‘Hello, I have cancer’: Tig Notaro shares pain in acclaimed comedy routine
BY JAKE COYLE October 25, 2012 8:14PM
This 2012 photo released by The Daily shows comedian Tig Notaro. After starting her comedy routine with ìGood evening! Hello. I have cancer. How are you?î, Notaro launched into a 30-minute performance that immediately became legendary in comedy circles and that's now available as an unlikely live album via a $5 digital release by comedian Louis C.K. In just a week, it's sold more than 60,000 copies. (AP Photo/Kate Lacey for The Daily)
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:22AM
A frightfully nervous Tig Notaro stood just offstage at the Los Angeles club Largo while Ed Helms introduced her.
The audience of 300 and Notaro’s fellow performers that August night had no idea what she was about to do. They had no idea she was about to perform the bravest set they had ever seen.
“Good evening! Hello. I have cancer. How are you?”
With those words — said cavalierly like a normal stand-up greeting — Notaro launched into a 30-minute performance that immediately became legendary in comedy circles and that’s available as an unlikely live album via a $5 digital release by comedian Louis C.K.
Notaro, a stand-up veteran of 15 years, was in the midst of a string of misfortunes: She had been debilitated by an intestinal infection, her mother had died in a tragic accident, she went through a break-up, and, days earlier, she had learned she had breast cancer.
“It’s weird because with humor, the equation is tragedy plus time equal comedy,” Notaro told a stunned crowd. “I am just at tragedy right now.”
But Notaro’s performance wasn’t a weepy lament. It was matter-of-fact storytelling, filled with heartbreakingly funny observations. It was taking comedy straight into darkness and grief, in the rawest catharsis.
“It felt amazing,” Notaro said in an interview, days after moving from Los Angeles to New York. “When I was on stage I felt, ‘Wow, I think something really special is happening.’ ”
The audience — at turns confused, amazed, gasping, saddened, hysterical — cheered her on, some through tears. Among those there that night was Louis C.K., who insisted Notaro release the largely unrehearsed show as a comedy album. He put it out on his website, calling it “one of the greatest stand-up performances I ever saw.”
“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 stand-up voice to her own death,” C.K. wrote on his website. “She proved that everything is funny. And has to be.”
Notaro, 41, is now back from the brink. She had a double mastectomy and doctors believe the cancer has been removed with recurrence unlikely. She signed a book deal with Ecco Press. Her first album, “Good One,” is among the best-sellers on iTunes. “I’ve never gone viral before,” she says.
“I didn’t expect any of it — the good or the bad — and to the degrees that things have happened!” says Notaro. “I cannot wait, and I’m so curious, for the time that I have a boring day with nothing going on. I have not had a boring day in seven months.”AP