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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Tig Notaro: Profile of a survivor
by Charlsie Dewey
2016-12-07

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Comedian Tig Notaro has been spending much of the last six months at home thanks to two new additions to her family. Notaro and her wife, Stephanie Allynne, welcomed twin sons in June.

Her career has not slowed down, however, and 2017 will likely be another busy year for the comedian.

Notaro, who has been performing standup and acting since the 1990s, became more widely known after a standup performance that went viral in 2012, just days after she'd been diagnosed with cancer.

Peers have hailed her performance as one of the best in the history of standup

Notaro's set that night began with an acknowledgment: "I have cancer." It then continued with a harrowing performance that had the audience laughing despite the seriousness of the situation.

The cancer diagnosis was one of a trifecta of life altering events to befall Notaro. That same year she'd also been diagnosed with a life-threatening intestinal disease and her mother had died following a fall.

Much of Notaro's life since her incredible performance has been well-documented: She's been profiled by countless national media outlets; written a New York Times best-selling memoir, I'm Just a Person; earned critical acclaim for her Netflix original documentary Tig; and received an Emmy nomination for her HBO standup special Boyish Girl Interrupted.

She also writes, produces and stars in the semiautobiographical comedy series One Mississippi, which premiered on Amazon Prime this fall and has been nominated for a Critic's Choice Award for Best New Series.

The show has been picked up for a second season, and Notaro said that is how she will begin the New Year.

"We start writing the second season on Jan. 3," she said. "We are all really excited to get back to it."

The six-episode season doesn't have a release date set yet—and Notaro said she has no idea what direction the second season will take.

"I have no idea about what is going to happen in the second season. The first season is fictionalized. It's loosely based on my real life, but it has parts of what the other writers have brought from experiences from their lives," she said.

"That is what is fun. I have no idea where my story is going. They are taking bits and pieces of my life and adding to it. I'm excited to get in there and find out where my story goes."

While the show will continue to draw from Notaro's real-life experiences, she said she does expect it to veer off more in its own direction as it goes along and she said that is one of the things she enjoys about doing the show and working in a collaborative environment.

"I think there will always be these elements of reality, but then veering off the road is turning out to be a lot of fun," she said.

She also said her family members are big fans of the show and don't take the characters too personally, but she does recognize its not just her story being put out there.

"I definitely have to have boundaries and use my best judgment of how to tell the story, which is my story, but also includes other people," she said. "Luckily my family loves the show and are supportive of it and they realize its only based on some true events."

With lesbians still making up a meager number of characters on network TV, outlets like Amazon Prime and Netflix have been providing more opportunities not only for lesbian characters to appear, but also for more varied storylines to be explored. Notaro said she doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about her show's contribution to this, but she agrees visibility is important.

"I'm not showing anything to make a point, but I definitely think visibility is important, and I think more than anything I enjoy showing that there isn't a stereotypical reaction to my sexuality or relationships that people might expect in a small Southern town," she said.

"I think that is the most exciting part for me, because it is a non-issue in my family. People have responded saying they expected more of a reaction or coming out moment or conflict within the family when my girlfriend comes home and it's not a part of it. I guess that has been important to me, to show that it's not all clichés and obvious ways people might think something like that would go."

Notaro said besides working on "One Mississippi," she also expects to spend time touring next year and is hoping it will culminate in a new comedy special.

Between now and then, Notaro is busy getting in the Christmas spirit; something she said is mostly due to the newborns.

"Both of our families will be in town and its the babies first Christmas, which we can't wait for," she said. "We are going to take them to get the photo with Santa and get our Christmas tree this weekend.

"Stephanie was teasing me this morning, saying I always tell everyone that she loves Christmas so much and she pointed out a million different ways that I've come around to it more, but I think that just comes with the excitement of having a family of my own."

Notaro is scheduled to perform at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17. For tickets, visit harristheaterchicago.org/.


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