Dallas — Oh please, Tig Notaro, don’t hate Dallas. Sure, you sold out the 2000-seat Paramount in Austin the night before, the seats filled with the town’s enthusiastically goofy comedy fans. Then you come to Dallas, slog your way through the bumper-to-bumper Friday night traffic on the downtown ring roads, only to find the floor seats of the Majestic barely filled with Dallas’ typically timid audience. Even so, each and every seat was filled with a fan.
Notaro was game, working a solid set before getting mired in crowd work. The front rows of the Majestic are a foot or so down in an old orchestra pit, so to the rest of us it was like she was talking with specters. She pulled it up toward the end with a bit on Ringo Starr and an audience singalong of “Yellow Submarine” that tumbled along like a square bolster (everyone knows the chorus, few know the verses). She proclaimed us tone deaf (true). We loved being chided.
In between was a funky array of stories. Notaro is not a joke comedian. She is a seeker of absurd moments and relays them in such a way that you feel conspiratorial. The edge of uncomfortable draws her like a magnet. Her fans so adore they’re willing to follow her wherever she goes because they trust her. Honest and unaffected, she’s good people.
One tale was of bombing hilariously (at least in the re-telling) in all 14 shows at a Las Vegas nightclub whose management was hostile. Not surprising for a tomboy comic who has no discernable breasts after a double mastectomy, in a town famous for women who look like Jessica Rabbit. She related enduring the suppressed rage of office politics as a temp and a sweet, odd tale of chasing Santa Claus with longtime writing partner and Professor Blastoff podcast pal Kyle Dunnigan.
The year 2012 was Notaro’s life pivot, when she endured pneumonia and then barely survived a gastrointestinal illness called C. diff, lost her beloved mother to a freak accident and was dumped from a long-term relationship, and finally was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. The night of the cancer diagnosis, she was scheduled to perform at The Largo in Los Angeles. Instead, she spoke with wry honesty of her life’s travails, turning in a legendary set that went on to become the Grammy-nominated Live (titled with double intent and pronounced “liv”).
Now two years later, Notaro’s travails have been rightly relegated to the backdrop of the stories. Only female TSA agents may pat down women passengers, but one female TSA agent, finding no breasts on Notaro… well, it was a gut-busting funny story, made all the better by Notaro’s glee at causing someone to be so profoundly uncomfortable. A little subtler was the tale of visiting her mother’s grave with a girlfriend, after being met at the airport by her extended Mississippi family, shoeless and still drinking beer after spending a day in the French Quarter (paints a picture, doesn’t it?).
Notaro is a studied madness, pacing the stage as if to say, “Let’s do something, damn it!” Life should be an adventure, maybe not 2012 kind of adventure, but one prone to generating great memories and driven by creativity (Notaro’s quirky array of projects and appearances is near endless). Yet there were times she spoke more to herself than the audience in a Steven Wright kind of way. It made us timid Dallasites happy and grateful we were privy to watch her mind at work for a while.
Opening for Notaro was Matt Bearden of Austin who turned in a solid, no-fluff set of stories that only a person who pays attention to life can tell. You simply must love someone who crafts a Charlotte’s Web punchline.
A classic Tig Notaro set on Conan, featuring a couple of the routines she’s performing on the Boyish Girl Interrupted Tour.
And a look at the pre-2012 Tig Notaro, with her deliciously twisted Taylor Dayne Story as performed on the short-lived television version of This American Life.