When This Comedian Comes to Your House, Cancer Is Something to Laugh About

When This Comedian Comes to Your House, Cancer Is Something to Laugh About

For nearly a decade, Tig Notaro has traveled the country to perform stand-up comedy anywhere her fans will welcome her: driveways, basements, garages, churches, and everywhere in between. But when she hit the road in the summer of 2013—a year after being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a double mastectomy—Notaro’s cross-country tour took on a deeper meaning. 

“With this past year I’ve had, there’s a different feeling of wanting to go out and see who my fans are, who’s out there now, and not have that shield of, ‘I’m at a comedy club, and you’re the audience coming to pay,’ ” Notaro told her friend Nick Kroll, the comedian behind Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, before setting out on the tour. The conversation unfolds in the opening scene of Notaro’s new Showtime documentary, Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro, which follows the 44-year-old on her impromptu excursion with comedian Jon Dore.

The documentary, which airs Friday, provides a glimpse into how Notaro has become a part of her fans’ lives—not just by physically visiting them at their homes in small towns across America, but by finding comedy in her darkest moments: her mother’s death, a breakup, a near-fatal bacterial infection, a cancer diagnosis.

“I’m finding out the different ways that my stories touch people, and then they come back to my shows or I meet them on the street and they tell me their story,” Notaro told TakePart, speaking by phone from her Los Angeles home, which is flooded with the sound of wind chimes. “It always rattles me alive again on a whole other level, because I feel very much in touch with how grateful and lucky I am for that—I am alive.”

In one scene early in the tour, the comedian is approached by a fan who says she was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. They’re chatting at a geodesic dome–shaped ranch house in California’s Topanga Canyon—an unconventional comedy venue, no doubt—but the intimate encounter is one that’s become a regular occurrence for Notaro, who revealed her stage 2 cancer diagnosis during a now legendary L.A. stand-up set in 2012 and  bared her mastectomy scars during a topless performance in New York last year. 

 

“It’s crazy, because after every show there’s at least one person who has some heart-wrenching story, but it’s always told with, ‘I’m going to beat this.’ Or somebody wrote me once, ‘Your album gave me the courage to die.’ And I mean, you can’t help but be awakened again on another level,” Notaro says. “When somebody tells you that they’ve lost their child or job or been evicted, it’s a never-ending gift that we’re exchanging with each other.” 

 

Since surviving what she calls the hardest four months of her life, Notaro has landed some of her biggest projects to date. The documentary Tig, which chronicles her recovery, her attempts to have children, and her relationship with now fiancée Stephanie Allynne, premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and her first HBO comedy special is set to be filmed live in Boston next month.

 

Documenting her cross-country road trip has been a longtime passion project, she says, although she still fantasizes about someday turning it into a regular series. “I wanted it to really get a feel for the travels on the road and the weird little places to stop, and the different towns and the people and the different ways that people set up their homes,” she says.

 

Her next goal? “My dream is to show up to someone’s house only to forget that they’ve mixed up the days, and I can follow them around the house.”

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Original article from TakePart