Over the weekend, comedian Tig Notaro announced during a set at the Largo in L.A. that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, welcoming herself to the stage by saying, “Thank you, thank you, I have cancer, thank you, I have cancer, really, thank you.” Such is the style of Notaro, a comedian beloved by comedy nerds, podcast aficionados (for her “Professor Blastoff”), and anyone who can appreciate wry, dry humor at its most absurd (also, pal Sarah Silverman, on whose Comedy Central program she played — who else? — Tig). She broke the news the only way she probably knew how: with a sense of psychological removal that left the crowd apparently enraptured by her eerie ability to marry comedy, tragedy, and placidity, all at the same time.
It’s been quite a year for Notaro, whose mother suffered a fatal freak accident following Tig’s release from the hospital after battling deathly, pneumonia-induced bacterial infection in her digestive tract that shaved 30 pounds off her frame (which she explains at length on Julie Klausner’s podcast, “How Was Your Week”). On the other hand, Notaro is hitting her stride, professionally, having recently released the live album, Good One, as well as appearing on The Office and “This American Life,” and being hired to work on rising star Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central pilot. Which is to say that this is a woman with whose work you’ll want to be come familiar. A mix of Steven Wright, Demetri Martin, and Steve Martin, Tig Notaro is a brilliant storyteller and gifted messenger of arid lunacy, and here are the five bits you will watch over and over again.
1. The icing on the cake on Notaro’s debut on Conan was, surprisingly, prop comedy, in which Notaro uses a stool to keep the audience in stitches.
2. Notaro goes super-meta, doing a killer impression of one doing a killer impression.
3. Funny thing is, Notaro specializes in her own three signature impressions.
4. Notaro thoroughly examines the Spanish phrase “moleste.”
5. Notaro’s best-known bit, a story about repeated run-ins with eighties pop singer Taylor Dayne, recently made its debut on “This American Life,” which ended with a satisfying surprise from Ira Glass and friends (fast-forward to about the sixteenth minute).