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Comedian Tig Notaro is Healthy and Happier Than Ever

In late 2012, comedian Tig Notaro released a recording of a stand-up set, titled Live (as in “exist”), through Louis C.K.’s website for $5. In just over half an hour, Notaro chronicled her recent breast cancer diagnosis, the death of her mother and a particularly painful, poorly timed breakup. It was hilarious. The way Notaro so deftly navigated horrible, life-changing tragedy was mesmerizing, inspiring and funny as hell. Within 24 hours, Live was being heralded as an instant classic.

After the critical success of Live—not to mention a double mastectomy—Notaro went on to write and occasionally perform on the first season of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer,” all while hosting the popular “Professor Blastoff” science and comedy podcast and continuing to perform stand-up. Now, in the middle of a substantial and daunting tour schedule, Notaro seems happier than ever.

“While I have still had to deal with the fallout from those difficult four months, my life is in pretty remarkable shape,” she says. “I have so much to be thankful for. So much of my new hour is me approaching comedy the same exact way I did before my life fell apart—only now I’m enjoying sharing more personal stories. It’s the most excited I’ve been about my material in the 17 years I’ve been doing this.” 

The extremely intimate nature of Live was one of the many keys to its success. As Notaro moves forward into new material, there is the question whether she is at all interested in continuing that sense of openness now that she is in remission.

It’s the most excited I’ve been about my material in the 17 years I’ve been doing this.

“I have always approached my comedy and writing from a place of wanting to do what is authentic to me as a person,” she says. “I have tried to do material and touch on subjects and tell stories that excited me. That set at Largo happened to be my reality at that time.”

Of her current routine, she says, “The topics on this tour vary; I touch on everything from a bombing at a comedy club in Vegas, to stories about me and my friend searching for Santa Claus, to even more personal events. There’s also plenty of plain and simple ridiculousness.”

While stand-up has always been Notaro’s primary outlet, she also has a long list of TV appearances under her belt, including bit parts on “The Office,” “Community” and “Bob’s Burgers,” as well as a larger turn on “The Sarah Silverman Program.” More recently, she landed a small role in the critically lauded Amazon show, “Transparent,” which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman. 

“The creator, Jill Soloway, is someone who has been a friend of mine for a little while, so I had the luxury of knowing her in the casting process,” Notaro says. “My part is very small, but it was a great experience. I am so incredibly excited to see this show; I truly think it’s going to change people in the very best way. “ 

Notaro has also begun appearing in films, such as the Elizabeth Banks rom-com Walk of Shame and Lake Bell’s excellent directorial debut, In a World. Later this fall, she will star opposite Ryan Phillippe in the kidnapping thriller Catch Hell.

A feature-length documentary about Notaro’s life shortly after her diagnosis (tentatively titled Tig) is currently set for an early 2015 release. Notaro is cautiously excited for its release. “[The film] is about my life after everything around me fell apart… It feels a little scary to open my life up in this manner, but that is what excites me so much about the project.”

And one thing is clear: As Notaro enters a new era in her career, the lessons learned during that period in 2012 endure.

“During that difficult stretch, there were certainly days and moments where I could not find humor in anything,” she says. “I am sure for so many out there going through a difficult time in their life, finding humor in it all can be incredibly challenging. I think the knee-jerk reaction when facing difficulty is to try and fight it, but I think when you learn to embrace it—and humor is one of just a myriad of ways one can do that—then it feels like you have a greater chance at dealing with whatever it is you are trying to get through.”

WHAT: Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted Tour
WHERE: 40 Watt Club
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m.