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On August 3 2012, as she had done many times before, Mathilde ‘Tig’ Notaro took to the stage at Largo, an LA comedy club. But this time something was different. ‘Hello,’ she began, ‘I have cancer. How are you?’ Talk about a killer opening.
From there, the break-up of her relationship, the death of her mother, and her diagnosis with a life-threatening illness – all in the space of just four months – came pouring out in a now legendary performance that made comedy headlines the world over. If that show occasionally threatens to overshadow an impressive career (she cut her teeth alongside Zach Galifianakis on the late ’90s LA comedy scene) it really shouldn’t. In 2014, sickness and heartbreak are far from the whole Tig Notaro story.
So, misery be damned. This week, the 43-year-old comic will bring her open-hearted, joyfully surreal act to London for the very first time. Here are four great reasons why you shouldn’t miss this singular comic talent.
1. Comedy god Louis CK is a big fan
The ginger genius witnessed the aforementioned Largo show and offered to release it as an album. ‘I thought he was insane,’ says Notaro. ‘It felt too raw and personal. But about six weeks later I just thought if it could help somebody going through cancer I had to put my ego aside.’ Released via Louis CK’s website, the Grammy-nominated ‘Tig Notaro: Live’ has sold more than 100,000 copies and is available on iTunes for £3.49.
2. Cancer has made her a better comedian
The terrible events of 2012 helped Notaro develop in ways she hadn’t anticipated. ‘I feel like I’ve opened up a lot to sharing what’s going on in my life,’ she reveals. ‘I’ve delved more into straightahead storytelling. Whether it’s heavy or light-hearted, it’s just a way more personal approach to writing and performing. It feels good.’
3. She can bring the house down
Notaro likes to mix it up. In 2006 she shunned the circuit in favour of a more intimate comedy setting – her fans’ homes. ‘It was a good time but it doesn’t have the security of pulling up to a comedy club,’ she admits. ‘One house didn’t have any cars parked in front of it at the time the show was about to start. It really felt like me and the other comedians were being lured there to be murdered.’
4. Even her stools are funny
Don’t worry, this isn’t some scatological performance art bit. By ‘stool’ we literally mean the things you sit on. Or, if you’re Notaro, push around in front of a live audience. ‘I was doing a show in Seattle and the stool on stage made a noise as I moved it, and the audience laughed,’ she explains. ‘So I continued to push the stool to see if they’d continue to laugh – they did. It’s not what you’d expect people would respond to: having cancer and pushing a stool around.’