In previewing stand-up comedian Tig Notaro’s live showcase at Punch Line Comedy Club for Philadelphia Weekly, I wrote that I wasn’t always attracted to the lithe comic’s style in the past, something cold, folksy and fireside chat-conversational that often lacked in its laughable payoff. Now, I don’t ever a punchline to hit me over the head, but a humorous denouement, one that doesn’t drift into the ether… give me something. That said, I always appreciated Notaro’s dark demeanor and her dry, wry set of jokes focused on her being diagnosed with cancer in both breasts in 2012.
What is interesting about Notaro’s cancer diagnosis – one she once poked mean, edged fun of at my favorite Los Angeles comedy club, Largo at the Coronet – is how fellow stand-up comedian Louis C.K. (a man who knows how to make profitable lemonade out of life’s lemons) asked to release the audio of the Largo show on his website, then again, on iTunes and becoming a huge seller upon its release.
“Hello, good evening, I have cancer,” went its first lines and from there, Notaro went from cool to hot, from cold to warm and enveloping while still courting the darkness: bringing levity to the heavy became her game.
Moving from distant to up-close and personal, perhaps I should try Notaro again – especially as this show was her single warm up gig before taping her next stand-up special for 2023 streaming purposes.
I’m glad I did.
Along with reminding audiences of her roles as Human Federation Starfleet Officer Jett Reno on Star Trek: Discovery, in Army of the Dead, and (after an awkward, self-medicated meeting with actress Reese Witherspoon’s production company (which wound up resulting in the currently #1 Netflix rom-com) Your Place or Mine in which Tig has a prominent role) Notaro pursued an agenda of being a warmer, less distant stand-up comedian from the one I encountered previously. Maybe even downright sillier when it came to the end of her test run.
“I’m just thoroughly amused by mundane, sometimes boring, or also irritating to some,” Notaro told the Los Angeles Times in 2022. “I’m a big fan of nonsense, ridiculousness and earnestness somehow all mixed together.”
Working out the bugs of some of her bits that she revealed, first, on tour throughout 2022 (the post-pandemic “Hello, Again” shows), Notaro willingly made light of her sexual orientation (Tig is lesbian, married and with chlldren) by talking about taking ill, having to face a rescue squad, and finding herself attracted to the beefiest, most muscled, most mustachioed specimen of cisgender machismo while being carried out of her home in his well-toned arms.
The absurdity of married life with a fellow actor/writer/artist and having their children play favorites between the parents (with Notaro on the losing end) played into a prominent theme with Notaro’s show – Tig as the Underdog, a woman now part of the Hollywood machine, but still somewhat at odds with it all. Singing Adele’s “Hello” during a karaoke moment at a celebrity-laden party – with Adele present – became an hypnotic, extended riff, an absolute tease wondering is Notaro would actually repeat the karaoke performance (she didn’t). This is a thing with Notaro – promising a musical moment that never comes off, such as the anticipation of an Indigo Girls appearance during her 2018 show “Happy to Be Here” only to tell her audience at the end that they should go buy Indigo Girls tickets on their own time.
To that end, Notaro was like a Pharaoh Saunders rolling her notes repetitively into submission, finding the melody and rhythmic pulse at every angle of the joke… that mundane thing of which she is fond. Staying with the musical theme, Notaro happily hammered tunelessly on an electric piano while making jokes about her high-minded prowess on the 88s while taking song requests from her audience. This playing-not-playing was ever-so-juvenile, it gave me new insight int Notaro’s comic skill sets – she’s goofy.
Between the stand-up comedian’s on-stage level of chaos and that of a sold-out room filled with adults yelling “Free Bird” and Debbie Gibson – to say nothing of her newfound warmth – I can’t wait to see (again) what Tig Notaro is up to for 2023.
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