Tig Notaro, Surviving Life and Still Laughing It Off

A. Bottinick
Ruthie Wyatt/Netflix

Tig Notaro

Within the span of a year, stand-up comedian Tig Notaro contracted a near-fatal stomach infection, lost her mother to a freak fall, broke up with her girlfriend and learned she had bilateral stage 2 breast cancer. It was truly the worst of times. Yet, just days after the diagnosis, in August 2012, she performed her scheduled set at Los Angeles’ Largo comedy club. Notaro began the performance with “Good evening, hello, I have cancer.” The 30 minutes that followed were poignant, revealing, funny and now the stuff of comedy legend. (Partially thanks to Louis C.K., who was there, tweeted about the show and convinced Notaro to release the audio.)

The documentary Tig details the comedian’s journey from her first illness to coming to terms with her mother’s death and on to facing her own mortality for a second time, and then basically becoming famous for it—beginning with that gig at Largo. “When I remember that night, I just think about the unsettled feeling I had right before I went on stage,” she says. “It was just something unlike anything I had done before, and I had no idea what was to come. I had no idea it would be this  iconic.” Shortly after the set, Notaro had a double mastectomy.

But Tig isn’t just tears and tissues. The film chronicles the best of times as well—like the courtship between Notaro and her fiancée, Stephanie Allyne. “It’s a funny thing to go back and see the stages of us getting together. It’s sweet,” Notaro says. “We feel lucky to have that. Not many people can say they have their relationship captured on film.”

Tig streams on Friday, July 17, Netflix