2012 was a hell of a time for Tig Notaro. The year unleashed a Job-ian list of misfortunes, including contracting pneumonia, almost dying from a horrid bacterial infection, losing her mom, breaking up with her then-girlfriend and being diagnosed with breast cancer. That, however, did not stop the performer from doing a now legendary stand-up set at Largo in L.A. that would propel her into the mainstream comedy spotlight and finally bring her dry, deadpan humor to the masses.
Keeping her momentum going with a 12-minute joke about Taylor Dayne and becoming the hottest person in a Zack Snyder movie, we’ve gathered 15 tidbits about the comedian, writer, director and producer who has slayed cancer and audiences...
She Didn’t Know Who Al Pacino Was Until 2014
Notaro revealed to CNN that she only discovered who Pacino was when she was 42. “I’m going to tell you, and you’re going to truly not believe me. And it’s not that I hadn’t heard his name; a lot of times, I have heard somebody’s name before,” Notaro explained. “But I maybe don’t know that the name goes with the face. Stephanie and I went to see a movie. I can’t remember what movie it was, but I said, ‘What is that guy’s name?’ And she said, ‘That’s Al Pacino. And I was like, ‘Oh, God. That’s Al Pacino?’ Stephanie was like, ‘You don’t know about Al Pacino?’”
She explained that this has happened a few times with various celebrities over the years, which inspired her to come up with the idea for her Funny or Die show, Under a Rock With Tig Notaro.
She Got to Name Her Character on ‘Star Trek: Discovery’
Notaro told Stephen Colbert that she got to choose her character’s name, Jett Reno, on Star Trek: Discovery. She later explained that the character was initially called Denise and that she chose Jett as a homage to rock legend Joan Jett. She also told Colbert that she had no idea what she was saying on that show: “I can’t even picture what I’m talking about. When I’m learning lines in other shows or movies, I can kind of visualize what I’m talking about. On Star Trek, I’m just like, ‘Okay, I just have to remember these words.’”
On Feeling Flustered With Her Newfound Fame Following That 2012 Largo Show
Notaro said that the attention hit her unexpectedly and that she didn’t even know what to do with people approaching her for autographs. As she explained to Vanity Fair, “When I was first asked for an autograph, I felt so uncomfortable that I just wrote, ‘Tig’s Autograph,’ and from then on, that’s what I write when I sign my name.”
She Had No Idea Who the Other Characters Were During Her ‘Office’ Cameo
Notaro admitted to The Daily Beast that she’d never seen The Office when she played the part of the mother of a bully who attacked Andy and Pam. “I’ve never told this story publicly. It’s embarrassing. I had never seen The Office," she explained. “I knew a handful of the people personally, so I worked so hard on learning my lines. And then I was brought on set, and as I was standing there, I’m looking at an entire conference room of the entire cast. And it came over me that, oh my gosh, I don’t know who to direct my lines at because I didn’t know which character was which. I messed up several times. I’m sure they were just like, ‘What is her problem? Why is she directing that line at that actor?’ And I went home just mortified. So my apologies to everyone on The Office.”
Her Mom Has Had a Big Influence on Her Comedy
While comedians like Richard Pryor, Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg and Paula Poundstone have all inspired Notaro, she also counts her mother among such inspirations. When The New York Times asked her to recall a funny thing her mom said, she replied, “I didn’t like to stop playing for a second to bother with eating or going to the bathroom. I was a really skinny kid, and I remember my mother always telling people, ‘I don’t know how she’s alive. I think she gets all of her nutrients from air pollution.’”
She Wants to Play Tom Cruise’s Sister
Notaro once told Conan O’Brien that people keep telling her she either looks like Adam Scott or Tom Cruise. In another interview, they talked about her dream of starring in a movie alongside the action star as his sister, with Notaro joking that she’s been jumping and falling on mattresses on Star Trek: Discovery to get herself Cruise-ready for the day it finally happens.
She Failed Three Grades in School
As her bio on her website, Tig Nation, so eloquently puts it: “While serving time in a Texas high school, Tig failed three grades by entertaining classmates rather than entertaining the notion of a successful academic career. She decided to drop out in 9th grade and move to Denver...”
She Had No Interest In L.A. (At First)
After Notaro moved to Colorado, she joined the music business. However, when her two best friends told her they were moving to Los Angeles, she wasn’t too keen on joining them. “I had no interest in L.A.,” she told The Independent. “I thought it was just celebrities on Hollywood Boulevard, or it was Cops. None of that appealed to me. But I moved here, and I loved it immediately.”
When she landed in L.A., she finally decided to try her hand at stand-up: “I remember finding myself part of the comedy scene, seeing the people I was around, and thinking, ‘Oh, this makes sense!’ That takes care of depression right away.”
That Time Amy Schumer Pissed Her Off
Schumer commented about Notaro in Vanity Fair, saying, “Looking masculine and being gay, the challenges of the road are 20 times harder for Tig than other female comedians. People fear what they don’t understand.” When The Guardian asked if she found that statement true, Notaro got visibly (and uncharacteristically) upset, replying, “I don’t know what she was talking about. It sounds like offensive nonsense to me. I find that so offensive and weird.”
When the interviewer, taken aback by this reaction, explained that she thought the two were friends and that Schumer had talked about taking care of her “great friend Tig” before, Notaro answered, “Ummm… I’ve worked with her. I worked with her for the first season (of Inside Amy Schumer). Let’s leave it there.” She later dropped a jab at “inauthentic people” who only wanted to take care of her to look good themselves. All of which makes the “Cancer Excuse” sketch of Schumer’s show featuring Notaro hit somewhat differently today.
People Tend to Struggle Saying Her Name
While her full given name is Mathilde O’Callaghan Notaro, “Tig” was a nickname given by her brother that has stuck since childhood. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of folks seem to struggle to pronounce it: “A lot of people have trouble understanding it, especially over the phone. I was on this call with this guy, and he goes, ‘All right. I don’t feel comfortable calling you this, but I’ll see you tonight, Pig.’ I was like, ‘Oh, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel real comfortable with you calling me a pig, either, because my name’s Tig,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I said, Pig,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s Tig with a T,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Tit.’ Eventually I said, ‘Yeah, that’s right. It’s Pig Tit.’ Based on a true story.”
She Should Be the Official Sitcom Go-To Bartender
She Has a Cool Rock Magazine Collection and Has Two Motorbikes Named After Hollywood Stars
Notaro loves looking through rock magazines, amassing a solid collection of old Rolling Stone, Spin and Creem issues. She also has two Honda motorbikes, named Goldie Honda (cause it’s gold) and Kurt Russell.
She’s Had a Lot of Luck Getting Shows and Movies Picked Up
When asked how her Amazon show, One Mississippi, came together, Notaro told Deadline, “They all were offered to me, all these different platforms and deals after the 2012 time period. It was certainly an embarrassment of riches because in Los Angeles or Hollywood, or whatever you want to call it, obviously not everything pans out, and everything kind of panned out all at the same time.”
She also told Stephen Colbert that a movie she had written with her wife, Stephanie Allynne, called First Ladies sold itself, explaining that Jennifer Aniston immediately signed on after hearing the premise, with Will Ferrell wanting to produce. All of this despite there not even being a script.
Notaro’s Wife Had to Audition to Play Her Love Interest in ‘One Mississippi’
Amazon made the real-life couple prove their actual chemistry via a screen test. “And we had to wait for the results to find out if we had chemistry or not,” Notaro joked. “Then, yeah, the company that sells toilet paper and stuff like that told us we do.”
The One Thing She Changed About Her ‘Army of the Dead’ Character
After the public allegations of Chris D’Elia’s gigantic douchebaggery, Zack Snyder replaced his character in Army of the Dead with Notaro’s badass military pilot, Marianne Peters. Notaro embraced the role but insisted on making one minor tweak. “The only thing I changed was the character smoked cigarettes,” she told Salon. “I quit smoking 25 years ago, and the way I quit smoking was to not socialize for about a month and hang out in my house. And I smoked those cigars. I inhaled that type of cigar, the Swisher Sweets, and made myself sick to the point of never wanting to smoke again. So I couldn’t bring myself to hold a cigarette. But I thought the best thing I could do is make it a cigar that made me quit smoking.”