Tig No­taro gets the last laugh

GETS THE LAST LAUGH

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin

Af­ter Tig No­taro was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in 2012, her stand-up act went from sur­face-level ob­ser­va­tional sto­ries to self-rev­e­la­tion of a dif­fer­ent sort — as told on her sec­ond com­edy al­bum, recorded just days af­ter her di­ag­no­sis. Three years later, can­cer-free and en­gaged to be mar­ried, No­taro is on the road with a new act, Boy­ish Girl In­ter­rupted, which she brings to the Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Thurs­day, May 28. On the cover is a por­trait of the cool co­me­dian by Kate Lacey.

Afew days af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with can­cer in both breasts, Tig No­taro did what many peo­ple in the same sit­u­a­tion can only fan­ta­size about do­ing: She got on a stage and spoke frankly about her di­ag­no­sis, and the four ter­ri­ble months lead­ing up to it, in front of a crowd of 300 peo­ple who em­pathized with her, laughed at the funny parts, and cheered her on. That 30-minute set, in 2012 at Largo in Los An­ge­les, be­came her sec­ond com­edy al­bum, Tig No­taro: Live. (“Live” is pro­nounced with a short “i,” in the ac­tive verb form.) She un­der­went a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy, and since then, No­taro’s com­edy ca­reer, which was al­ready on an up­ward swing, has ex­ploded. She wrote for and ap­pears on the Com­edy Cen­tral hit In­side Amy Schumer. She’s a regular guest on Co­nan and This Amer­i­can Life. She has a popular pod­cast, Pro­fes­sor Blastoff, with Kyle Dun­ni­gan and David Hunts­berger. She re­cently re­leased a tour doc­u­men­tary, Knock Knock, It’s Tig No­taro ,on Show­time, and di­rec­tors Kristina Goolsby and Ash­ley York made a doc­u­men­tary, Tig, about No­taro’s life af­ter can­cer treat­ment, that pre­miered at the 2015 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val. Now No­taro is on tour with a new act, Boy­ish Girl In­ter­rupted, which will be recorded in Florida for an HBO spe­cial, just a few days af­ter she brings her dry wit to Santa Fe on Thurs­day, May 28, at the Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

“When I had can­cer, I would kind of tell any­body, just for shock value, I guess,” No­taro told Pasatiempo. “When I would go out to din­ner and the waiter would ask how I was do­ing, I would say, ‘I’m OK. I have can­cer, but, you know.’ I didn’t like to stay in the mode of ‘I’m fine.’”

In a video that ap­peared on Co­nan, in which No­taro vis­its var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in Hol­ly­wood, she men­tions her mas­tec­tomy to a diner wait­ress. The ut­ter­ance earns her an open-mouthed stare. In Santa Fe, when a per­son has can­cer, they are of­ten of­fered a ridicu­lous amount of kom­bucha tea, with the in­sis­tence

Of course, you want to hear pos­i­tive things, but I needed a more re­al­is­tic re­ac­tion, some­one check­ing to see how I ac­tu­ally felt in­stead of con­stantly hear­ing, “You’re go­ing to beat this.” I wanted to be able to take a breath and have con­cern or fear or ques­tions.

that the bot­tled bac­te­ria is bet­ter for the body than chemo­ther­apy. The can­cer pa­tient is also in­formed of the heal­ing power of crys­tals and of the deadly threat of neg­a­tive think­ing on one’s prog­no­sis. Though No­taro said she didn’t re­ceive too much of this kind of well-in­ten­tioned but silly med­i­cal ad­vice from friends and fam­ily, she was some­times over­run with pos­i­tiv­ity. “Of course, you want to hear pos­i­tive things, but I needed a more re­al­is­tic re­ac­tion, some­one check­ing to see how I ac­tu­ally felt in­stead of con­stantly hear­ing, ‘You’re go­ing to beat this.’ I wanted to be able to take a breath and have con­cern or fear or ques­tions.”

In the months lead­ing up to her di­ag­no­sis, No­taro had al­ready spent quite a bit of time in hos­pi­tals. First she had pneu­mo­nia and then she de­vel­oped a life threat­en­ing C. dif­fi­cile in­fec­tion. She lost 20 pounds from her al­ready slim frame. Af­ter that, her mother fell, hit her head, and died. And then No­taro’s girl­friend broke up with her. In Live, she men­tions that there is a rule in hu­mor that com­edy is tragedy plus time. That night, in front of all those peo­ple, she took one of her sig­na­ture long pauses and then said, “I’m just at tragedy right now.”

On stage, No­taro is re­laxed and sar­cas­tic, even droll. She has been com­pared to Steven Wright and the late Mitch Hed­berg, though those comics re­lied more on one-lin­ers, and No­taro is a sto­ry­teller. She does not talk about pol­i­tics or cur­rent events. One of her most fa­mous riffs is about run­ning into the ’80s pop star Tay­lor Dayne mul­ti­ple times over the course of a year, and of­fer­ing her the same com­pli­ment (“I love your voice.”). She has said that prior to her four months of per­sonal hell fol­lowed by can­cer, her life had been rel­a­tively smooth sail­ing, with or­di­nary waves. This is a mod­est down­play­ing of her suc­cess. No­taro grew up in Mis­sis­sippi and dropped out of high school af­ter re­peat­edly fail­ing the ninth grade. Though she was popular and well-liked, she de­tested school.

“School was not for me. I didn’t fit in with the rules and ac­tiv­i­ties — and I think it ac­tu­ally took get­ting out of school to re­al­ize I was a smart per­son. I thought that when I got older, I would have all th­ese re­grets, be­cause I re­mem­ber be­ing told all the time that I would re­gret my per­for­mance in school and drop­ping out. But hon­estly, I just don’t. Even be­fore I was suc­cess­ful at stand-up, I didn’t re­gret it.” Now, though her life is ex­ceed­ingly busy and of­ten hec­tic, it lacks the con­ven­tion­al­ity of most peo­ple’s worka­day rou­tine. “It’s my struc­ture, my in­ter­ests,” she said.

Just a few months af­ter her surgery, No­taro be­gan dat­ing co­me­dian Stephanie Al­lyne, and the two are now en­gaged. Plan­ning a wed­ding while on tour has been a chal­lenge. Con­ver­sa­tions about it oc­cur in an end­less email thread be­tween No­taro, Al­lyne, Al­lyne’s mother and sis­ter, and No­taro’s step­fa­ther, brother, and four male cousins. “They are th­ese fifty- and sixty-year-old guys in Mis­sis­sippi that are like my broth­ers,” she said. “It’s been this fun ex­pe­ri­ence to have ev­ery­one on both sides of the fam­ily so ex­cited, with 10 peo­ple chim­ing in con­stantly with dif­fer­ent ideas. We’re all meet­ing up in about a month in New Or­leans to iron ev­ery­thing out.” The Tig doc­u­men­tary de­tails the be­gin­ning of No­taro and Al­lyne’s re­la­tion­ship, as well as No­taro’s in­ter­est in hav­ing a child, de­spite the fact that it would re­quire fer­til­ity treat­ments that could cause a re­cur­rence of her can­cer.

Among No­taro’s cur­rent projects is a mem­oir for Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. Col­lect­ing her thoughts for the book has been “very help­ful in kind of a ther­a­peu­tic way,” she said. “It’s cen­tered on when my life fell apart and a lot of my re­la­tion­ship with my mother. I’m fine with talk­ing to peo­ple in in­ter­views or so­cially about the deep emo­tional parts of my life, but it’s a very dif­fer­ent feel­ing when you’re sit­ting alone on the couch and rak­ing through them pri­vately.” She said that though there is def­i­nitely com­edy in the book, she didn’t feel the need to bal­ance heavy in­for­ma­tion with a joke to make read­ers more com­fort­able.

“When some­thing struck me as funny, I’d pep­per that in, or if I had a funny story, I’d tell it, but in gen­eral, I didn’t want to put that kind of pres­sure on my­self, and I don’t think it would come across as au­then­tic if I feel like I have to make it funny.”

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