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Tig Notaro: Stand-Up Comedy Rock Star

Tig Notaro is the only comedian signed to the indie music label Secretly Canadian, and she loves being part of the scene.

black and white photo of Tig Notaro on stage

Photo: kata rokkar (Flickr)

In 2006-2007, Tig Notaro moved her stand-up comedy routine from the stage to people's living rooms for a series of intimate house concerts.

Event Information

Tig Notaro At The Comedy Attic

Tig Notaro's performances at The Comedy Attic coincide with the release of her first album "Good One."

The Comedy Attic

August 11 at 8:00 p.m., August 12-13 at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

$12.00 (Thursday) and $15.00 (Friday)

The Comedy Attic

Secretly Canadian

Tig Notaro

The last time Tig Notaro was in Bloomington, she recorded her first album, “Good One,” at the Russian Recording Studios. Released on August 2 on the indie music label Secretly Canadian, it debuted at #4 on the iTunes comedy charts. I spoke with her on the phone recently to find out what it’s like being a comedian among musicians.

Bringing Comedy To The Music World

Annie Corrigan: Your record label Secretly Canadian normally deals with musicians. You’re a comedian. In fact, you’re the only comedian on the label. Talk about how that relationship came to be.

Tig Notaro: One of their singers, Jens Lekman, is a fan of my stand up, and he had asked me to go on tour with him. We toured together for a few weeks, and the record label was on tour with us basically the whole time. So I got to know them pretty well, and they got to know my stand up. Then when I went through Bloomington a couple years later, the label came to my shows and took me out afterward, and basically offered me a deal. They asked if I had been interested in putting out a CD, and I hadn’t. I just never felt like anything was right. Everything they said seemed perfect, and I knew immediately that I would sign with them.

AC: It’s curious to hear about a comedian going on tour with a musician. Do you have a background with music?

TN: I played guitar and drums growing up, and then I ended up getting into the music business on the promotion, marketing and booking side of things.

There are certain comedians that cross that border. I do all the big music festivals around the country and there are a handful of comedians that do that, too. Then Secretly Canadian signed me, and suddenly I was on a record label for music also. I don’t know why I’ve crossed over into that world, but I love being in that world because the comedy world by default already knows who I am. It pushes me into a whole new market, my relationship with the music world.

Embracing Awkward

AC: As you said, you perform in a variety of venues. In fact in 2006-2007, you performed a number of house shows. Talk about the difference between performing comedy in a living room with a dozen people as opposed to a club with a hundred people or a TV special that’s broadcast nationally.

TN: I love the intimate awkward shows like at a house, and I guess to me it’s not too different from doing a comedy club, especially if I get the feeling that the majority of the audience is familiar with me specifically and they’re there for me. But definitely recording a late-night set for television has a totally different feel in that there’s a distance between you and the audience, and you’re performing for the camera. It’s just not as intimate.

AC: I’m thinking about the stereotype of indie music lovers–they tend to be too-cool-for-school–purposely so. Do you find that when you perform at these indie music clubs people are easy laughers, or do you have to work harder?

TN: No, I can feel the excitement when I’m there. Those are definitely the gigs I really look forward to, because when you’re performing at an indie rock club and you’re doing stand up, the audience is there very specifically to see you. They didn’t just wander into your show. They came there to see a comedy show at a music venue, and so I can feel the excitement more than most places.

Podcasts Vs. Twitter

AC: Professor Blastoff is your podcast with Kyle Dunnigan & David Huntsberger. In it you talk about everything from bees to aliens to multiple personality disorders. It debuted at #1 on iTunes in May of this year. Talk to me about the format of a podcast and why you prefer to do that as opposed to something like Twitter.

TN: I love doing my podcast because I’m sitting there with two friends of mine, and we already naturally talk about these topics just hanging out or working together. So getting to sit down and just chat about something in a natural and normal environment feels natural and fun to me.

I’m not as excited about Twitter because I feel like a handful of people do it well. It’s hard to explain the nuance. There can be cliques in open mics and in the comedy world, and if you don’t branch out of your clique, whether it’s mainstream comedy or alternative indie comedy, I think you can start to get a very similar voice and cadence to your peers around you. I was noticing that with the different circles, like everybody was sounding like the circle they were in.

Sometimes Twitter strikes me as another big circle. Tweets can have a cadence of their own and I think it can strip comedians of their delivery. Since there are X amount of characters you can use, there’s a Twitter voice that is prominent. If comedians don’t have a strong enough voice, they can generically have that Twitter voice. I don’t care that it’s a carefully constructed joke. That doesn’t impress me. I think people’s delivery and their cadence is so important to the comedy.

AC: Your podcast is upwards of an hour, so it’s maybe the opposite of a Tweet in that you guys just sort of go. You just talk and you let the conversation be the joke.

TN: It’s a ridiculous show, in so many different ways. The people that take our show too seriously, and are upset that we’re not experts with knowledge, and are not seeing that we’re friends that are interested in the topics and we’re just chatting about what limited information we do know–that, to me, is funny.

Always Be Prepared

AC: You’ll be performing at the Comedy Attic August 11-13. How should members of the Bloomington community prepare for your arrival?

TN: Clean your houses. Take showers. I would like a parade. New shoes. Maybe yoga sessions for each person in town. Yeah, wear a helmet. Show up to the show with helmets on.

AC: What’s going to happen if people actually do that?

TN: You won’t see me happier in my life.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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