On August 3, 2012 comedian Tig Notaro went on stage at the Largo theater in Los Angeles. “Hello. Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you? Hi. How are you? Is everybody having a good time,” she opened with and then preceded to explain in one of the most raw, moving, and masterful half-hours of comedy (or human communication for that matter) to be recorded.
The set moves from the Notaro’s public declaration of having breast cancer in both breasts which had likely spread to her lymph nodes, to the recent and tragic death of her mother and her breakup with her girlfriend. All the while she helps the audience along the way telling them it’s okay, and that they will be fine.
As the set nears it’s conclusion, Tig jokes:
What’s nice about all of this is you can always rest assured that God never gives you more than you can handle. [Pause] Never. Never. When you’ve had it, God goes, “All right, that’s it.” I just keep picturing God going, “You know what? I think she can take a little more.” And then the angels are standing back, going, “God, what are you doing? You’re out of your mind!” And God was like, “No, no no, I really think she can handle this.” “Why, God, why? Why?” “I don’t know, just trust me on this. She can handle this.” God is insane, if there at all.
Since the performance, Notaro’s set has gained a fable-like status receiving praise from comedian Ed Helms (“One of the most amazing stand-up sets I’ve ever seen”) and Louis CK (“In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.”). CK was so impressed with the set that he asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of the Largo, if he had recorded the set. He then wrote Notaro and asked if she would allow him to distribute the audio on his site, just like he sells his own works for five dollars.
As of October 5, the set title “LIVE” is available on CK’s website where he wrote in an introductory post:
Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying “wow. Right?”. She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example.
Since the show, Notaro has undergone a double mastectomy which doctors believe has removed all the cancer. Professionals believe Notaro has an excellent chance of recovery.
Attached below is the text of the liner notes written by Tig on the recording’s digital liner notes and the post written by Louis CK on his site. Their words far better illustrate the importance of this work than my own.
￼I’m a perfectionist with my comedy, and this recording is anything but perfection. As I now realize, sometimes when you spend too much time perfecting something, the root of pure inspiration disappears.
When Ira Glass encouraged me to write material about my four months of hell for This American Life, I had no idea that when I walked on Largo’s stage to workout what I’d written, that I’d be releasing it to the masses two months later. The day after this was taped, Louis CK called to say that he felt it was really important for people to hear the show and that he wanted to release it on his website. At first, I felt there was no way I could release such a raw set, but after I gained some distance and encouragement from friends, I realized that if I could help a single person on this earth feel that they can push through something—whether it’s a rough day at the office or a deadly diagnosis—then it made zero sense for me to not release it.
I was never one in need of a wake up call, but these past four months have jolted me awake more than I could have ever imagined, allowing me to see that each and every horrendous thing in my life has birthed an incredible experience. I guess my message is to keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
I named this album “LIVE” as in “to keep not dying”—not “live” as in “I saw her live performance.” This title not only makes sense to me considering the subject matter, it simply makes me laugh to think of having to correct everyone that pronounces it incorrectly.
If you reference my first CD Good One’s liner notes, you’ll see that my thank yous￼are too many to have listed, but now it’s gotten really ridiculous. After my surgery, my hospital room was packed 24-hours-a- day. And don’t think I wasn’t completely aware of the love and support even while drugged out of my mind. So let me please say thank you: family, friends, romantic interest, the entire comedy world, fans, manager, assistant, record label, publishing company, agents, lawyers, the press, doctors, nurses, complete and utter strangers, people from my past who parted from me on bad terms but still reached out anyway because you and I both know how stupid it was to be having problems in the first place because life is seriously way too short, thank you. Seriously, everyone, thank you. Thank you for your: time, talks, hilarious stories, back rubs, head scratches, texts, emails, photos, doctor recommendations, food deliveries, cards, songs, rides to appointments, smoothies, balloons, blankets, taking my trash out, kisses on top of my head in my hospital bed, spending the nights with me, tending to the gross stuff that cancer did to my body, literally holding my hand when things were seriously painful. Thank you for just generally making me feel not so alone.
Lastly, and most importantly, I dedicate this record to my outrageous, wild, beautiful, reckless, hilarious and free-spirited mother who always told me to tell the world to “go to hell”—or, at least, anyone who had a problem with me. You encouraged me to be exactly who I was and to do exactly what I wanted to do. Because of you I am and I do. And regardless of what I may have said, I know for a fact that you didn’t end up actually going to hell. I miss you and I love you.
Greetings to the people and parts of people that are reading this. Hi. This is Louis. I’m a comedian and you bought a thing from me. Well, I’m writing to tell You that there is a new thing you can buy on my website louisck.com. It’s an audio standup set by not me but another comedian named Tig Notaro. Why am I selling someone else’s comedy on my website?
Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn’t seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied “well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad. “. She wasn’t kidding. I said “uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you… Have your family… Helping?”. She said “well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died”. She still wasn’t kidding.
Now, I’m pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn’t know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. “jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly.”. She said “I value you highly too, Louie.”. Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said “I’m gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It’s probably going to be a mess”. I said “wow”. And with that, she went on stage.
I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience “hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I’m going to die soon”. What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can’t really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life. Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying “wow. Right?”. She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example. So generous.
After her set, I asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of Largo (great club, by the way) if he recorded the set. Largo is set up for excellent recordings. He said that he did.
A few days later, I wrote Tig and asked her if I could release this set on my site. I wanted people to hear what I saw. What we all saw that night. She agreed. The show is on sale for the same 5 dollars I charge for my stuff. I’m only keeping 1. She gets the other 4. Tig has decided to give some of that to cancer research.
Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to… Enjoy.
Thank you. Have a terrific afternoon.