Passing Through

Tig Notaro, Still Standing

Tig Notaro joked her way through cancer and lived to tell about it.

By Seth Sommerfeld November 3, 2014 Published in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Met

Within three months in 2012, Tig Notaro lost her mother, went through a bad breakup, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, naturally, Notaro went on stage in front of a bunch of strangers that August and joked about it. The performance—both crushingly sad and brazenly hilarious—instantly became legendary, thanks in part to Louis C.K., who helped release a live recording of the set. Two years and a successful double mastectomy later, Notaro is healthy and
still putting audiences in stitches. —Seth Sommerfeld

What’s your writing process?

I pretty much just go on stage with one word written down and just navigate through the moment on stage. I’m not somebody who sits down and writes at my computer or anything like that. There’s like this kind of fight or flight thing that happens on stage, where, if you don’t have a punch line, you kind of have to come up with something because you’re right there in front of everybody. 

You have a very quiet demeanor, but you have this ability to control a crowd in a way that louder comedians can’t. 

It’s probably rooted in having worked with children years ago. It’s jarring to them when you get quiet and just kind of calmly talk. It’s not like I think of my audience as necessarily children, though.

How were you able to keep a sense of humor through all the personal horrors? 

For the first three months of everything falling apart in my life, I really didn’t have a sense of humor about it. When I was finally diagnosed with cancer, it all just became so ridiculous that I did find a sense of humor.

How concerned are you about being defined by cancer?

I’m not really worried about it. I know that my comedy is more than that.

Looking forward to coming here?

My girlfriend played a game of “What city would I rather live in?” with me the other day. Seattle won the first round versus one city, and then it kept winning. So I guess Seattle is a city I didn’t even realize I wanted to live in until we played this game.


This feature appeared in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.

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