Comedian Tig Notaro set to perform at 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Comic diagnosed with breast cancer hoping for a relatively calm Edinburgh debut
This article is from 2013.
After a dramatic and scary 2012, Tig Notaro is hoping for a relatively calm Edinburgh debut. Murray Robertson talks to the comic who inadvertently sparked an online storm
Over four short months last year, Tig Notaro was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, caught pneumonia and contracted the potentially fatal bug Clostridium difficile. As if that wasn’t enough, a long-term relationship ended and her mother died in a freak accident. While most of us would quite reasonably hide under the covers and sob, Notaro came out fighting. Two days after her cancer diagnosis, she performed a now-legendary set at the West Hollywood club Largo where she announced to a stunned audience: ‘Good evening, hello! I have cancer, how are you?’
‘I thought it would be an awkward evening and I was worried the audience might not get it,’ remembers Notaro. ‘There were certainly awkward moments but the audience was fully with me and it was nothing like what I had anticipated. I knew that I had to do that show just because it was in me to do. I remember standing on stage and thinking that it was a very special moment in time. I certainly didn’t think it was going to be released as a CD or change my life or career.’
By serendipity, two things came together that night. Her friend Louis CK was backstage and witnessed the drama unfold. He later tweeted: ‘In 27 years doing this, I’ve only seen a handful of truly great, masterful stand-up sets. One was Tig Notaro last night.’ Furthermore, the venue had recorded the gig and a few months later Louis CK sold copies of the recording on his website for $5 a pop on behalf of his friend. With over 75,000 copies sold, it’s fair to say the response has stunned Notaro. ‘There were a handful of friends and family I had told but it was certainly the gigantic announcement that I didn’t mean to happen,’ she says. ‘But it ended up being OK. Because I’m not on Twitter, I didn’t think about the possibility of the different comedians and audience members tweeting about it or blogging, so it really surprised me the way it caught fire on the internet.’
Since that fateful night, Notaro has dialled back on her gigging schedule but when she does take the stage she tries not to let her illness dominate the set. ‘I’ve just been doing whatever feels right. I understand people might know me now because of that show and might want to hear more, but then once I start, I realise that I just have to have faith that they’re going to like me, regardless of what I talk about. I’ve touched on cancer in the show but I’m also the comedian I’ve always been and I don’t think that’s going to change.’
As an Edinburgh Fringe virgin, Notaro is excited about visiting and performing: ‘It’s going to be a mix of ridiculous things and some jokes and stories about what’s been going on in my life.’ Although Notaro says she’s slowed down somewhat to get her life and health back in order, a cavalcade of projects looks set to dominate her time. As well as a podcast, national tour and a long-gestating book, she has a documentary crew following her around. After her annus horribilis, 2013 is shaping up nicely. ‘It’s been remarkably better than 2012. There are still tough times but I can’t complain at all.’
Tig Notaro: Boyish-Girl Interrupted, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square, 0131 622 6552, 16–25 Aug, 6.45pm, £14–£15 (£13–£14).