When Tig Notaro made the leap from talented comic to household name, that change went hand-in-hand with her breast cancer diagnosis. Having just received the news from her doctor, Notaro famously rocked LA’s Largo theater by opening her stand-up routine with the words, “Hello, I have cancer.”
The resulting audio became a hit album. Notaro then published a memoir, became the subject of Showtime and Netflix documentaries, and was nominated for an Emmy for her HBO special, Boyish Girl Interrupted. Her new half-hour series, One Mississippi—co-created with Diablo Cody (Young Adult)—was subsequently snapped up by Amazon. Based on her life, with some fictionalized elements, Mississippi follows Notaro—in the lead role as herself–through the passing of her mother, Notaro’s recovery, and the heartbreaking and hilarious scenarios that followed.
While the pilot was based on your real-life experience, the show then moved more into fictional territory. Did you always know where Season 2 would go?
That’s really been the fun of it: I don’t know where it’s going to go; let’s figure out where this is going to go. I’ve brought in ideas to the writer’s room of where I’d like things to go; everybody has. We follow those storylines, and sometimes we get to a place where they have to scrap it. Those have been sad moments, because I’ve had a couple of storylines that I really was excited to do, and then it didn’t quite make sense with what we were doing with other elements of the show.
As time has gone on, and there’s been more distance from that traumatic time that I went through, it’s been so fun to move away from and let go of it more and more, as thankful as I’ve been for all these different outlets to let me express myself in all these different ways.
What’s the dynamic like between you, showrunner Kate Robin and the writers?
Kate’s so great. I think that she and I have a really great relationship and understanding of what we’re trying to do here. It’s all very based in reality, with natural comedy, hopefully, coming from it.
We have two new writers this season, but they’re right on target. It’s like a big therapy session, our writer’s room. I mean, every day somebody is crying or sharing something they never told anyone. I think we’ve been good at having the right eye and feel for who’s going to be good in the group, or in the room. I owe a lot to Kate for keeping things on track in that way.
In real life you’re married (to co-star Stephanie Allynne), but will your character explore dating in Season 2?
Well, there are people that I’m dating [on the show], and checking things out with, and checking out the spark that got started with the Kate character. That’s definitely in Season 2.
How have you been able to move away from being known for having cancer?
I think I can feel a change, but I’m also always aware that I probably don’t fully know how I’m seen. I can see myself in a certain light, or think I’m moving in this direction, or changing in this way. People might not see me as that, whereas I feel like I am on the other side of all of that trauma that I went through.
Obviously, things carry on in ways. You still always deal with things. I think I really was kind of stuck, at a time, in just a hard place, physically and emotionally. Now, I feel so good, and my stand-up even, there was a lot of talk about how I was this dark and truth-telling comedian. It’s like, I did that when I was going through that, and I think a part of me was thinking, “Gosh, all these people are saying that. Is this what I am? Is that who I am now? Maybe that’s who I am now.”
Then I had to remind myself that my whole career, I’ve always been changing, and trying new things, and doing what felt right at each moment, and that felt right then. Whereas now, I don’t really have anything depressing to talk about, you know?
What inspired your new stand-up material?
I’ve been touring around with this new material, and I’m hoping to do a special this year. There’s a segment in my new material that I think is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done, and it lasts about 15 minutes. You have to be there to see what it is.
I’m hoping to do it on my special, and it’s so fun. It’s just a reminder of, “It’s not all darkness.” This is purely silly ridiculousness—that’s all this is.
How about a Mississippi Season 3?
Season 3 would be dreamy. I never know. It’s like going back to the thing I was saying: I don’t know if people really think of me. I don’t ever assume that people are going to love or appreciate what I do. It would be great. I don’t assume that they’re not going to. I just am like, “I’m going to do my absolute best at everything I do, and I’m going to put it out with pride, and hope people enjoy it.” That’s how I feel about Season 2.
Maybe people will be like, “Wow, you completely lost us here,” or it’ll be like, “Yeah, let’s have Season 3.” Like I said, I want to do a new comedy special. I have an idea for another book. I have my babies and my wife, and I can’t wait to spend the summer with them. I just feel truly on top of the world, and the luckiest, luckiest person.