- Claire Sawers
- 27 August 2013
This article is from 2013.
The American comedian, famous for publicly discussing her breast cancer, proves she has more to say
Tig Notaro is a grand master of the wind-up. The drawn-out set-ups, the laboured pauses, the controlled nonchalance – it’s all part of her finely honed delivery, a masterclass in pacing and calm. Her soothing, diazepam-dose of a voice is the Fringe antidote to frenzied, hyperventilating stand-ups, careering through material, and missing the exit for the belly laughs as they go.
But Notaro’s expert, very funny stand-up routines are probably the second thing you’ll hear people talking about. The first thing they’ll mention is more likely to be her cancer – bilateral breast cancer to be precise, first diagnosed on 3 August last year. The bad news bookended a particularly shitty few months in her life; beginning with her mother’s unexpected death, and followed by a relationship break-up.
Shell-shocked, Notaro announced the cancer the following night in her show, live on stage in an LA comedy club. With hilarious results. Literally.
The blend of brutal truth and tinder-dry humour sparked a media publicity fire, fanned by Louis CK declaring that brave performance as ‘truly masterful’ and making a recording of the infamous gig available to download on his website.
Notaro featured in the NPR podcast This American Life soon after, found herself reviewed by every US broadsheet and magazine going, and watched as an album version recording of that particular show (titled Live, as in ‘not die’, rather than ‘perform live’) was voted number one comedy album everywhere from Entertainment Weekly to The Onion AV Club.
She was already famous in the States, having done the career-affirming Las Vegas run, and spots on US TV shows like Conan, The Office and The Sarah Silverman Program, but this catapulted her into international hype-orbit.
Breast cancer gags make up roughly three minutes of her debut Fringe show though. She’s clearly made the wise decision to step out of that pitying/adulatory limelight, and focus on what she does best: unsentimental, competent, offbeat and absurd comedy. With or without the back story, just enjoy a master-at-work.
Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until Sun 25 Aug, 6.45pm, £15 (£14), tignotaro.com