Hot Docs ’15: Tig Notaro talks turbulence and triumph

Tig Notaro - the comedian and cancer survivor at the center of the doc Tig - took the stage at Toronto's Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (pictured) on Thursday night (April 23) to discuss the opening night film and the trying years it documents.
April 24, 2015

When Tig Notaro – the once cancer-stricken comedian at the center of Hot Docs opening night doc Tig - was asked by an audience member last night (April 23) how long she could keep the cancer storyline going in her material, she answered – with deadpan delivery – “Until I die.”

The comedian took the stage at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema for a spirited Q&A session that felt more like an impromptu set following a screening of the film, which kicked off the 11-day Toronto festival. Filmmakers Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York were also present, but it was the comedian who took most questions from the audience.

The Beachside Films-produced Tig - which bowed at the Sundance Film Festival in January – chronicles turbulent years for the LA-based comedian, when she suffered from a number of health problems and was ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after losing her mother.

Following the diagnosis, Notaro performed an iconic set at LA’s Largo nightclub, in which she candidly discussed her illness with the audience to rave reviews, becoming an overnight hit in the world of comedy. Tig follows both the professional aftermath of the set, as well as her plans to become a mother and her budding relationship with actor Stephanie Allynne.

Discussing her decision to be featured in the documentary, Notaro explained that she had been friends with Goolsby for 20 years, and was game for the project almost immediately after the first-time director approached her with the idea.

“It was one of those things where you say ‘yes’ to something and you don’t necessarily think it’s going to happen or keep going, and then they’re in your house all the time, and then you’re at Hot Docs,” said Notaro to laughs from the audience.

When asked what was the most “awkward thing” about being surrounded by a crew at all times, Notaro said – again with trademark stolidity – that it was awkward “from start to finish.”

“It was awkward falling in love, it was awkward being rejected,” said Notaro, who served as an executive producer on the film. “It was awkward to talk about the fertility.”

tig notaro

Tig Notaro

When asked what she was happiest about in regards to the film, co-director Ashley York pointed to the collaborative nature of the project.

“As independent filmmakers, this film really exemplifies process – the collaborative nature of getting a film made,” she said. “For my directorial debut and for Kristina – we made a film in two years, we premiered at Sundance, we’re having our premiere here at Hot Docs, it’s wonderful.”

Later, addressing her stand-up career, Notaro explained that she has a new hour of material, and is also set to begin shooting an HBO special next month. A book, she adds, is also underway.

“I feel so lucky to have had – and maybe some people are tired of it – this platform to share my story,” said Notaro, “and this cycle that continues.  I’ve shared my story and it’s touched people and then they share their story and it touches me and it keeps going.”

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