In 2012, Tig Notaro sent shockwaves through the comedy world with an extremely personal and raw stand-up set about, among other things, her then-recent cancer diagnosis. That set, eventually released as Live and given the documentary treatment by Netflix, brought Notaro acclaim and set the stage for further stand-up specials and her Amazon Prime TV series One Mississippi. This week sees the release of Notaro’s latest stand-up special, Happy To Be Here, her second since Live (with 2016’s Boyish Girl Interrupted falling in the middle).
“I consider this special kind of the third piece in a trilogy, with my album Live being the first (even though I had material before that), when I was experiencing a lot of physical and emotional pain, and Boyish Girl Interrupted being me crawling out of that rubble,” Notaro tells EW in a new interview. “Happy To Be Here is really just me being happy to be on planet Earth and happy to be on stage and just happy in my personal life and anxious to express that.”
Notaro does sound genuinely happy with the state of her life, both personally and professionally. Although One Mississippi was recently canceled by Amazon, Notaro and her wife Stephanie Allynne are hard at work producing new films and TV — such as the recently-announced First Ladies, in which Notaro will play the wife of Jennifer Aniston’s first female president. Notaro will also have a guest role on the second season of Star Trek: Discovery as Chief Engineer Denise Reno of the U.S.S. Hiawatha.
Although Notaro says there’s a possibility that the stories she had planned for a possible third season of One Mississippi could still continue in some form, she’s also fine with closing that book and moving on to other projects.
“The two seasons we did of One Mississippi were exactly the two seasons I wanted to put out. We certainly would’ve done another season, but there’s also a lot of stuff swirling around with different people involved in that show, and so it was kind of nice to say that chapter’s closed and I’m ready and excited to move on, which I have,” Notaro says. “A fun part of my life right now is, I don’t have this crazy commitment to my own show, so I can pop in and do a weird auctioneer piece on Sarah Silverman’s Hulu show, or have a guest recurring role on Star Trek. I just did this movie Instant Family with Octavia Spencer and Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, looking around in complete awe that I’m even a part of this. It’s really nice to just pop into these projects, but all the while I’m still working on new stand-up. My wife Stephanie and I are writing and developing film and TV together. That’s always fun for us, we love working together. It’s nice to come out of myself a bit and create for others.”
One Mississippi was canceled amid a larger regime change at Amazon Studios, following multiple sexual harassment allegations against studio president Roy Price. When it first premiered, among One Mississippi‘s ranks was Louis C.K., who, in November, was accused of sexual misconduct by five women without their consent. (The next day, he publicly admitted that the “stories are true.”) Notaro had broken off her relationship with C.K. even before then (as she told EW in 2017 when C.K.’s episode of Saturday Night Live appeared to rip off Notaro’s short film Clown Service).
Price and Louis C.K. were among the high-profile men accused of harassment during the rise of the #MeToo movement in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Less than a year after those claims first went public, some are already anticipating “comebacks” from Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, and others. According to Notaro, who tackled sexual harassment in a season 2 episode of One Mississippi, this conception is all wrong.
“The one thing I do wanna say is, I’m just astounded by how people are still focused on these abusive people, when the focus should really be on the people they abused,” Notaro says. “People’s lives have been destroyed by these abusive, power-hungry people. I say this all the time: If somebody was a really great janitor, and they walked around exposing themselves or masturbating or coming on to people, nobody would be like, ‘When is he gonna come back to work? He was so thorough at his job, he was so good, he was the best we had, yes he did all that stuff but he deserves another chance.’ Nobody would have that sort of sympathy,” Notaro surmises. “It’s the fame, money, power, that everyone is drawn to, and they’re ready to have the discussion about second chances because of those elements. If it was a janitor, people would be like, ‘Oh my god, there was a janitor masturbating and exposing himself! Throw him out and toss him in jail!’ And then they would be likely catering to the people that he did this to. That is what I have to say. I think it’s extraordinarily important for people to have more consideration for victims and abusers.”
Notaro adds of the alleged behavior, “And as far as chances go, they had numerous chances. They exposed themselves, they masturbated, they came on to people aggressively against their will over and over. They did it once, then they did it again, and then they did it again. Those are chances. You have a chance to correct yourself. Anyway, I just don’t understand. I don’t get it.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Notaro recently directed the four-part HBO special of 2 Dope Queens. That experience, along with the huge amount of comedy specials being produced and made accessible by Netflix, gives her hope for the state of comedy.
“I have to say, as a comedian hired to direct these specials, I was truly floored to have such extraordinary comedians for each special,” Notaro says. “Half of the comedians I knew, and the other half I hadn’t heard of. I just felt like every person on each episode, including the 2 Dope Queens themselves [Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson], it was really such a pleasure working with everybody. I’d put my money on every single person that walked on to that stage each night.”
Happy To Be Here is streaming on Netflix now.