I’ve been a fan of Tig Notaro since I first heard her on This American Life, telling her now-famous Taylor Dayne story. (If you haven’t heard that yet, I’m including it here. It's long, but wait until the very end. Enjoy.) I loved her deadpan style and those perfectly timed pauses. I needed to hear more.
Some background first, before I get into her newest one-hour special, Happy to Be Here. Because this background matters to me as a viewer of this particular special.
If you follow Tig at all, you're familiar with the story behind her 2012 album, Live. Tig had a very crappy year in 2012. In a four-month period, Tig contracted an intestinal infection that left her hospitalized, got dumped, lost her mother, AND was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts, resulting in a double mastectomy (and she opted not to have reconstructive surgery). Any one of those things is life-changing. But all four of them? Well, they kind of ended up catapulting Tig’s career, despite their awfulness.
Just days after her cancer diagnosis, Tig went on stage at Largo and performed a set dealing with these shitty events. The next day, a comedian we all used to like before we found out he’s an awful sexual assaulter, Louis C.K., contacted Tig about releasing the audio from her set. That set went on to become Live, and, holy moly, y’all. It’s so good. Ever cried and laughed during a comedy set? Listen and you will.
Since then, Tig has had plenty of comedic success, including two hour-long specials and a TV show (One Mississippi). She also finally had some happiness come her way. She’s now married to Stephanie Allynne, also a comedian, and the two welcomed twin boys, Max and Finn, in 2016. They also have a cat named Fluff, who you’ll learn all about in Happy to Be Here.
What I love about this particular special is that it’s just so darn joyful. Tig captures the everyday happy moments of her life with Stephanie and the boys without being saccharine and still managing to keep that same deadpan timing she’s mastered.
We get a few reminders of her darker days, but she spins them into well-timed quips. She recalls, for example, the time a warm-up comic introduced her to an audience without having met her. The male comedian calls Tig “a guy” and says they are “best friends” and have “traveled all over” together. Tig jokes that this was embarrassing because “Then it appeared as if my very best friend had never even noticed…my sweet, sweet rack.”
Tig now has a hilarious response for people who mistake her for a man, which she details later in the show (and even encourages others to use it, so long as you give her credit, of course).
Mostly, the hour-long set is about her life these days. We get some funny stories about Stephanie’s particular personality quirks, along with re-enacted conversations between the two wives that sound downright hilarious in Tig’s stop-and-go delivery. Even funnier, though, are her stories about their kitten, Fluff, whose given name they kept “out of respect for her birth parents.” You’ll love to hear about Fluff’s “night-night ribbons.”
Tig is absolutely lit up with elation and pride when describing her life as a parent to Max and Finn. She recommends some parenting “tricks” we can all try (again, only if you give her credit) and describes some delightfully innocent (but hilarious) things the boys have said.
Tig's work has been really important to the lesbian community, too, and this can't be understated. In a review for Slate's LGBTQ section, Outward, Lena Wilson says that "while Notaro’s comedy is universally delightful, it is tied up in—and therefore special to—lesbian culture," and that while watching her comedy with a fellow lesbian friend, they are constantly saying things like, "I feel so seen." And we all know how important representation is, especially for marginalized groups and especially in a hetero- and male-dominated field like comedy.
Live was an exploration of darkness and hope, and Boyish Girl Interrupted (2015) showed her owning the hell out of her mastectomy scars by performing part of her set topless. And Happy to Be Here is a celebration, plain and simple. Even if her life is utterly different from yours, you can relate to Tig because she makes it so easy to do so. You won’t be able to stop smiling during this one. (Oh, and that closer though.)
Go watch Happy to Be Here today for a funny pick-me-up, and let us know what you thought!