Beauty School Dropout
Tig Notaro’s advice for the wayward
By Tom Sharpe
Offstage, Tig Notaro is loved by fellow comics for the way she combines deadpan mock seriousness with a panoply of characters and sound effects injected into conversation. One minute she’s giving singing lessons by earnestly singing terribly off-key scales, the next she’s making a donkey noise, or slipping on a pair of glasses to portray a persnickety soul she calls “Lezbrarian.” Onstage, on The Sarah Silverman Program, it’s pretty much her in a holster, portraying someone named “Tig.” I called her on her cell to ask about an interview and she told me she was about to step onstage in New York. We caught up the next morning.
L.A. CityBeat: Hello Tig, What are you doing in New York?
Tig Notaro: Hello, Tom. I’m doing the Eugene Mirman comedy festival.
Well, that about wraps it up. Did you always know you wanted to do comedy?
I always knew I did. I just didn’t think it was something that was an option for me. I thought that Paula Poundstone got to do it, and Roseanne.
Didn’t you drop out of school at an early age?
I failed eighth grade twice. I failed ninth grade and then I dropped out. So it wasn’t like I was 12 and out on the street smoking cigarettes. I was 17.
What did you do when you were 17, then? What was the plan?
Just to smoke cigarettes.
This always fascinated me, because you strike me as very intelligent – why did you drop out?
I was just so not interested. I felt absolutely crazy every day in class. I knew that running in the hall and chewing gum were not going to make a difference in what I wanted to do.
We’ve talked before about a common experience we had as kids. As a child you were an aggressive, well, an aggressive bed wetter.
Yes. But it didn’t stop at beds. It was pants, it was carpets that I was sitting on, it was swimming pools, it was anything. If it was there, I was going to wet it.
You were ambitious.
I think it’s so funny – that distance from things that were so scary to you as a kid and now. Now as an adult, it’s my job to let everyone know my secrets I was trying to keep. It’s unbelievable that I will actually sit onstage and tell people that I had a greasy bowl haircut and I hated to take baths and I wet my pants and reeked of urine and carried a briefcase when I was 9.
What was in the briefcase, school supplies?
My school supplies. Some Star Wars action figures.
And some urine.
I had some filed in there.
You told me a story once about a time you stayed overnight at a friend’s house.
Oh, my God. So, of course, I have to go through the horrible embarrassment of having to explain that I wet their bed. And if that wasn’t horrifying enough, I was outside playing later that day and they had taken the mattress out of the house, to air out on their back porch. While I was trying to play, my shame was holding me down.
And that was the year that you dropped out of high school.
I think I was in the fifth grade.
You portray Officer Tig on The Sarah Silverman Program. How did you start working with Sarah?
It was a really intense audition process of becoming her friend. She and I met at a comedy club and she got my phone number seven years ago. And it was a lot of lunches and hikes and hanging out. It was a loooong process. Then, seven years later, she offered me the role. Luckily this part was named “Tig” so everything fell into place.
How would you describe Officer Tig?
I think it might just be me with a holster on.
Tell me about your monthly show at Largo.
If I have somebody on the show, I might talk with them, it might be a straight-ahead standup show, it’s kind of whatever. This last show, I interviewed Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm. And Sarah Silverman did a set. Tim Heidecker from Tim and Erik. And TJ Miller.
Any other projects?
I’ve been trying to develop something with Cheryl Hines. And then the ongoing Crackpot crusade: Wayne McClammy, he directed “I’m F*cking Matt Damon,” that Sarah thing, is attached to it.
This is the Crackpot Comedy tour I quit after the first show and Martha Kelly kept doing?
Yes, the idea is we go directly to the houses of the comedy fans. It’s doing shows in people’s living rooms, back yards, driveways, anywhere they’ll have us. We show up with a microphone and an amplifier 30 minutes before show time and it’s up to the people who are having it to promote it, get their friends to come.
And you’ll be in The Sarah Silverman Program premiering ...
It premieres Oct. 8. They’re putting it on right after the new South Park. And they’re showing the second episode on Oct. 9, which is a Thursday and the regular day Sarah’s show is going to be on.
Check the Largo website for upcoming dates: largo-la.com.
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Other Stories by Tom Sharpe
funny questions, funny answers!!
posted by ladonafeliz on 10/01/08 @ 07:14 p.m.
bedwetting is an early sign of sociopathy. She seems like an antisocial personality.
posted by erin on 10/08/08 @ 10:08 a.m.
can you be so kind as to tell me why she was left behind three grades? was pyromania or cruelty to animals involved?
posted by erin on 10/09/08 @ 08:41 a.m.
great article about your roommate. You should mention that you live together.
posted by hogre on 10/09/08 @ 05:23 p.m.
There is an insinuation in your comment. Allow me to clarify:
Tig and I have performed in several shows together and I consider her a friend. While we've exchanged the occasional email and phone call, I haven't seen her in person in over 10 months. We have never been roommates. There was some talk a number of months ago about a group of comics renting a house together-- I was one of those comics. While Tig and a couple of other comics did move forward with that plan, I've never even set foot in the place. Curious to know how you could possibly have heard about any of this, or where you got your erroneous information that I was currently her roommate.
Here's who I am:
I'm a standup comic who's been at it for well over a decade-- this past year and a half I've been inactive due to illness. I know and am on friendly terms with probably half of the comedians in Los Angeles. No exaggeration. Hundreds and hundreds of them. I love comics, from big shot headliners to first year open mikers. You can't do comedy in LA for as long as I have without becoming friends with your fellow comics. (Not unless you're antisocial. Which I'm not, Erin, even though I was a bedwetter and one of the best.) When the editor asked me about writing about comedy for citybeat from time to time I expressed concern. I could write about some brilliant comics, but many of them might also happen to be my friends. It was unavoidable. That's the circle that I run in. Was that a problem?
She thought I could work it out. Here's my promise: If I write about a comic, they're going to be relevant and excellent at their craft. If there's a relevant relationship, I will disclose it.
posted by tomsharpe on 10/10/08 @ 12:34 a.m.
Additional clarification because a sentence came out wrong: the circle I run in contains some brilliant comics. I'm not braggin here and saying I'm a brilliant comic. However, I've written many jokes that are brilliantly mediocre. I'm saying after all these years in LA, I am friends with some people who are pretty damn amazing at creating comedy.
posted by tomsharpe on 10/10/08 @ 12:50 a.m.
I was told by tig notaro herself that you live in her house. Interesting.
posted by hogre on 10/10/08 @ 08:08 a.m.
LOL. I'd imagine you'd have to disclose the fact that you live together. I couldn't trust a journalist if I found out that he was promoting a roommate and not mentioning it.
posted by erin on 10/10/08 @ 10:12 a.m.
There's a difference between being sociable and anti social personality disorder. Some of the most vicious sociopaths are freindly etc.
posted by erin on 10/10/08 @ 10:43 a.m.
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