I have professed my admiration for comedian Louis CK here before. His seemingly effortless style of observation, self-deprecation and – more significantly – personal experience comedy resonates with me in a way some of the widely accepted all-time greats never have.
So when Louie describes a fellow comic’s stand-up as ‘masterful’, I feel like I should really sit up and take notice.
Although a working comedian for almost 3 decades, Tig Notaro was never among the A-listers, as she was perceived as too low key and not mainstream enough to be promoted as a headliner. She overnight claim to fame came after her much revered 2012 special at LA club Largo, when she discussed her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent double mastectomy. Louis CK was quick to recognize a gem when he saw one, and released the audio on his website.
Three years later, Tig recorded a one-hour stand-up special for HBO, following a documentary about her life, the cancer diagnosis and her personal relationships. The special, titled ‘Boyish Girl, Interrupted‘, was hailed among critics as a hilariously dark, brave performance that instantly propelled Tig into the stratosphere.
One of the reasons why this special made such a splash was the fact that, halfway through her stand up, Tig unceremoniously strips down topless, showing off her double mastectomy scars (she never had reconstructive surgery). Then she continues to tell her jokes as if she’s not just standing right there bare-chested.
Ballsy move aside, that’s not the main reason why her special is such a huge success. Her slow, deadpan delivery and utter disregard that she’s baring more than just her soul to the audience, manage to shift our focus away from the half-naked boyish figure in a way very few people might be able to pull it off.
Having already joked, during her performance, that all her stand-ups end with a 3-minute long standing ovation, the audience gives her exactly that when it’s time for her to get off the stage, and deservedly so. Not because she had the courage to go topless and continue to remain so until she finished her act, but because the fact that there’s a semi-nude woman in front of you doesn’t even register after the shocking first few minutes. The initial awkwardness simply makes the jokes even funnier and, at the end of the day, that’s all you want from a comedy act.
There are plenty of moments during her special that had me laughing out loud (by myself. Most comedy specials elicit a chuckle at most when I watch them alone), notably her description of the awkwardness that inevitably ensues when she’s being patted down by airport security, and her story about suggesting the Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want‘ to the cool boy in school when the class was asked to pick a song to play for Music Appreciation, which had me in stitches. Much like Louie, she can make the simplest things downright hilarious, as is the case of her text-prank joke, which she also performed on Conan:
Oh, and check out her Taylor Dayne story while you’re at it.
After watching the special, two things become abundantly clear: first, the girl has balls the size of Texas. Second, she has the comedic chops to blow any of the big names out of the water.
Her new, semi-autobiographical Amazon show, produced by Louis CK and co-written by Diablo Cody, is one of my most anticipated shows this year. People can hail the ‘comedic genius’ of Amy Schumer all they want; I’d much rather watch Ms. Notaro do her thing.