By: Addison Wylie
Tig is refreshingly sensible. Then again, I guess that’s what happens when skilled documentarians Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York chronicle the ups and downs of a naturally funny and practical comedian.
Tig Notaro worked very hard to earn stand-up credibility. Once her career found momentum, her dry wit opened the door for more opportunities. On the set of Lake Bell’s indie sleeper In A World…, Notaro found herself in weak health. Little did she know this would only be the beginning of a rough slog through several losses and a shocking breast cancer diagnosis.
The first half of Tig recounts the comedian’s emotional journey, while the latter half of the documentary rolls with the punches. Notaro (who also serves as a selfless executive producer on the documentary) has come to terms with sadder moments in her life, and she comfortably and conversationally opens up. When the audience rides with Tig through her unpredictable future, we feel soulfully connected to Notaro. Her learning process is similar to how we feel. Sometimes the feelings are too much to handle, but we hang on to root for success. Tig deals with distress and counters it with the grieving performer’s empowering strength.
Goolsby and York make a great team, and they seem to gel well with their subject. Tig has a polished look, and uses classy ways to overcome filmmaking hurdles. The Largo – a comedy club – has a rule barring video cameras from entering the performance space. Movie goers end up seeing black-and-white images of Tig’s vulnerable body language support the audio of her routine, which is just as unforgettable. The routine we hear is her best-selling set “LIVE” – a special featuring Notaro honestly and amusingly expressing her irritation with the hand she’s been dealt.
While on the topic of her stand-up comedy, movie goers also see how a joke is shaped. One of Tig’s jokes is about how years of making fun of how flat-chested she is has led to her breasts deciding to up and leave (Tig had a double mastectomy). We see her approach the sensitive material with different wordings and paces. Goolsby and York may not know it, but watching that process come alive is captivating. Especially considering how most of Tig’s timing stems from milking silences.
Tig is versatile with its candour. It’s unembellished, naturally funny, and a compassionate view on heartbreak and discovering inner perseverance.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie