Tig Notaro loves Van Halen. Like, really loves Van Halen. Not just Eddie, but Alex too.
Many people are probably familiar with Notaro’s 2012 album “Live” that begins “Hello, good evening, I have cancer,” and since has become one of the most iconic comedy sets in recent history. Her ability to bring levity to heavy moments is something that resonates with her audiences and rings through her comedy specials, as well as her sitcom “One Mississippi,” and the 2015 Netflix documentary “Tig,” chronicling her battle with breast cancer. But most people probably don’t know that Notaro has a music room at home with a drum kit and a Dolly Parton poster, a bedtime playlist routine, and managed to get the Indigo Girls to route their tour to Carnegie Hall just to share the stage for a song.
Now cancer-free, happily married, and the proud parent of twin boys and two podcasts: “Tig and Cheryl: True Story” and “Don’t Ask Tig,” Notaro takes the stage in L.A. at the Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday as part of her “Hello Again” tour. The show also doubles as a celebration of the release of her new album “Drawn” from her HBO special of the same name, which is the first ever fully-animated stand up special.
Music is a through line in so much of your work; can you talk about your connection to it?
Tig Notaro: It’s hard for me to look you in the face and tell you I’m a musician, but I can keep a beat and I know some chords! I actually came to L.A. to work in the music business, but I just love music and I was surrounded by it as a kid. I’m originally from southern Mississippi and my mother is from New Orleans — it’s just such a musical area. The way I respond to music or a favorite song or something I’ve never heard before reminds me so much of the way my mother responded to things. Every time I hear a song that she went nuts over it’s simultaneously the saddest and happiest moment. Now my kids are devouring music — they go to bed, listening to their little playlist that we put together and they make requests to hear different songs as they go to sleep.
Oh my God that’s so cute! They already have their own discerning music taste?
Yeah, it’s all over the place, everything from pop radio and boy band stuff to Bob Dylan and John Denver and James Taylor and Dolly Parton.
That’s awesome you’re encouraging your kids to explore music and culture and taste at such a young age.
Yeah. And it’s funny because I also have a [Dolly Parton] poster. We have a music room with drums and piano and guitars and stuff. And there’s a poster of Van Halen on the wall. I was a big Van Halen fan as a kid. And just the fact that my kids know who Eddie Van Halen is and Alex Van Halen brings me joy.
Are your kids funny?
Yes. I could do hours just talking about my children. And I always say that I live with a house full of writers. Our kids cuss, and they use the words correctly. In our house it’s me, Stephanie [Allynne], Max, Finn. We have three cats. Stephanie’s dad lives with us. One night, everyone’s all together watching TV and our son Max just gets up unprompted and walks off saying “I’m gonna get the hell outta here. All these damn cats!” and just leaves. And that was when he was 4!
On your TV show “One Mississippi,” your character has that awesome KCRW music and talk radio segment. If you had to program that today, what would you play?
John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulders.” Stephanie and I walked down the aisle to it and it’s just a really beautiful song. And when I think about “One Mississippi,” I like to think that our characters would have gotten married. I would love to have re-created that moment.
When I suggested that song for our wedding, I told her that the line in the song that really made me think of marrying her, and [including] that song at our wedding day is the line where he says, “If I could give you a day, I’d give you a day just like today,” and for some reason, I just felt like, even though we hadn’t gotten married [yet], and I suspected how beautiful it might be, that that song would encapsulate all of it.
I very sadly lost my stepfather Ric recently. And I think that song would just, you know, be so important to add to that show.
That’s beautiful, and I’m so sorry about your loss.
Thank you. It’s been rough. And it was 10 years to the day after my mother died that I took him off life support. And he died of C. diff [Clostridioides difficile], which was the disease that I had. So it was intense. It was a few weeks ago, and it was unexpected. After my mother died, he just started coming out of his shell and growing and he just adored our kids. That song takes me back to so much love and so much beauty and just a near perfect moment in my life.
What brings you to the mundane in your comedy?
I think that mundane and boring is so funny. People can make the joke that every podcast is boring, but I would love to have a podcast where I interview a boring person. Whenever I get my picture taken, I always tell the photographer to please tell me a boring story, because that makes me happy and laugh. I’m just thoroughly amused by mundane, sometimes boring, or also irritating to some. I’m a big fan of nonsense, ridiculousness and earnestness somehow all mixed together.
Speaking of nonsense and ridiculousness and earnestness, I loved your whole anticipation and build bit that you did with the Indigo Girls in your 2018 show “Happy to Be Here.”
That Indigo Girls bit! Some people are like, “I can’t watch that. That makes me so uncomfortable. Oh, my God.” I remember I was doing it in Florida one night, and this woman in the front row said, “I thought you were nicer than this!” I know. Like, this is not an attack on you. It’s a joke. I’m teasing a moment!
‘It’s just so smart. Because you’re giving the audience over to the joy of the moment of anticipation. Right? But then at the same time, it’s funny because I’m assuming you’re not bringing up the Indigo Girls up at every gig.
I know, I did a whole tour where I never brought them out. I just would end my show saying “who wants to see the Indigo Girls?” and people would raise their hand. And then I would say, “Well, then go buy tickets to the Indigo Girls!” And then I’d leave the stage.
I know your show at the Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday is a celebration of the physical record release of your HBO special “Drawn.” Can you tell me a little bit about that process?
I had this material that I had done that I didn’t do anything with. And I just thought, “Well, I don’t want to just ditch all this.” I thought an animation with Greg Franklin would be great. So I pitched it and we sold it the day or the day before the shutdown happened. And everybody thought that I had this brilliant idea to do an animated special because of the pandemic, but it really had nothing to do with it.
Was there really a spider?
There really was! I was mid-show and a spider came down. And I was like, “Oh, my God.” I thought about this later — how the three biggest human fears are spiders, public speaking and heights. So I wish I had done this special from, you know, a skyscraper.
What can people expect at the Ace this Saturday?
It’s an album release party for “Drawn,” so the first 100 people through the door get a free autographed copy of the album. There will be a lot of personal stories and observations about life and a whole lot of nonsense and a big fun surprise finale. It’s fun for me to do the show. A lot of silliness, real stories, things where people say, “Did you make that up? Is that real?” Yes. It’s real. It’s all real.
I’m very excited to do this material. And you know, I’ve workshopped it at Largo, which is where I do my regular monthly show when I’m in town.
I know Largo is a really important place to you here in Los Angeles. Can you talk about why that is?
I started doing Largo through friends like Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman [who] had their own monthly show there back when it was on Fairfax. It was always the room that was a blast to perform in. The audience is always so cool and smart and into it and it just became my favorite room in town. [After “Live”] I became one of the faces of Largo, not that they needed me. I live close enough to it that I can just swing by and work out whatever material I need to. And the other nice thing too is my mother and stepfather’s old couch — I didn’t know where to put it — I inherited it, but I had a hard time getting rid of it. So I put it backstage at Largo. And so now, my mother and my stepfather’s couch is back there in this part of the venue where the comedians sit before they go on stage. There’s a lot of pictures of comedians on this couch and it’s just great.
What it is about comedy that keeps you performing and writing?
It’s that feeling I think that anyone feels when something funny or interesting happens. And you think, ”Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to tell my wife. I can’t wait to tell my friend!” And that’s how I feel. I don’t walk around trying to find funny things. I’m just living my life and I have this extra sense that when something hits me, I go, “Oh my gosh, that’ll be so funny to explore or tell.” I love sharing a story with people; I love sharing an experience. It’s funny when I hear comedians saying, “Oh, I don’t know if I can tell that because nobody knows that singer” or “they don’t know my aunt” or — and it’s like, you didn’t describe them! I mean, it’s like when you tell anybody anything. I used to have this story about, again, a singer Taylor Dayne that I ran into numerous times, and it would bomb at first and people would say, “Well, it’s because nobody knows who Taylor Dayne is anymore.” And I’m like, “No, that’s not it. I have to rework it.” There’s something in the writing or delivery that’s not working because with comedy you can make anyone familiar with anything.
It’s just that excitement. I love sharing a story with people; I love sharing an experience. Everything can become relatable. I just love making that connection and connecting with a huge dark room.