Tig Notaro: “It’s Not Like I Take Myself Too Seriously, Like Some Kind of Truth-Teller Comedian Now”


Tig Notaro is busy. You wouldn’t think 2013 would feel very busy for the comedian after the year she had in 2012. Notaro’s last year seemed as though it contained a lifetime’s worth of tragedy in a few short months. Her year included contracting pneumonia, then a life-threatening intestinal disease, her mother’s death in a freak accident, breaking up with her girlfriend, and, just when it seemed like the bad news was over, last August she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In response she delivered what is a now legendary set at the West Hollywood comedy club Largo. This garnered high praise from a multitude of people, many of whom were comedians, including Louie CK, who convinced her to sell the performance on his website–it was later widely released. After treatment that included a double mastectomy, she is in remission. Now, less than six months later, she is a cult icon: writing a book, writing on a new comedy series, and co-hosting the popular podcast Professor Blastoff, which began a nation-wide live tour. Oh, and there’s a documentary crew following her around.
You mentioned on the podcast that while living in New York to write for Amy Schumer’s new Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, which premiered last week–a strange thing happened to you. Therefore, I want to start off with probably my most important question, have you had any more filthy old white poodles meander into your apartment seemingly from nowhere?

I have not. I have not, yeah. I’m back in Los Angeles and that filthy poodle was in New York.

You were in New York writing on Amy Schumer’s new show. How was that?

It was great. It was just a room full of comedy friends, and then that wrapped up in end of December and then I moved back here. I think it will be really good.

Have you’ve been doing comedy dates?

I have not been touring myself. I did one show in Iowa City and I have some different shows here and there sporadically.

The Professor Blastoff podcast tour starts soon. Are you excited for that?

I’m really looking forward to it. This is our first tour. We’ve only done one or two before this, but never just gone out on a full-blown tour.

How do you come up with the subjects for the podcast?

One of us will mention an idea and there are a lot of suggestions online. We’ll meet people that want to come in as a guest. There are several different ways. Something will come up in a conversation on an episode and then we’ll say we need to do an episode on that.

Do you have conversations like that when you’re not on the podcast, or do you say, “Oh that’s a podcast conversation”?

Here and there, I actually haven’t hung out with Kyle and David [her podcast co-hosts] socially in a while just because we’ve all been so busy. Things come up all the time. Whether we’re on the podcast or off, it naturally comes up and ends up on the show.

As far as the podcast tour, do you know what you’re going to be talking about at each of the dates, or is that sort of up in the air?

David [one of the hosts] he’s handling that. He’s more hands-on with all the topics and guests and all that kind of stuff. He’s been organizing that aspect. I’m kind of more doing press. We all are doing our part to bring it together.

Do you listen to any other podcasts?

I don’t, nothing regularly. Somebody will mention something, “you have to hear this episode,” like on the show, and I’ll come in and check something out, but I haven’t followed any podcasts really.

I might listen to an episode of This American Life or Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. I’m horrible at following things. Honestly, I don’t know how anybody has time to follow anything.

Are you also not a big TV and movie watcher?

No, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t know how people follow things. I don’t know how anybody has time to, I’ve had a stack of movies and pilots and TV shows that I’ve needed to watch for work and it’s taken me three or four weeks. Last night, I finally was able to watch one. I just don’t know how people find the time. I’m busy all during the day, and then have shows at night that I’ll do. When people have these TV shows and podcasts that they love, honestly, I’m baffled how they can follow all of these things all the time.

Well, some people are probably less busy than you are. What are your days like now?

Well, I’m writing a book. I have a lot of meetings. I have a lot of doctor’s appointments. I have shows that I pop into; I’m doing a lot of unannounced appearances locally in Los Angeles.

I have to work out new material. And I’ve been shooting interviews for Entertainment Weekly. I have a lot of press still. A lot of interviews and photo shoots. My days are just completely packed. So I’m looking forward to the tour to actually do the shows, but also kind of to get on the road, get away from things, and hang out with friends.

Are you tired of doing press and talking about your life and the past year?

I mean, I’m certainly okay with it, and I appreciate it. But it’s become like a part of my–you know, it’s funny because when all of this first started, back in August, I thought there was going to be a couple of weeks of press and what, it’s been eight months? It hasn’t stopped at all. And I’m a little shocked.

I saw your most recent appearance on Conan when you were talking about “remembering to remain present”. I get that it was a hilarious bit, but was it also kind of playing with people’s expectations? Like maybe they might be thinking you’re going to come out and say something somber and wise, because you’ve been through all this serious stuff?

It was several different things. I came up with the idea back in May before I was even diagnosed with cancer. I was walking down the street. I was in New York filming This American Life, the live broadcast that they did in movie theaters, and it hit me how funny it would be to just text while I was on the couch with Conan.

So I had it in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do and I, you know, I’m certainly guilty of it. I have a blackberry and because I’m not home a lot sitting in front of a computer, I do a lot of work on my phone, so. But I try to be, when I’m talking to somebody, or when I’m hanging out with somebody or having a meal, I try to not be, you know, watching my phone.

So that does bother me when people can’t separate for a second. Then, after I went through all that–after I went through that four-month period of time–I thought it was a good thing to do. I knew Conan wanted to ask me, you know, how my health was and everything. I figured that might be a funny way to say: ‘I’m doing well.’
And then, I really have learned about all those clichéd elements. Going through something like that, I learned how precious time and people are. So yeah, it was definitely layered.

He didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing. He knew I was going to be checking my phone or something. It was fun to watch later because when I got off stage people were saying ‘Gosh, Conan was really cracking up.’ And I thought I remembered that he was, but everything happened so fast. And it was fun to watch later and see he really genuinely was cracking up. I think it was just, he really didn’t know what to expect or what was going on.

So you’re writing this book, how is it going? Does writing about your life change the way you view it?

Well, I’m writing about that four month period in my life and sort of spinning off from there. There’s some kind of more real-time stuff that I’m writing about, like dating. But more so it’s that four month period of time and spinning off from there, to my childhood, my mother.

Are you currently being filmed for a documentary about your life?

Yeah, there are people making a documentary right now. They made me an executive producer and I’m involved in the way that I’ve been going to meetings and giving them access to archival footage of my stand-up. But, yeah, they’re following me around, going to my doctor’s appointments, on the road here and there, and hanging out with friends, at shows, all that kind of stuff.

How is that?

It’s fine. An old friend of mine is who is running the whole thing. It’s her idea. It’s her baby and so she’s a good friend and it’s a pretty small crew. Everybody who is involved is really great; so far it’s really not been a problem. It’s not like they’re living with me or anything, you know?

The last thing I wanted to ask you about was your comedy. Has it changed in any lasting way? Or do you approach it differently now?

I think there are elements. There are probably elements with my comedy where I may be a little more honest or revealing. I mean my comedy was never dishonest before. I would say, in a general sense, it hasn’t really changed–the core of who I am and what I think is funny.

Like I love silliness, and that hasn’t gone away. It’s not like I take myself too seriously, like some kind of truth-teller comedian now. I think it’s just pretty much me, with maybe a little more revealing who I am and my personal life. But it’s all still wrapped up in 100% silliness.