The Show Must Go On

Tig Notaro on comedy, creativity, and cancer.

“God only gives you what you can handle,” right? Comedian Tig Notaro begs to differ. A little over two years ago, Notaro, 43, stepped onstage at the West Hollywood club Largo and delivered an opening line for the history books: "Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you?” The audience laughed nervously, unsure if Notaro was joking. She wasn’t. Just a few days before, Notaro had been diagnosed with breast cancer. But the bad news didn’t end there. Over the span of four months, Notaro had also: caught pneumonia, contracted a life-threatening intestinal disease known as C. diff, lost her mother in a freak accident, and broken up with her girlfriend. The events of those tragic four months became the unlikely material for her set that night at Largo.

Notaro has given new meaning to the phrase “the show must go on.” Previously a comedian’s comedian without a large public following, her set at Largo skyrocketed her to cult icon status. Louis C.K. described it as one of the “greatest standup performances” he'd ever seen. Within six months, Notaro had released her Largo set as an album on iTunes called Live (pronounced like the verb, not the adjective), received a Grammy nomination, landed a book deal, and begun making the rounds on late-night TV. But more important than any professional accolade, Notaro was pronounced cancer-free.

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