Comedian Tig Notaro Goes With 'Whatever Feels Right'

click to enlarge Comedian Tig Notaro Goes With 'Whatever Feels Right'
Bob Chamberlin/L.A. Times
More than just a standup comedian, Tig Notaro does a bit of everything. Back in 2012, she turned heads when she spoke about being diagnosed with cancer during one of her comedy routines. Comedian Louis CK was at the show and called it groundbreaking.

Massive success followed, and Notaro subsequently did a segment on This American Life, landed a book deal, released a live recording, appeared on Conan and teamed up with comedian pals Kyle Dunnigan and Amy Schumer to write Inside Amy Schemer.

Notaro, whose deadpan delivery and storytelling skills distinguish her from other comics, performs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Capitol Theatre. She recently answered a few questions via email.

You initially worked as a band manager. How did you develop a love for music and what are some of your favorite bands?
My mother was always playing music. It was blaring around the house and in her car — everywhere. She loved Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, the Bee Gees, Bob Marley and the list goes on. I love all of the same music she loved, but I got more into stuff like the Beatles, the Stones, the Pretenders, Van Halen, the Indigo Girls. I'm all over the place.

You tried standup for the first time after you moved to Los Angeles. What was your first gig like?
My first gig was at a coffee shop, if you want to even call it a gig. It surprisingly went really well. My second time on stage however was a totally different story. Maybe two minutes in, I ran off stage due to not getting a single response from the audience. And I immediately learned that's pretty much how comedy goes.

Did you have other comedians that you looked to for inspiration or that you would consider influences?
Richard Pryor, Laura Kightlinger, Joan Rivers, Paula Poundstone were all early influences. Coming up in the comedy world, my friends that inspire me are Sarah Silverman, Maria Bamford, Zach Galafanakis and Jon Dore to name only a few.

What were the challenges of turning your experience with cancer into material for your comedy routines?
I think it was just the initial fear that people wouldn't get what I was trying to do or say. But most times, it’s that fear that is so exhilarating as you're standing back stage that propels you. Comedy is usually best when you have no idea what's about to happen.

Talk about what first inspired the concept for One Mississippi and talk about the initial aspirations you had for the show.
I'm so proud of this show. Amazon really let us make the show we wanted to make. The writers, actors, directors — everyone was just brilliant. As for what inspired the show, to put it mildly, my life fell apart in 2012 and I was offered so many outlets to tell my story — a book, documentary, an album etc etc. doing the TV show version has been so great because it's just now seeing the light of day and it's four years after selling the show and I feel less and less tied to the truths of my story and I feel more able to fictionalize my world. All my projects between 2012 and now have been so by the book, whereas with this TV show, I have no idea where my story is going or how it's going to end. It's all based very loosely in truth and reality.

You’ve said your comedy has recently become more personal. Talk about what it’s been like to make that transition?
Over the past four years or so, I've allowed myself to tell personal stories in my stand-up, but in no way does that mean I have walked away from utter silliness on stage either. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I think it’s always best to do whatever feels right in any moment.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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