Tig Notaro had cancer. “Hello, I have cancer, hello,” were her first words on stage at Largo in 2012. After having been hospitalized for C-Diff and losing her mother, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before her double mastectomy, she went on stage to talk about it.
The set went viral. Louie C.K. published the comedy album on his website. I don’t want to make too many sweeping generalizations about Tig’s career, but the album seemed to resonate in ways that her comedy had not before. In the album at one point Tig says, “What if I just transitioned into real jokes?” and members of the audience shouted out, “No! This is amazing.”
There is something special about the set she did, and it represents an interesting trend in comedy that could even demonstrate general trends in television and popular cultural tends.
Personal narrative seems to be driving comedy in a more intense way than ever before.The set was praised by comedians, hailed by critics, and catapulted Tig as a sort of cult comedy hero. Since that set, Tig’s career has exploded. The story about the set and the surrounding year was chronicled in a Netflix documentary. The year was recorded in her memoir, “I’m just a person.” Tig now has a show on Amazon that deals with these highly personal issues called “One Mississippi.”
Tig is not just a standup who talks about cancer. She’s incredibly dry deadpan style that began her career. Her standup special “Boyish Girl Interrupted” tackles her personal tragedies, but mostly demonstrates Tig’s dry style and ability to take a silly story and make it into a ten minute long bit.
This bit on Conan is great, because it addresses her cancer, but it’s not serious. Before I explored Tig’s catalogue, I avoided her because I thought of her as “serious dreary comedian.” But even though a lot of her material tackles serious issues, she also spends most of her time doing silly bits like this.
So her personal narrative is not all Tig relies upon. But it is what gave her a multi-platform career. She is not alone in this. Louie C.K.’s personal style is conveyed both in his standup and his FX show, “Louie.” Pete Holmes, a standup, has a new show coming out HBO chronicling his early years of becoming a standup comedian and the personal trials he went through at the time.
Is personal narrative essential to the multiple platform comic? This is what I will aim to explore over the course of the semester.