5 Reasons Why You Need to Jump on the Tig Notaro Bandwagon

Photo: Netflix

In Tig, the documentary about comedian Tig Notaro that premiered on Netflix a few weeks ago, Stephanie Allynne, Tig’s fiancée, texts her early on in their courtship: “I don’t know how to casually say this, so f**k it...Personally, your humor is my favorite and I don’t think there is anyone funnier than you.” I couldn’t agree more.

Between Tig and Boyish Girl Interrupted, her stand-up comedy special that recently debuted on HBO, Notaro is everywhere these days. And she should be, because she’s the best. Here are just  a few reasons why:

1. She does deadpan like nobody else.

I first came to love Tig after hearing her Taylor Dayne piece on This American Life in the spring of 2012, where she talks about repeatedly running into the '80s pop singer, which is a big deal because she’s a huge fan. In an email I sent to friends a few months later that included the clip, I wrote, “SO hilarious. Part of her charm, btw, I think, is how cra-cra dry she is.” (Yup, outing myself on cra-cra.) And it’s true—her delivery is so dry, which is what makes it so great.

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In her HBO special, she recounts the time when a perplexed audience member explained to her (mid-show) that she should end her jokes with, “I’m just kidding!” Tig smiles, amused. Deadpan has become her trademark. The success of her now-iconic “cancer set" at Largo in August 2012 can largely be attributed to it, as can the topless performance post-double mastectomy during her HBO special. After she takes her shirt off, she never addresses it again. Because that’s the thing about deadpan—it’s all in the delivery, and Tig’s got it down.

2. She got her confidence from her mom, who was a serious badass.

During her notoriously terrible 2012, one of the things that befalls Tig (aside from cancer) is losing her mother. There’s a scene in the documentary where she describes her mom as “hilarious, very silly and ridiculous,” while a montage of photos plays in the background. It’s impossible to watch without getting teary-eyed, but I lose it by the time she says this: “She had this fierce inner strength. When I had issues as a kid, like, ‘Oh, this is happening,’ she would always be like, you know, ‘Tell them to go to hell! If they have a problem, tell them to go to hell!’ And it just, it gave me this confidence to not question myself or doubt myself.” It’s this same clip where Tig says her humor “is directly tied to her [mother’s] sensibility.” Well done, mom.

3. Her Moth set, “R2 Where Are You,” about bonding with her stepfather in the wake of her mother’s death, is one of the most touching I’ve seen.

Early in the set, she talks about how her stepfather, Ric, who she describes as “stoic” and “emotionless,” suggested she quit comedy and go to business school, “like, even just a couple of years ago when my career was going fine and I was making good money.” Years later, in the car ride home after her mom’s funeral, Ric, crying, apologizes for having said that. “I’m realizing that it’s not the child’s responsibility to teach the parent who they are. It’s the parent’s responsibility to learn who the child is. And I didn’t do that, and I’m sorry.” He goes on to say that comedy is the only thing she should be doing, and in that moment she realizes how desperately she had needed to hear that. At the end of the bit, she has happily embraced both Ric and their different ways of doing things.

4. Her struggle to write new material after her cancer set is painful and endearing to watch, but it’s so rewarding when she finds her way back.

After killing it with her Largo set, the kind of set that’s unrepeatable by design, Tig is flooded with attention, which, she admits, is amazing, but also overwhelming. What follows is what-now syndrome. “It was truly starting over. I felt like I was a brand-new comedian,” she says in Tig. We watch as she goes through the motions of performing again, slowly and uncomfortably, until she says she has a night where she struggles on stage like she hasn’t in years. It puts a fire under her.

Over the next five months, as she gears up for the Largo anniversary show, the one with which this documentary begins and ends, we watch her start to regain momentum and confidence. Afterward, she reflects on it with almost childlike wonder. “I couldn’t believe I was back onstage doing an hour of material. I felt like the intro to Mary Tyler Moore. I felt like I tossed my hat in the air, and I just felt like I was back!” We’re so glad to hear it.

5. Not only did Tig’s comedy change after her Largo set, but she changed too, for the better.

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After being told she can’t carry a child for five years, and finding a potential surrogate via her podcast, she responds very frankly when the couple asks what her dream surrogate scenario is. She says over Skype, “After this crazy year that I had, one of the really positive things that came from it is being more open to people than I’ve ever been...This is not something I would have done a year ago. I was so much more closed off...” And the thing is, you can see in her face that she really is that open, and it’s inspiring. Also, she found a potential surrogate through her podcast, which maybe no one else is able to say.

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