Tig … Before the Gig

Starshine Chats with the Comedian and ‘Don’t Ask Tig’ Host — and Asks Her Anyway

Comedian Tig Notaro will perform at UCSB's Campbell Hall on January 21 | Credit: Courtesy

Listen, I love me some vulgarity — and it ain’t tough to find. Streaming services are flooded with hilarious-if-raunchy comedy specials.

But I have mad respect for comedians who slay — who, in fact, leave entire theaters full of adults wiping laugh-tears from their cheeks — without ever dipping into dirty.

Clean comedy is harder. And honestly, that’s why Tig Notaro does it.

“I’m with you on enjoying vulgarity, especially if it’s done right,” says the comedian, who’ll perform stand-up at a sold-out UCSB Campbell Hall show on January 21. “But it doesn’t feel as good to me personally. I don’t feel challenged when I use profanity or vulgarity. It has to feel like I’m earning something, and that doesn’t feel earned to me.”

What she’s earned to date include Emmy and GRAMMY nominations, and a loyal audience for her weekly Don’t Ask Tig podcast, when she and funny guests offer totally unqualified life tips to listeners.

In real life, who does Notaro ask when she needs advice?

“I very much go to my wife, Stephanie, for advice,” she says, “and it’s usually the most solid, reasonable advice.”

Notaro and actress Stephanie Allynne met on the set of the 2013 indie comedy flick In a World… A semblance of their sweet romance plays out on Notaro’s acclaimed autobiographical TV series One Mississippi, which ran from 2015 to 2017.

Tig Notaro | Credit: Mandee Johnson

Notaro hits the airwaves again on season three of Apple TV’s The Morning Show, where shooting has been “really, really fun” if … slightly awkward.

“I always feel like a bit of an imposter in acting roles because it’s not anything I set out to do,” she says. “I identify more as a stand-up comedian, so I always feel a little fumbly, looking around [for the director] like, ‘Did I do that right? Is that what you needed?’”

But vulnerability isn’t new to Notaro. A 2012 set at L.A.’s Largo nightclub in which she riffed on her (then) recent breast-cancer diagnosis is considered legendary by her comedy peers — and she’s hit stages topless since then, revealing her mastectomy scars.

Having woven her love life, her health and — lately — her kids into her act … how does Notaro decide what’s worthy of sharing with an audience?

“It’s still a process that I’m figuring out,” she says. “Whether it’s observational or personal, vulgarity or profanity, it has to feel right.

“When I first started sharing more personal things, and had that [2012] breakthrough, it was kind of like coming out of the closet,” she adds. “But you don’t always have to be coming out or leading with that — you can also just kind of go on with your life, and then come out when it makes sense. You work that muscle and you know it’s there and you can visit that as needed.”

One final piece of advice from the Don’t Ask Tig host (we asked): If you don’t have tickets to her Santa Barbara show, the second-best way to get your Tig on this month is with her New York Times best-selling book, I’m Just a Person, or the documentary Tig, about the most harrowing year of her life.

“People seem to really get something from those and feel like they know me better,” says Notaro, who also recommends the podcast she co-hosts with actress Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) about documentaries: Tig and Cheryl: True Story.

“There’s a side of me that’s so ridiculous that Cheryl brings out,” says Notaro, whose favorite episodes feature Allynne, Sarah Paulson, and Sean Hayes as guests. “It’s just me laughing with my friends.”

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