The first thing you should know about Tig Notaro is she’s funny. Flat out, razor-sharp funny. There are a lot more things you’ll discover when you read about her, the most notable one being her fairly public breast cancer battle. It hit while she was writing for another brilliant comic, Amy Schumer, and Notaro turned it into what all great comics would naturally turn it into: material. That commitment to honesty is what places her in the same echelon of comics like Louis C.K. and Sarah Silverman. Here, she talks about her time managing bands in Denver, missing Phyllis Diller and how she hates high-fives…
French Davis: You’ve got some connections to Colorado. Can you tell me a bit about your time here? I read that you managed bands while you lived here. Which ones?
Tig Notaro: It was years ago. None of the bands are around anymore. My really close friend Tony Achilles was in one of the bands and is now a full-time, amazingly talented painter around Denver. He paints murals all over the city walls and cafes. I think he even still plays in bands here and there. But I enjoyed being in the music scene. I thought I was really happy doing that until I got into comedy. Now everything I did before this seems like nothing. Aside from all that, my brother lives out there. He has his own sports show on the radio. I go on as a guest from time to time. (I’m also) totally uninformed about sports.
FD: The common storyline about you these days centers on your battle against cancer. It’s worked its way into your act, but you’ve also managed to keep it from defining your act. How have you been able to manage that?
TN: I just do what I think is funny, and not do what I think people want or expect. I think it’s important to be authentic. Earlier in my career I was constantly told I needed a “point of view” and an act that could translate to a sitcom. I never understood what that meant, so I just always did what I thought was funny and what I wanted to do on stage. And I certainly touch on some of the hell I experienced last year, but it’s really only a small fraction of my life or ideas that I explore in my comedy.
FD: What’s your writing process like?
TN: I never really actually sit down and write my stand-up. I get an idea of something I want to explore and think could be funny, and then get on stage and start talking and working through it in front of the audience. It helps to keep getting on stage and telling a story or jokes until I can start to see what works, what does not, where the different beats are, etc.
FD: How is the comedy scene different now than when you started?
TN: Phyllis Diller is gone.
FD: What are some things that annoy you?
TN: I don’t really have too many annoyances. I’m not really a fan of high-fiving. I also am not crazy about people being glued to their cellphones. But I guess that’s actually more sad than annoying, though.
FD: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on stage? What did you learn from the experience?
TN: I remember trying to prepare for a TV appearance and over-thinking my set, changing what felt natural to me, and later realizing that trying to give them what I thought they wanted was making everything horrible.
FD: Any hidden gems we should know about?
TN: Heather Lawless. Gem. Know about her.