Tig Notaro Looked Directly Into My Eyes and I Will Never Be the Same


by Elizabeth Murphy

The anxiety I had about whether seeing Tig Notaro live could measure up to my absolute adoration for her disappeared the minute she got on stage and began mercilessly haggling some Scripps students in the front row who had made her a sign. The excited sophomores fell right into her set up as she feigned ignorance at the multiple gay puns in their phrasing of “TIG me OUT to the SOFTBALL game,”  prompting Tig to declare that neither of them have a future in comedy.  “Don’t explain anything,” she scolded. “That ruins the joke. When I asked what the sign meant, you should have just told me to get out.”

It’s hard to believe that Tig is capable of bombing even once, never mind the 14 straight bombed shows she claims to have performed in Vegas in her retelling of the experience in her HBO special Boyish Girl Interrupted. Her comedy comes so earnestly from herself that she admits to not even really preparing so much as getting up on stage and talking through it. This proved to be a great asset at Scripps as she drifted back and forth between her own material and interacting with audience. After telling a story with no punchline simply for the sheer joy of watching us struggle to get the joke, she noticed a particularly young patron front and center. “How old are you?” Tig asked, interrupting her own set, and she could not have written a funnier joke than the 11-year-old’s response of “good, how are you?”

Less than a week before Tig Notaro’s visit to Scripps, her universally-lauded Amazon show One Mississippi was canceled. The series is a semi-autobiographical recounting of Tig’s life, particularly the moments that have made her most famous: her mother’s death, her breast cancer, and her chronic illness. It is hard to capture how a show that deals with such heavy topics manages to feel so light and sweet, but leave it to Tig to have you laughing at a graveyard full of women explaining the predatory nature of their first time. One Mississippi is also one of a very few shows depicting butch lesbians as fully-fledged human beings, the other two most notable being Take My Wife, whose second season is left in limbo after the streaming service hosting it, Seeso, was shuttered, and I Love Dick, which was also casually pulled by Amazon in the same swipe as One Mississippi.

Tig clearly feels the sting of this cancellation, and righteously so, as she noted to the audience at Garrison theatre during the Q and A that the writing staff of One Mississippi was tackling sexual misconduct in the workplace far before any of the Weinstein pieces came out. Despite the desires of the network execs to focus on the romance rather than continue to add deeper and darker shades to One Mississippi (season 2 also touches on the legacy of slavery, child sexual assault, and the rekindling of explicit homophobia and racism since the 2016 election), it seems that it never occurred to Tig to pull the plotline about a radio producer who has taken to masturbating in the presence of his female colleagues without their consent. “I know what’s true, I believe my friends,” she stated without hesitation, continuing “I have this truth, and I’m gonna move forward with it.”

There seems to still be at least a spark of hope that One Mississippi will find a new home – enough that Tig refused to give away any plot points of the already-planned season 3. As she noted that even to someone who has had a double mastectomy and lives with C. diff, an infected finger is still incredibly painful, it seemed enough in the moment to be thankful that Tig continues to show us how to mine comedy from pain in whatever platform she has.

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