Tig Notaro might have had the most roller coaster year of anyone ever a few years back. In quick succession, she was in the hospital for a bacterial infection, her mother died in a freak accident and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a trio of events so awful it was almost unbelievable it all happened to one person. Soon after the cancer diagnosis, Notaro took the stage at the Largo in LA to do a standup set about what had happened. The set resulted in an internet storm, with everyone from Louis CK to Ed Helms describing it as one of the best sets they’d ever seen. Now in a much better place (she’s cancer-free and about to get married), Notaro has a documentary coming out on Netflix about the aftermath of it all.
How did you end up deciding to do a documentary?
Well, one of the directors, Kristina Goolsby, is an old friend of mine of almost twenty years and I had known she wanted to make this documentary. So when she brought it up, I said yes because I thought it would be a cool thing to do and I also wanted to support her and I guess there was a part of me that thought it wouldn’t really get going. There’re just so many projects that people suggest or try to get started. You say yes to stuff and it peters out or actually becomes an actual project. So I just said yes not knowing or thinking where it would head.
Even though people had been so interested in your standup set?
Yeah, people are so bored so quickly. I remember asking my manager in 2012, I was like “Gosh, when do you think this interest is going to die down?” because I kept thinking it would be in two days or two weeks and he was like “Yeah, I don’t see this going away.” I was like, “Really?” I just thought that was silly. So I didn’t see the movie being produced by big producers or going off to Sundance. I thought it was going to be more, “Oh remember this documentary we made about that time period,” and showing it to friends.
Did you have any conversations about what you were willing to have filmed when it came to your life?
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No, I was pretty naive about things when we started because I had just been through such a rough period in my life that I sort of assumed that I was out of the woods as far as anything bad happening. I really naively thought I’d be running into nothing but wonderful things in life, and of course I have, and it’s been great, but it’s life, and swings in every direction. So when there were highs and lows, I just wanted to make myself available for it all, because if I agreed to do the film I wanted it to be the best possible version.
The set so quickly became this huge sensation online. Do you remember thinking during it that people were being unusually responsive, that this could somehow end up being somehow life-changing?
Well, I didn’t think it was life changing because I thought I could possibly be not living, so. I was happy that I was getting through the set and it wasn’t a completely uncomfortable thing start to finish. When I went on stage that night I thought it would just be an nonstop uncomfortable thing and it ended up being what it is, which is an uncomfortable, funny I guess, emotional thing. You don’t have an awareness of things when you’re in the middle of it usually.
The documentary covers some of your anxiety about performing after the big set. Do you feel like you’re over that now?
Yeah, I feel leaps and bounds beyond that. I feel so good about all my new material. I just want to do what I think is the funniest stuff and that’s all I can do, really.