“Hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I’m going to die soon.” So said comedienne Tig Notaro in her now-legendary standup set last month. It doesn't exactly sound the like the basis of a good time, but by all accounts her audience was rapt.
According to her friend and fellow comedian, Louis C.K., Notaro had only found out earlier that day that the lumps detected in both her breasts were cancerous, and that cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. In response to the news, Notaro went onstage and delivered a 30-minute off-the-cuff performance―recordings of which instantly went viral, setting her on a course of newfound fame. Now Louis C.K. is selling that recording on his website and giving Notaro the proceeds, of of which she will donate a portion to cancer research.
Deciding to take the stage just hours after receiving her diagnosis, Notaro said she went through with the show simply because she had promised to days before. Instead of her usual act, the comedienne chose to essentially wing it and simply talk about all that was happening to her. What followed were 30 minutes of standing-ovation worthy, uncomfortable, funny, sad, moving moments.
Notaro explained to The New York Times that after the show was over, she went home and forgot all about it. But upon waking the next morning to a slew of emails and tweets, she realized she achieved virality, with many characterizing her set as the most talked about event in comedy in recent history.
Louis C.K. tweeted after that night that “in 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.” According to a more recent statement on his website, Notaro has since undergone a double mastectomy and is doing fine.
The timing of the comedienne's recovery is serendipitous. October happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But according to The Los Angeles Times, the event has come under criticism, with many claiming it’s devolved into little more than a public relations opportunity for big companies to wrap their products in pink packaging.
While all that corporate sponsorship can make it difficult for consumers to decipher how best to help those struggling with breast cancer, the opportunity to donate money to Tig Notaro certainly cuts away the confusion. According to Louis C.K., a downloaded recording is $5, of which Notaro receives $4. A portion of her proceeds will go to cancer research.
Entertainment Weekly says the recording is worth the buy. And if you'd like to explore even more ways to help those with breast cancer, visit TakePart’s recent coverage about the most effective breast cancer charities.
Have you ever faced a life-threatening illness, and if so, how did it change you? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com