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Tig Notaro is Punk Rock

Officer Tig releases debut album via Secretly Canadian

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Comedian Tig Notaro’s deadpan delivery has been her unique calling card since starting her career as a comedian in the late 90’s. Growing up in Mississippi and Texas, Notaro moved to Los Angeles with a group of high school friends after her cat ate her GED certificate. After cutting her teeth on the road and appearing on numerous TV shows like The Sarah Silverman Program and NBC’s Community, Notaro recently released her debut album, Good One on indie powerhouse Secretly Canadian Records. Known for having a hectic tour schedule that often finds her performing in the backyards of fans and contest winners, SanDiego.com was fortunate to sit down with Notaro and talked about her early years in stand-up comedy and her recent appearance on CONAN.

Do you remember the first time you did stand-up comedy?
Tig Notaro: Oh yeah, very well. I can never remember exactly when I started stand-up; I think it was 97’ or 98’. I was in Los Angeles and it was a coffee shop and I went up onstage and I had been talking to myself for probably months before that, doing that whole chunk of material, just looking at myself in the mirror and talking to myself. It was so weird to actually perform it in front of an audience. Even though my goal should be laughter, I didn’t ever account for laughter, because I was always so used to talking to myself that when I went onstage and told my jokes, when people laughed; I wish I could see video of that first night because I’m certain I looked alarmed when I heard laughter coming from the audience.

I’m sure on your first time up that must’ve disrupted your rhythm.
TG: It did, it totally disrupted my rhythm because I had my monologue I was here to say and then people started laughing and it was almost like, ‘What are they laughing at?’ Then I remembered I was trying to be a stand-up comedian.

Did you ever go to college?
TG: I didn’t. I failed eighth grade twice and then I failed ninth grade, then I dropped out of high school. I got my GED but my cat ate it.

Did that really happen?
TG: Not fully, but she ate it enough to where it’s hysterical. I just got it framed and I’m going to hang it in the house.  People think that I made up that that my cat ate my GED, but it’s true.  You can still little bite marks. I remember coming home and seeing my GED half-eaten and just feeling more than ever that school really doesn’t matter. My cat ate my GED, this is just ridiculous.

Would you describe yourself as a troubled youth, or were you just not that interested in school?
TG: I was a mix between troubled youth and not interested.  I would smoke cigarettes and skip class and snuck out of the house; steal my mother’s car after hours.

So you were like the punk rock girl in school.
TG: I was definitely punk rock. I didn’t wear the punk rock garb; I was raised by a mother that was very headstrong and whenever I would tell her anyone was giving me a problem she always told me to tell everybody to go to hell. I have a more subtle go-to-hell attitude than my mother. My mother will get in your face and tell you to go to hell. Mine’s a little more subtle.

Where did you grow up?
TG: Mississippi and Texas. So I was telling everyone to go to hell down there.

When did you move to Los Angeles?
TG: 96’ or 97’, somewhere around there. I started stand-up two weeks after I got to L.A.

Was there anything specific that made you want to move to L.A. and start doing stand-up?
TG: My whole life I always followed and wanted to do stand-up. I still have these very close friends that I grew up with and they went off to college, and so I just followed them. I went off to college with them, but just to go live with them while they went to college. I had no interest in going to college. So while they were going to college; we would all three move around to wherever they were getting their undergrad or their master’s, so I would just go along for the ride. Then Beth, one of my friends decided she wanted go to L.A. because she wanted to produce sitcoms, and so I just went because we always just moved everywhere together. As soon I got to L.A. I saw the opportunities to do stand-up, so I just went hog wild on the open mic scene.

What was the process for you developing as a comic within the Los Angeles comedy scene?
TG: Even though L.A. doesn’t have all of the actual traditional comedy clubs that New York has, I never found any sort of lack in getting stage time. I did stand-up at comedy clubs, coffee shops, Laundromats, bars; I did it anywhere. I would go to a taco stand in Santa Monica, and I didn’t have a car, I rode a bicycle, so I don’t understand when people say there’s no stage time, because I would ride my bike ten miles to do three minutes at a taco stand.  I was getting onstage five or six nights a week. I was absolutely obsessed with stand-up as soon as I did it.

When would you say you found your voice as a comedian?
TG: It’s funny because I was told for the longest time that I didn’t have a voice in stand-up and I needed to find my voice. I was hearing that mainly from representation and networks; I wasn’t like a favorite or a darling of the industry. I felt like I had more respect from my friends and peers. I’ve had representation, but it wasn’t until I found my manager now; everything has kind of fallen in place as far as representation the past couple of years. I would say my voice hasn’t changed too drastically, I just think I’ve been around long enough and I’ve been working long enough that people didn’t know what do with me before, so they would just blame it on me not having my voice. And obviously in time, my voice, like anybody’s voice, it gets more specific and more tuned. Whenever I talk to new comedians I always tell them, ‘Don’t spend time worrying about your voice and what your voice is. Just spend time making sure every time you walk onstage you’re the best and funniest you can be.’  Then people will go, ‘Oh, they have a voice.’ 

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