t possibly do her “silly jokes” when all this was going on. And that’s when she told us that 3 days ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, in both breasts.
But she didn’t just have cancer. She went on to explain that in some manic twist of fate, while her career is at an all-time high — she is moving to New York to work on Amy Schumer’s new television show, she was on This American Life — concurrently, all these terrible circumstances have befallen her over the past 3 months: pneumonia made way for a debilitating bacterial infection in her digestive tract for which she was hospitalized and lost 30 pounds off of her already small frame, days after being released from the hospital, her young mother died suddenly and tragically (fell, hit her head, died), then she and her partner broke up, and then, now, cancer. In both breasts. (“You have a lump.” “No, doctor, that’s my breast.” — one of her most renowned bits is about someone remarking upon her small breasts) [via Kira Hesser’s tumblr]
Holy crap, Tig Notaro is the single best person ever. Seriously, there are very few people who would take on all of that and come out the other side still standing, but turning that experience into humour and sharing it with other people? That takes a fuckload of guts. Well, I’m hoping Notaro will be fine, because anyone who can grab life by the horns like that deserves to live long and prosper.