What's up, hot dog! A hearty hello to all my fellow blastronauts, chartists, and other not-yet-coined collective nouns to describe fans of particular podcasts.
With news of her impending departure to New York, I jumped at the chance to see Tig Notaro perform live at one of the most important venues in the SoCal comedy scene, the Largo. It was my first visit there. Its reputation as a sort of test bed, where established comedians and rising stars alike feel comfortable trying new material, is something I've gleaned from hearing everyone from PFT to the Sklars and so on speak about it so glowingly. I showed up early, got my seat assignment (AA18, front row just off-center!), and wandered around Melrose gawking at the absurdly trendy boutiques, returning once the venue was actually 'open'.
While waiting for seating to start, I noticed somebody wearing an Improv4Humans shirt, and I commented on it, thinking it'd just be another fan and I'd share a nod and be on my way. Turns out it was actually Jeff Ullrich, co-founder of this here very site, and we spent about an hour chatting about the podcasts, the comedy scene, and building connections between fans and the performers. Thank you, Jeff, for hanging out with me, and I am sorry that I wasn't able to make the Bang Bang live show tonight. Jeff's a truly genial fellow and while I was initially a bit star-struck (who gets star-struck when meeting a producer? Me, apparently), Jeff seemed genuinely interested in hearing what I, as a fan of Earwolf and of comedy as well, had to say.
The stand-up itself started with brief sets from Mary-Lynn Rajskub (Mr. Show, 24) and Ed Helms (The Hangover). Tig came out next and performed one of the most amazing sets I've ever seen. Anybody who's been listening to Professor Blastoff over the past few months is probably aware that she has gone through a string of personal hardships, most recently being diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, this show was originally supposed to be last Sunday but got postponed because of medical tests. I don't think I'm speaking out of line in mentioning this because, as was immediately apparent, Tig herself wanted us all to know. She came out and announced, "Hello, I'm Tig Notaro. I have cancer. How are you all doing tonight? I have cancer," and the whole set was a deeply personal but also deeply hilarious confessional of all the horrible things she's been dealing with. (I'm probably paraphrasing that a bit.)
To stand in front of any crowd of people and talk about these subjects is very brave, especially when the expectation is you have to be funny about it. I've never heard a comedian speak so openly about some of these subjects, and from a comedic craftsmanship perspective, the sheer amount and quality of the content she prepared was staggering. She prefaced most of the act with the old maxim that comedy is tragedy plus time, and then revealed that her diagnosis had only came a couple days earlier, placing her still squarely in the 'tragedy' portion. And yet, whenever anyone in the audience reacted with sadness, Tig responded bemusedly, at several points stepping down into the audience to console or comfort a few of them.
By bucking the notion of "too soon" when joking about sad situations or tragedies, I got to thinking that the longer we dwell on the negatives, the stronger they become, and here Tig is after pneumonia, a Clostridium difficile infection stemming from antibiotics she was taking for that, then the sudden death of her mother, an emotional break-up, and then the cancer diagnosis, she would not give in to these events and fight back with her best weapon, her humor. She talked about how some of her friends were hesitant to talk with her about their own life troubles, as though Tig's problems were so great as to invalidate their own, to be not worth mentioning. She still cared about the stupid everyday things happening to her friends, and she still wanted to be talked to, and that people's perception of her suffering seemed to be trapping her. In a way, it felt like this performance was a catharsis, a chance to speak out and engage with people even under the shadow of her problems.
This was not the end of the show, though, and she was followed by Bill Burr (somebody I've not really heard much from before), and comedy's current surprise superstar, Louis CK. Louis mentioned that Tig's performance would live on for him as one of the best stand-up performances he'd ever seen, and I definitely gotta agree with him.
The whole event was billed as "Tig Has Friends", a dry twist on the "Headliner & Friends" billing one might see for a compilation show as this was, but by the time Tig's set was over and everyone was giving a standing ovation, it was clear that she does have friends, and we in the audience were among them.
Thank you, Tig, for connecting with us in that dark and inspiring me to share my thoughts, and again, Jeff, thank you for fostering this network and introducing me and fans around the world to some truly brilliant comedians.