‘I’m Just a Person’ – Tig Notaro

The super dry, sardonic comedian par excellence lays her soul bare in a darkly comic, powerful memoir.

Tig Notaro: "The opposite of a miracle is not nothing. It's totally not a miracle."
Tig Notaro: “The opposite of a miracle is not nothing. It’s totally not a miracle.”

Tig Notaro is really quite an impressive act to lay your eyes upon. I saw her in 2011 at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where the most memorable part of her set was a bit about her frequent run-ins with the 80s singer Taylor Dayne. To say her delivery was dry is the understatement to end them all. But once you get it, once you’re on board with her delivery – this off-brand weirdo whose outlook, often blank stares would not be out of place in a bank queue – she’s screamingly funny.

To then place this comedian in the context who was dealt a series of insufferably harsh blows within the space of a year or so… that it is chronicled within the pages of I’m Just a Person in such a way, it’s really quite remarkable a testimony to her abilities as a writer, as a thinker, as a survivor. It’s all that, and more.

The book chronicles a year in the life of… someone who in this case had an annus horribilis in 2012 that you wouldn’t wish upon Joseph Stalin. Her mother died, she had a serious health condition in Clostridium difficile (C.diff – look it up: it sucks), and then got diagnosed with breast cancer. A relationship ends, just to put some sugar on top.

The ensuing months were devoted to mourning, to treatment, to shock, sadness and simply dealing with what was at stake, and as she is a stand up of genuine talent and fame, she started riffing about it on stage. “Hi, how are you? I have cancer…” she said one night; the stand-up community took notice and her story became one which took on new, legendary proportions. The set was recorded, and the ensuing album, Live, was released (Live, being the verb, as in, live in hope; not live on stage).

The book reads like a charm; she is – even in print – one of the more original and bleakly funny, sardonic voices you could ever hope to encounter. Her story is frankly human; that all the while she goes through this miasma of torments, the brutal truth of it all gets laid bare – why would you think that God tests you, makes you endure no more than you could handle? In the face of circumstances when you’d think the strongest would embrace notions of stoicism, Tig simply got on with it, and when the occasion called for it, made it funny. She’s not sure how, we can all be grateful nonetheless.

This is a great book. I can’t recommend it enough; it does more for the soul than that chicken soup book could ever hope to.

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