Tig Notaro is brave and amazing.
Louis C.K.’s newest offering for sale on his website is an audio recording of a recent set from comedian Tig Notaro. I subscribe to Louis’s site, which means occasionally when he’s selling something he thinks his fans will like, he sends one very obviously self-authored email telling me to go buy some shit for $5. And it’s usually totally awesome and then he doesn’t bother me again until he’s selling some more awesome shit for $5 (really, everything he’s sold through his website is $5. So don’t pirate. It’s dumb).
So last week, I get an email telling me that he’s selling an audio file for a comedian that isn’t him.
In his own words:
Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn’t seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied “well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad.” She wasn’t kidding. I said “uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you… Have your family… Helping?”. She said “well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died”. She still wasn’t kidding.
Now, I’m pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn’t know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. “jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly.”. She said “I value you highly too, Louie.”. Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said “I’m gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It’s probably going to be a mess”. I said “wow”. And with that, she went on stage.
I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience “hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I’m going to die soon”. What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can’t really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life. Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying “wow. Right?”. She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example. So generous.
This is for real. And what happens in this 30+ minute set is both hilarious and unbelievably moving. It is, in my opinion, even more than an example of what comedy can be, because the audience, in an awesome display of being completely un-douchey, sat there with equally unwavering generosity and allowed Tig to open this window into her personal life without a SINGLE PERSON being shitty about her not telling silly jokes. It is all together strange, beautiful, surprising, reassuring, tragic, and hilarious; a glimpse into how comedy can make everyone else be better.
So, Louis… thanks for selling me your shit for $5. And to everyone else… go buy some shit for $5.
Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to… Enjoy.