Lesbian comedian Tig Notaro started a set last night at the Largo with the quote, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy. But I don’t have the benefit of time. So I’m just going to tell you the tragedy and know that everything is going to be okay.”
According to comedian Kira Hesser, few in the audience new what was in store. Notaro, a 41-year-old who you might know from The Sarah Silverman Show, announced at the beginning of the show that shewas diagnosed with breast cancer, in both breasts, three days ago.
Notaro also explained, said Hesser, that “in some manic twist of fate, while her career is at an all-time high — she is moving to New York to work on Amy Schumer’s new television show, she was on This American Life — concurrently, all these terrible circumstances have befallen her over the past 3 months: pneumonia made way for a debilitating bacterial infection in her digestive tract for which she was hospitalized and lost 30 pounds off of her already small frame, days after being released from the hospital, her young mother died suddenly and tragically (fell, hit her head, died), then she and her partner broke up, and then, now, cancer. In both breasts.”
Critics and comics came away from the show raving about Notaro’s ability to relay humor about the tragic twist her life had taken, many admitting that the set brought them to tears and laughter all at once.
Louis C.K., a special guest at the show, tweeted the next day:
in 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.
— Louis C.K. (@louisck) August 4, 2012
Notaro is certainly not the first lesbian with breast cancer, nor the first comic, but the aplomb and humor with how she announced her condition is sure to have a lasting effect on her fans — and perhaps the industry. Of course, some of Notaro’s famous bits may have to be re-written since she jokes about her fabulously small boobs frequently. But if last night is any example, she’ll find humor in it all.
“You have a lump,” she said last night. “No, doctor, that’s my breast.” Bada bing!