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GregJ.Hansen

Tig Has Friends - Largo, 8/3/2012

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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.

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What an awesome experience you got to have.

 

Here's another great article I read about it by Flamelikeme on tumblr:

“Tragedy + time = comedy. But I don’t have the benefit of time. So I’m just going to tell you the tragedy and know that everything is going to be okay.”

So began Tig Notaro’s set last night at her show “Tig and friends” at the Largo.

Actually, that wasn’t the beginning of her set. It began when Ed Helms welcomed her to the stage and she crossed over, took the microphone, and said “Thank you, thank you, I have cancer, thank you, I have cancer, really, thank you.”

Applause gave way to reticent laughter as she explained how she had planned a set about bees flying alongside her car on the 405, but that she couldn’t possibly do her “silly jokes” when all this was going on. And that’s when she told us that 3 days ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, in both breasts.

But she didn’t just have cancer. She went on to explain that in some manic twist of fate, while her career is at an all-time high — she is moving to New York to work on Amy Schumer’s new television show, she was on This American Life — while concurrently, all these terrible circumstances have befallen her over the past 3 months: pneumonia made way for a debilitating bacterial infection in her digestive tract for which she was hospitalized and lost 30 pounds off of her already small frame, days after being released from the hospital, her young mother died suddenly and tragically (fell, hit her head, died), then she and her girlfriend broke up, and then, now, cancer. In both breasts. (“You have a lump.” “No, doctor, that’s my breast.” — one of her most renowned bits is about

)

For the first half of her set, even though she was telling the story in perfect grace and humor, I couldn’t laugh. For the second half, for the first time in my life, as far as I can recall, I genuinely laughed and cried at the exact same time, bewildered at the tragedy and the remarkably calm, clever prism through which she assessed her terrible set of circumstances.

While telling us anecdotes from this personal tragedies, all along the way, she assured the audience “it’s okay, I’m going to be okay.” At one part, when she reached a dark place wherein most of the audience could not find the will to laugh, she said “maybe I’ll just go back to telling jokes about bees. Should I do that?” there were several “NOs” and one insistent loud male voice who cried out

“NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE.”

She looked genuinely taken aback, and relieved. She’d managed to make the tragic not only palatable but overwhelmingly engaging. She’d done it.

Tig’s been one of my favorite comedians for a couple of years now. I told her how much I loved her work after a set at UCB one night, and she received my words so kindly that she came towards me and gave me a hug. I’ve gone downtown to bars by myself and sat for hours alone, just waiting to see her headlining set.

At the end of her routine last night, everyone in the audience gave her a standing ovation, for me her wowed, grateful, happy face blurry with my own salty eyes. She’d released her horrific story into the hearts of her fans. I’m sure we all felt like I did; we were made witness to a truly historical moment in comedy, by one of the industry’s of comedy’s absolute greatest.

Bill Burr followed her set, inexplicably able to make the whole audience uproarious with laughter by the end. Bill Burr then brought on Louis C.K., the surprise guest of the night, which was a shock - it was my first time ever seeing him live - but it was very difficult to give him my enrapt attention after Tig’s on-stage confessions.

My head is still swimming around what happened last night. We all saw the ultimate embodiment of what comedy is supposed to do: deeply personal tragedies somehow transformed, with the enormous, necessary power of an open-hearted audience, into brilliantly-written truths that we’ll all take home with us and keep with us as long as we’ll have a sound-enough mind to remember that show. If schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, we all shuffled into another corner last night, schedenfreude’s cousin; we’re not laughing at you, we’re crying with you but trying very hard to accept this avalanche of misfortune through the more edible prism of humor.

I’m so grateful I could bear witness to what happened last night, and more than that I’m grateful to comedy and to Tig Notaro for being not only bold enough and not only spirited enough but for being so endlessly, achingly HONEST with all of us, the stunned, mouth-breathing strangers in the dark.

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So does this mean she does officially have it now? I know after the last PB they were hoping that tests may show she didn't, but she does have it? =(

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I just saw on the Huffington Post (here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/04/tig-notaro-breast-cancer_n_1742071.html) that the biopsies did indeed come back positive. I would be fine with never hearing Professor Blastoff again if she would just be okay. Just knowing her through her comedy, I can't imagine what those that actually know and love her personally, are going through.

 

I agree with slothborn, I am sure if she needs money we can raise it pretty quickly. I hate that all of this feels so negative already. Does anyone else feel that way? Like the comments and CK's comments and all of this feels like we're talking about her like she isn't going to make it. I hate that.

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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 wearin

g 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.

 

Greg - Thanks for the kind words, it was such a pleasure to meet you. And thank you for your thoughtful write-up about such a special night, it will stay with me forever. We love you so durn much, Tig.

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