Back at the beginning of August, Tig Notaro got up on stage in Los Angeles and delivered 30 minutes of stand-up that was instantly elevated to legendary status for two reasons. The first was because of the context, as Notaro delivered the show shortly after getting diagnosed with cancer (which followed pneumonia, a debilitating intestinal infection, the death of her mother, and a bad break-up). The second was because Louis C.K., who was also on the bill that evening, tweeted the following: “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.”
The set was only heard by the few hundred people in the room that night, and Notaro had intended on releasing some of it via This American Life. But now the entire set, titled Live (as in “Live Forever,” not Live at Red Rocks) is available via download care of Louis C.K., who has released it on his website as a $5 download. As noted on the site, Notaro is keeping $4 and donating a portion of the proceeds to charity.
So now that the full set is available, does it live up to the hype?
In short: Absolutely. If anything, it manages to surpass the already-huge expectations attached to the performance. In fact, it feels a lot like the best episodes of Louie: Not necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious, but funny, sensitive, and with a firm grasp on the fundamental absurdity of life.
Much of the 30 minutes is simply Notaro laying out the narrative of her year, opening with the announcement of her cancer diagnosis and working back from there. There are traditionally-structured jokes in there, but Notaro mostly finds humor in an open, honest monologue. Perhaps the best aspect of the show is her interaction with the audience, which is simultaneously shocked, amazed, and tickled throughout the show. Notaro regularly consoles the people watching her, letting her know that everything is going to be all right in the end. The remarkable thing is that she seems to believe it more and more as the show goes on. By the end, the greatest moment of catharsis comes when she feels like she has lost the room and asks if she should shift to telling some jokes from her act. A man shouts out, “No!” and when Notaro follows up with him, he tells her, “This is f—ing amazing! It’s beautiful! Do not stop!” Notaro seems genuinely moved by the idea that her act has been effective, and she follows it with her best one-liner of the night: “Thank you, now I feel bad that I don’t have more tragedy to share.”
Notaro told Conan O’Brien that her surgery was successful and that the outlook for her is positive at the moment, so it seems like things might be looking up for her following that gauntlet—though she knows that everything should be taken with a grain of salt. “I fall for it all the time. I think, ‘OK, I’ve got it figure out now and everything is going to be pretty smooth,'” she told EW back in August. “And then it’s like, ‘Nope, here comes ten million curve balls.'”
What do you think of Tig Notaro’s Live? Let us know in the comments.
Read More on EW.com: