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Photo: Sundance Channel

Tig Notaro is an American stand-up comedienne based in Los Angeles. She originally started out in the music industry and made the transition to comedy, appearing on Comedy Central Presents, The Sarah Silverman Program, and Conan. 

In 2012, she endured a devastating chain of events– she contracted pneumonia and a bacterial infection called C. diff. Around that time, it was her birthday and soon after, her mother unexpectedly passed away. She was then suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy. All of this happened in four months.

Despite it all, Tig is as successful and brilliant as ever. Lucky for us, she’s hitting up this year’s Just for Laughs for a 5-show run. We had a chance to speak to the “Boyish Girl Interrupted” earlier this week. Here’s what she had to say.

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Tell us about your upcoming stand-up show at Just for Laughs.

It’s called “Boyish Girl Interrupted” and it’s just me doing my stuff. I’ve only recently been back doing stand-up in the past few months, so in that time I’ve just been working on as much as possible. It’s not my tried-and-true material from years ago, so it’ll be a surprise for all of us.

Your last album Live really marked a shift in your “comedic voice”, it seems. Will your next album be done in the same vein?

Well, you know, I’m still the comedian I’ve always been, so I would say it’s more like I’m back to my old ways. That was just new material.

Some of that new material came from an undoubtedly devastating four months of your life in 2012. Did it feel strange to bring that out in your work?

It’s not what I normally do, but I didn’t expect for it to be released as an album, I didn’t have that intention, but I was more private in the past, I wasn’t as personal on stage. It was just a moment in time where it made sense to talk about it, and now with the way everything’s unfolded, I feel so thrilled that it all worked out the way it did. It helped me, it helped other people, and yeah, I don’t have any complaints about it.

Did talking about it give you a feeling of catharsis?

For sure. For that moment in time, it was definitely so helpful. And now with all the attention I’ve gotten, it’s created so much work for me, so it’s almost become like this ongoing therapy for me.

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What’s the first bit you told that really “landed” with your audience? The one that made you believe you could keep going with this as your career?

I had a couple– there was one about my name and people misunderstanding it over the phone and thinking my name’s Pig, and then another one was about being tested for syphilis in junior high school. Those were two stories I told in the very beginning– the first time I went on stage– that made me feel like I was onto something.

Did it give you that same sense of catharsis we talked about earlier?

It did, but it certainly wasn’t as heavy, I mean it’s only about someone misinterpreting my name over the phone, so yeah.

Conversely, do you remember the first time you bombed?

It was the second time I went on stage. I bombed tremendously and, in fact, walked off stage mid-show. I was so cocky from it going well the first time that I signed up for a stand-up competition.

Regarding that “cockiness” you describe, do you feel a comedian has to be “The Underdog” when they’re telling jokes?

I don’t think there’s any particular rhyme or reason, I think comedy is like an extra sense, it’s something you have trouble explaining why you’re funny, why that joke is funny, why the room was good or bad that night. I think it can work in different ways, I don’t think there’s one particular way to go.

Has your perception of the comedy world changed since you’ve become part of it?

Yeah, in the past seventeen years of doing stand-up, it’s better than I ever thought or imagined. I’ve met some of my best and closest friends in this industry, and there’s a lot of talk about how bitter and unsupportive comedians can be. I know that can be true, but I’ve also been lucky enough not to be surrounded by that. I enjoy the comedy scene tremendously.

How do you feel about swearing as a comedy tool?

I’m all for it if people wanna do it! There’s plenty of different ways of doing comedy, I don’t judge. Some of my favourite comics and closest friends are filthy, but I just personally don’t do it. It’s not really my style. I mean, I love a good edgy, filthy, dirty bit, because it’s funny and I’m into it. I just don’t think it would make my material funnier. I could be wrong though [laughs].

Who do you feel have been your biggest creative influences?

Just from anywhere? Well the singer Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders, she’s just such a “make no excuses”-type person and does her own thing and I was so inspired by her; my mother had a similar personality. Sarah Silverman continues to inspire me, professionally and personally, and she too has that personality trait of doing her own thing while not caring what anyone else thinks or says.

The Just for Laughs 2013 line-up boasts quite a few female comedians, such as Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and yourself. Do you feel you’re perhaps part of an emerging group of potential role models for young women?

I honestly wasn’t aware of that difference between past years and this one. It hasn’t really affected the way I’ve thought about going to the festival. I’m not really aware of the “female” aspect either; I just think it’s great that funny comedians, male or female, are gonna be there. I don’t even think about it.

You can catch Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted at Theatre St. Catherine from July 23rd until the 27th. Click here to purchase tickets.