There is an anecdote that says that Mark Twain knew he was funny when he stood up in front of an audience, silent, and they all began to laugh. Tig Notaro has not quite reached this level yet. She had to say ‘thank you’. They were the first two words of her set and with them the audience burst into laughter.
This is Tig Notaro. Her poise, her stance, her deadpan delivery are all enough to send a crowd into riotous laughter, never mind what she says. This is a talent that stands her in good stead throughout her set of Boyish-Girl Interrupted, where she speaks of normally serious topics such as cancer, grief, and mastectomies. In Notaro’s hands these subjects - fairly improbable choices for a comedy set - become hilarious. The tone in which she speaks, the pauses she takes, even the way she leans against the microphone create an incongruity with the subject which somehow renders it all hysterical.
This is not to imply that Notaro’s humor is only in her delivery. The woman can also tell a great joke. She is able to craft clever one-liners and long, witty stories with equal ease. Her ability to interact with the audience and improvise is also admirable. About a third of Boyish-Girl was made up of Notaro chatting with the audience and no matter what they said she could spin it off into a hilarious segment. She spent a good ten minutes discussing spelling with the audience. Spelling. There was still never a pause in laughter throughout.
Boyish-Girl is a rather anomalous set. There are simply so many things about it that should not be funny. Cancer should not be funny. Grief should not be funny. Pauses and silences between jokes should not be funny. Yet in Notaro’s hands they all are, uproariously so. This is the genius of Tig Notaro and what makes her a truly fantastic comic. She can take almost anything, twist it a bit, tweak it a bit and use it to make you laugh. If you attend Boyish-Girl Interrupted, you will do so non-stop.