“I was expecting an awkward, quiet show,” Tig Notaro says of her August standup set at the Largo in Los Angeles, where she shared her stage-two cancer diagnosis with the audience. Instead, she blew the audience away, earning Twitter praise from the likes of Ed Helms (“One of the most amazing stand-up sets I’ve ever seen”) and Louis C.K. (“In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night”). Notaro’s performance quickly became legendary, despite being available only through the descriptions in tweets and blog posts. But starting today, the half-hour set, raw and funny in equal parts, is an album available for download via Louis CK’s website for five dollars.
It’s an amazing, uncomfortable document, as Notaro relates her recent run of tragedy: her breakup with her girlfriend, the sudden death of her mother, her hospitalization with a bacterial infection and, of course, breast cancer – which has spread to her lymph nodes. Although Notaro’s usual delivery is totally deadpan, in this set you can hear her wrestling with the emotional weight of everything that’s happened in her life:
What’s nice about all of this is you can always rest assured that God never gives you more than you can handle. (Pause) Never. Never. When you’ve had it, God goes, “All right, that’s it.” I just keep picturing God going, “You know what? I think she can take a little more.” And then the angels are standing back, going, “God, what are you doing? You’re out of your mind!” And God was like, “No, no no, I really think she can handle this.” “Why, God, why? Why?” “I don’t know, just trust me on this. She can handle this.” God is insane, if there at all.
“I certainly have real and scary moments of, oh my gosh, I’m going to die,” Notaro tells Rolling Stone. “And then I have other times where I can’t believe that anything other than a perfect outcome will be what’s ahead.” Lots of comedy albums have been called Live before. This is the only one where the title feels like a command: continue to live.