One slow weekend day, I was watching Hannah Gadsby interviews on YouTube, as one does. Okay, it wasn’t a weekend, but a weekday. And okay, it wasn’t slow – I was actively procrastinating work by watching these videos. As one does.
I rewatched one of my favourite interviews of Hannah’s – her first one with Stephen Colbert – which is deliciously awkward to watch. Two of my favourite performers and humans – just not able to get into a smooth conversation. They keep awkwardly interrupting each other and then apologizing all the way to the end. It is TV Gold and hilarious every time I watch it.
And then I noticed a comment below the interview that said that the Hannah Gadsby interview reminded them of the Tig Notaro interview.
“There is another human on this planet like Gadsby?” I looked up the interview, sure I had hit a once-in-a-lifetime kind of comedic treasure, twice.
And I was not disappointed.
Soon enough, I was deep in the Tig Notaro rabbit hole of the internet. A person I had never heard of before was now in every other video that YouTube was recommending me. And YouTube was right, as it always is – I could not stop clicking.
Tig was doing great at her comedy career in the States but probably wasn’t that an Indian woman, seven seas away, might get obsessed with overnight. That is until she went through four intense and tragic months that turned her life upside down. And the way she handled them.
Tig was shooting and touring and living the standup life when she suddenly collapsed at work one day. Doctors diagnosed her with C-diff – a bad gut bacteria that apparently eats away at the intestines of the host until there is nothing left. (Public Service Announcement Tig makes in every appearance since: Eat your probiotics when you are on antibiotics!)
It was life-threatening and Tig only survived it by a whisker. She lost most of her body mass to the disease though.
Days after she was discharged from the hospital, her mother died. It was a freak accident – she just slipped and fell at home, hit her head on the ground, and was brain dead a few hours later.
Days after she buried her mother, Tig discovered lumps in both her breasts. It turned out to be Stage 2 Breast Cancer.
Oh, and also, she had a breakup somewhere in between all this.
The hits just kept coming. My hands were covering my open mouth by this point when I first heard it.
Doesn’t quite sound like the comedic gold I have been promising, does it?
Here is where Tig steals your heart though: The week she was diagnosed with cancer, she was due for a standup performance alongside some major comedians (Bill Burr, Ed Helms, and pre-MeToo Louis CK). Even though she was spiraling and in shock after the diagnosis, Tig decided not to cancel the appearance.
Instead, she went up on stage and delivered her most historic standup act – with not a single rehearsal. A raw act that began with her now-iconic words, “Good evening, Hello, How are you, I have cancer.”
In the performance – of which only an audio recording exists – she spoke about how her life had suddenly turned upside down in just a few weeks. The recording wass later released as an album, and went on to be nominated for a Grammy award. Still uncertain whether she would even survive her diagnosis, she talks about what she is going through and how her breasts probably conspired to kill her because she joked about how small they were in so many of her old standup acts.
Here is the recording:
Thankfully, Tig survived the cancer. Spoiler alert: She also went on to find love, marriage, and all the hell-raising joys of being a mother. Her career has sky-rocketed since her album, and she recently starred in the Star Trek series and the movie, Army of the Dead. (None of this will spoil the book for you.)
Now. That was the story of how someone like me came about discovering and getting obsessed enough with Tig Notaro that I launch into the above story with zero provocation now and later hope that people chalked it down to post-covid social awkwardness.
And then one slow weekend day (okay, hectic workday) I was deep in the comforts of my Tig Notaro rabit hole on the internet, and I discovered that she wrote an entire book about her life. I kicked myself for not discovering this sooner and immediately ordered and devoured the book.
In “I’m Just A Person”, Tig goes deeper into the story of these four months, and shares how they shaped – not only her career, but her life and all her major choices and relationships thereafter. She talks a lot about her mother, of course. But it is not with the kind of rose-tinted (or coal-tinted) glasses most people use to see their dead parents. She bares what a flawed person her mother was – an alcoholic and not exactly the postermom of responsible parenting. At the same time, she writes movingly about how her mother was probably her favourite person. And you somehow see how both can be truths that coexist.
She also talks with an almost scary amount of honesty about her relationships with her father (who she met only a handful number of times in her life), step-father (who raised her but remained emotionally distant until her mother’s passing), and brother (who she is not in as much touch with as she would like to be).
She shares the loves and losses of her life and deals with the very real fear of losing it – with a candidness that makes you wonder what you did to deserve this mind-boggling amount of honesty from her.
It is a funny book, of course, because it is written by one of the funniest people in the world. But it is also a book that leaves you in tears and makes you feel all the feelings possible.
This book makes you want to hug your family and tell everyone you love that you love them. I think that that last sentence is reason enough to read a book, but I could not stop myself from ranting at you about all the rest. As one does.