AUSTIN – In a paradoxical municipality like Austin, Texas, where small-town mentality seems to prevail even as the city itself continues to balloon, it’s easy to see how a personality like Tig Notaro’s would sell out tickets like a scalper on Super Bowl Sunday. To begin with, Tig is excessively weird – and of course, we mean that as the highest imaginable compliment. As a stand-up, her style has long leaned on the side of the impossibly kooky; an unapologetically deadpan delivery, coupled with the compliment of strange and silly material. If Austin’s reputation for weirdness flows as freely as cans of Steel Reserve down the Guadalupe river, then Notaro’s particular brand of offbeat, oddball wit certainly fits snuggly at home in Weird’s own capital city.
In recent years, however, Notaro’s comedy trajectory has taken a turn toward the more serious of subject matters. With her 2012 breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent surprise death of her mother, Notaro gained some long-overdue fame with her now-iconoclastic Largo set that confronted her grim prognosis head-on. Two years, one double-mastectomy, and a whirlwind trip to the top of the comedy game later, we’re happy to see that Tig remains as solid a stand-up as ever, and that sitting in her presence for one full evening constitutes something incredibly close to a comic ecstasy experience.
Taking to the historic Paramount Theatre stage in Austin on Oct. 16, Notaro delivered an unquestionably power-packed hour of nonstop hilarity. Quick on her feet, and sporting an enviable ability to spin laugh webs from impromptu audience participation, she kept the packed house equally enthralled and in stitches. After covering some more familiar material – everything from performing in Vegas with a “full-blown” ice cream chocolate mustache on her lip to her lack of reconstructive chest surgery and the uncomfortable gender confusion caused by it – Notaro quickly shifted gears and pulled the audience completely into her delightfully weird world.
What a lip-smacking treat, to be lead in a rousing chorus of “Yellow Submarine” by Tig as she revs up to impersonate Ringo Starr’s wife, reacting to his news at landing a main singing part. And I’m sure we’re far from the only seat-holders who had to hold ribs together when Notaro began poking fun at one overly enthusiastic back-row-shouter. “Ask her if she’s from Texas!” commanded the voice, when Tig began bantering with another audience member. “Ah, good thinking,” came the reply. “That’s my comedy coach, out on the crowd, you see. Never travel without your comedy coach to shout encouragement from the stands.”
As the comedy scene in Austin continues to grow and blossom (thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Paramount Theatre and its partner org, the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival), it’s not hard to conceive of a future in which Tig Notaro plays comedy parent to a thriving funny realm on the verge of greatness. Many, many thanks for gracing us with your presence, Tig – please feel very free to keep on coming back, over and over again.