Blogging

A Comedian’s Survival

Tig-Notaro-Live-SlateThe other day, my bloggy BFF, The Byronic Man, suggested I listen to a comedy album by Tig Notaro, called Live (as in, chipmunks live in burrows, not Saturday Night Live).

“If you think you’re ready for the next level,” he prefaced, probably to guarantee I’d listen to it. (Just as I’m sure he knew I’d try a sazerac after he put that picture on his blog.)

Tig-Notaro-AVClub
Tig Notaro. Not Byronic Man. (You see, that’s funny because she jokes about looking like a man on the album.)

Byronic Man, no stranger to excellent stand-up comedy himself, went on to explain that Live wasn’t supposed to be an album, Notaro was just performing in a club at an open mic/showcase. A couple days earlier, she’d found out she had cancer in both breasts. “She just starts talking about it,” he told me. “It’s incredibly funny and raw and moving. There’s no polish – she repeats herself, there’s long pauses, she tries to change the subject. It’s like what humor can be in the darkest of times.”

James Rebhorn. Toldja.
James Rebhorn. Toldja.

As soon as I heard her voice, I recognized it. Notaro first appeared on the scene in Last Comic Standing in 2006. Since then, she’s been everywhere from late night talk shows to The Office to the stand-up circuit. She’s like the female James Rebhorn of comedy. You know. “That guy/gal! In, like, every movie I’ve ever seen! …What’s his/her name?” She’s also got Louis C.K. on her side – he’s the one who pushed to turn the Live show into an album.

What made Live so powerful wasn’t just the complete and utter sincerity. It’s what Notaro infers when she says she just can’t bring herself to tell the old jokes. Or even the ones she prepared for that night.

“It’s weird because with humor, the equation is tragedy plus time equals comedy,” Notaro says early on, with a sardonic edge. “I…am…just at tragedy. Right now.”

Reality had taken over, and she just needed to speak from the heart. No filter. And guess what? It was still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. In fact, it was this very ‘in the moment’ quality that made it so. So much of the comedy we see is rehearsed, the timing perfected.

“It’s okay,” she lightly reassures an audience member who’s nearly in tears on Notaro’stig-notaro behalf. “It’s going to be okay. It might not be okay. But I’m just saying. It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay.”

At the risk of demeaning Notaro’s very heartbreaking situation and profound performance, I think what happened to her that night happens to every comedian, or every person for that matter. There comes a day when the old methods don’t work. But often times, very unlike Notaro, we’re too scared to try new ones.

On a far more superficial level, when I changed the name of this blog from GoGuiltyPleasures! to Go Jules Go last year, I was preparing for a broader bloggy life. Humorous writing beyond my love of guilty pleasures. I never thought I’d get tired of chipmunks or ‘stache glasses. And I promise, on many levels, I never will. But sometimes it’s really, really hard to tell the old jokes.

So while, in my lucky, privileged world, I occasionally push the boundaries of this little blog that changed my life, I really hope you’ll take thirty minutes to listen to Live. You know. If you think you’re ready for it.

Bloggers: Do you ever feel like you’re ‘faking it’ on your blog? Bloggers/All: Who are your favorite comedians and why?

Photo Credits

  • #1 – slate.com
  • #2 – avclub.com
  • #3 – zuguide.com
  • #4 – fastcocreate.com