(b. 1971) Comedian, Writer, and Actor
From an early age, Tig Notaro knew she was funny: “In kindergarten I was a funny kid. As soon as you can be funny, I think I was funny.” Born Mathilde O’Callaghan Notaro on 24 March 1971, Notaro spent her childhood in Pass Christian, reveling in the wilds of the Gulf Coast and cultivating a comic sensibility that would eventually help her become a successful comic performer and writer. Notaro credits the influence of her mother, Susie, for much of her success. In 2015 Notaro recalled, “My mother was a very, very free-spirited, wild, gregarious, funny person. She was born in New Orleans and grew up in southern Mississippi and raised in a pretty structured, conservative environment. And she was an artist, she was a painter and a dancer, and very creative, funny person. And she really encouraged me to be who I was and do what I wanted to do.”
When Notaro was six, she moved with her mother and stepfather to outside of Houston, Texas. The girl earned the nickname “Huckleberry Tig” and remembers being “very into animals and nature,” returning often to Mississippi to spend summers with family. With “zero interest” in school, Notaro “failed eighth grade twice, and then they moved me up to ninth grade. Then I failed that and dropped out.” She found her joy either outdoors or playing guitar and drums. Notaro eventually settled in Denver, Colorado, and worked in music promotion before heading to Los Angeles at age twenty-five and trying standup comedy.
Honing her material during open mic nights and in coffee shops, Notaro, with deadpan delivery and subtle observational humor, developed a loyal following. In 2004 Notaro starred in a Comedy Central Network television special; two years later, she appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Notaro made multiple appearances on network talk shows hosted by Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon and enjoyed guest roles in episodes of The Office and Community. From 2007 to 2010, Notaro was also a regular contributor to the Sarah Silverman Program.
In 2012 a series of personal tragedies transformed Notaro’s life and career. Following a bout with pneumonia, Notaro was diagnosed with a life-threatening intestinal disease. She recovered, but her mother died shortly thereafter. A few months later, Notaro was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Scheduled to appear at a Los Angeles comedy club, Notaro contemplated canceling. Her decision to perform and the intimate nature of her material that night garnered high praise from fellow comedians. Notaro recalled, “I would’ve felt dishonest or inauthentic, I think, if I was on stage just talking about—just observing life in general from afar. That wasn’t where I was. I was very ill.”
Championed by fellow comedian Louis C.K., a recording of Notaro’s seminal performance went public, and Tig Notaro Live became the No. 1 comedy album in the country. Since her successful treatment for cancer, Notaro has continued to challenge audiences with exceptionally personal shows. At New York City’s Town Hall, Notaro performed part of her routine topless, revealing scars from her double mastectomy and winning widespread critical acclaim for her ability to balance vulnerability, truthfulness, and humor. In 2013 Notaro began work on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer and had a role in her first feature length film, In a World . . .. In 2014–15, she had a recurring role on Amazon’s critically acclaimed Transparent and released three projects: Knock, Knock, Its Tig Notaro (Showtime), Tig (Netflix), and Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted (HBO).
Notaro married Stephanie Allynne in October 2015 in Pass Christian, and in January 2016 the couple announced that they were expecting twins. From 2015 to 2017 Amazon aired One Mississippi, a semi-autobiographical television comedy about a woman who returned to her home town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after the death of her mother. She received the Mississippi Governor’s Arts Award for Artist Achievement in 2016.
Chris Colbeck, University of Mississippi
Sydney Brownstone, Mother Jones (May–June 2013)
Vanessa Grigoriadis, Vanity Fair (January 2013)
Internet Movie Database website, www.imdb.com
Tig Notaro Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/tignotarocomedy/
Tig Notaro website, www.tignotaro.com
Arun Rath, All Things Considered, National Public Radio (18 July 2015)
Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post (17 July 2015); Don Steinberg, Wall Street Journal (13 July 2012)