Tig Notaro: You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry

Mother Jones

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One evening last August, comedian Tig Notaro sat at home in Los Angeles, wondering what she’d tell the crowd at the Largo club. Five months earlier she’d fought off pneumonia only to be waylaid by a gut infection that siphoned 20 pounds off her scrappy frame. Then her mother died and her relationship crumbled. Through it all, she had managed to keep people laughing, but a diagnosis of stage II breast cancer the day before had left her at wit’s end. When the solution finally dawned on her, she couldn’t stop laughing. That night she bounded onstage, waving: “Good evening! Hello. I have cancer! How are you?”

What followed “was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw,” wrote Louis C.K., who posted the set on his website. Soon Notaro was everywhere. She did a segment on This American Life, landed a book deal, released a live recording, and, after a double mastectomy, appeared on Conan and teamed up with comedian pals Kyle Dunnigan and Amy Schumer to write Inside Amy Schumer, a new series that debuts April 30 on Comedy Central.

She’s also set to commence a tour with Dunnigan and comedian David Huntsberger, doing a live version of their popular weekly podcast, Professor Blastoff. I spoke with Notaro, 42, about her Huck Finn childhood, turning tragedy into comedy, and what to say to someone who has cancer. But first, listen to her “No Moleste” shtick…

Mother Jones: So how did this motley crew of comedians end up doing a podcast about religion, science, and philosophy?

Tig Notaro: David and I used to live together, and it seemed like he was always talking about that kind of stuff. And then Kyle and I were inseparable and he was talking about the same stuff. It just came about. I ran into Scott Aukerman, who hosts Comedy Bang Bang. He was just starting his Earwolf Podcast Network. I told him I was considering starting a podcast, and he said, “We’d love for you to be on.”

MJ: Give us the basic premise of Professor Blastoff.

TN: The idea is that we stumbled upon a hatch below Kyle’s house and we found all this old radio equipment, and it used to belong to a professor who built a time machine and got lost in space, and we communicate with him through this equipment, and that spins us off into these topics. We bring in guests that are comedians or doctors, specialists, friends, musicians—we just ask that people be knowledgeable or passionate about the topic. We get a lot of things wrong. It’s just a curiosity conversation, basically. I also describe it as if a teacher never quieted down the class clowns.

MJ: What’s the most eye-opening subject you’ve tackled?

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Tig Notaro: You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry

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