Interview: Tig Notaro

Photographer Kate Lacey
October 30, 2012

One of the more affecting pieces of comedy (or maybe just of art, in general) in recent memory is Tig Notaro's "Live," a 30-minute narrative of all the bummer shit that happened to her over the past year: she got cancer, her mom died, she had a break up. Louis CK was present at the club Largo in Los Angeles, where she did the set, and he liked it so much he decided to release it via his website, where it's sold thousands of downloads. Today Secretly Canadian announced they'd be releasing "Live" on iTunes. Notaro recently moved from LA to NYC, where she is working as a writer on comedian Amy Schumer's upcoming Comedy Central show. She's also crashing in Schumer's spare bedroom. We popped over to the apartment when Notaro had a day off to find out how she's liking life on the east coast.

Are you excited about moving to New York? Yeah, it’s weird. My life has turned very New York with working on this show for Comedy Central and then, my publishing company’s book agent, which I’m gonna be working on, they’re all out here. Ira Glass wanting me to submit regularly for “This American Life.” Everything is in New York, and those are the things that I am focusing on right now, and they all just happen to be here. So, it seems like a good fit.

How long did you live in LA? 15 years.

But you’re originally from the South, right? I am technically Southern. My great, great-grandfather was the mayor of New Orleans, and my mother was born in New Orleans. My father is from Jackson, Mississippi. That’s where I was born. Obviously, I’ve been out of the South. It wasn’t like I had been living in the Deep South and came directly to New York. I was just looping around the city like, ‘Okay, well, I give up. I don’t how to get home.’ I didn’t know how to read the maps. I didn’t know where I was. This was years ago.

You don’t have your own place—you’re crashing with Amy Schumer. How do you like her apartment? It’s spacious enough. It’s brand new. It’s not one of the old New York walk-up apartments, which I wouldn’t mind. I’m pretty easy-going. I wanted to be in the city for sure. I didn’t want to deal with taking a bunch of trains too far. I’ve gotten to know New York a little better, but one of the first times I came here, I rode the subway for hours the wrong way, looping around the city. I got on when everyone was getting out of the bars, and I was still on when everybody was showing up with briefcases to go to work in the morning.

How old were you? Four. No, maybe 28 or 29.

You’ve only been here five days, what have you been doing? Working on the show, writing. I took a red eye Thursday and got in Friday morning, and then went to the office. I have been through worse. I’m trying to acclimate. It’s taking me a little while because I had surgery, and after my surgery, I was just lounging around, and I was staying up way later than I normally do. Not only am I on LA time, I was going to bed at five in the morning. I came here with major sleep issues.

How long do you think you’ll stay in New York? I am not quite sure. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

A year ago, did you think you wouldn't know anything? March 1st of 2012 was when I started to not feel well, but then February was the busiest month I’ve ever had. I literally didn’t have one day off. I shot a pilot, was in a movie, starred in a play, I was touring around, I was so busy, and that was an odd month for me. Then everything just got odder, to say the least. I got pneumonia, then took antibiotics and that caused me to get this condition called C-diff. Then, I was hospitalized, and then my mother tripped and hit her head and passed away. And then, I went through a break-up, then was diagnosed with cancer and had a double mastectomy. Then I moved to New York. I did the performance, which I was doing for This American Life with no intention of releasing it. I was just trying to talk about my four months of nose-diving, and just see where that material was. Then, Louis C.K. released it as a CD, and now it’s sold, I think, 60,000 copies in five days. It exploded. There’s none of it I saw. Nothing looks familiar to me right now. I’m happy, healthy, excited, and I appreciate it. I don’t have complaints. Of, course I wish my mother hadn’t passed away. Everything has birthed amazing things in my life. It would be hard to complain about.

Are you sick of talking about cancer? I get what it is, and I get what is going on. I have talked to people that I have cancer and people that know people that have cancer. I have gotten endless emails that people have sent hearing peoples’ stories and things like that. I am fine with talking about it. I didn’t go down to group meetings or anything. I also know that once this blows over, it’s not something I’m identifying with as, I’m gonna take this and run with it. The, “This is my thing.”

What’s different about being here in New York? Honestly, I haven’t even looked around. Today, I was just noticing I haven’t even looked at Amy’s bookshelf or anything. Originally, Amy hired me and then, me and my friend, Kyle Dunningan. He and I write things together, not stand-up or anything, just funny scripts, little videos. And Amy was saying, I would’ve hired Kyle, but I didn’t think he would come. And I was like, Oh, he would come. So, she hired him. He moved out here. I have a bedroom, Amy has a bedroom, and he’s just been crashing on the couch. Then the other day I said, Why don’t we get bunk beds? Today or tomorrow, we’re going to buy bunk beds. And we have a combined age of 83. I can’t wait. He’s one of the closest people to me in my life. We’re very tight and inseparable, and I enjoy him endlessly. I cannot wait to be like two overgrown infants sleeping in bunk beds.

Who gets the top? Well everybody’s been concerned saying, Tig you cannot be on the bottom, if that thing snaps, with your luck lately. Kyle has to be on the bottom. There’s mixed opinions. Kyle is dating Sarah Silverman, and she’s making fun of how her boyfriend is sharing a bunk bed with another 41-year-old. Her mother was like, You tell Kyle he cannot sleep on the bottom. Tig has to be on the bottom because she can’t be getting up in the middle of the night for water and going up and down those steps. But I’m in good shape. Every time I see people, they comment, Oh you look good, you seem good, and I’m like, I feel good. I guess from everything I’ve been through people kind of expect me to look a little different or seem different. I even hear that I maybe look better. That was kind of a rough cleanse that I went through. I think I can handle the top or bottom bunk, but I think I’m gonna take the top. Kyle said he’s fine with that, he’s fine with taking the collapse of the bunk bed, but he said just because it sounds fun he’d like to sleep on the top every now and then. I said maybe. We weren’t sure if we were gonna fit in bunk beds.

Do they make adult bunk beds? We were googling adult bunk beds and it just kept coming back with little princess bunk beds with slides. We were gonna get those. There was this one that had a slide and a ladder and a rope coming down, and then a pulley with a bucket. We were gonna go nuts.

Maybe you could start manufacturing adult bunk beds. Start a company. Get out of stand-up. My true passion is adult bunk beds. Maybe I would make a lot of money.

Posted: October 30, 2012
Interview: Tig Notaro