Despite growing up in Spring, Tig Notaro hasn’t performed in Houston in over a decade. It’s not for a lack of trying, though, she’s quick to say. “It's funny because friends, family, fans—everyone—took it personally, like I was avoiding the city. I always tried to get booked there, but it was almost impossible,” Notaro says. “I was constantly told by my agent that there was no real venue that was right for me or that my demographic went to, and so I kept being routed past Houston on my tours.”
Luckily, the Heights Theater has since opened, and now Notaro will be taping her forthcoming Netflix special there this Saturday, as a homecoming of sorts. “I’m really excited, because I haven’t been there in so long, and now that this venue is open, it felt like a cool place to go do a bunch of shows,” she says.
Notaro’s life changed drastically in 2012 when, in the span of about six months, her mother died, she almost died from C. Diff, she went through a breakup and was diagnosed with breast cancer—but turned it all into comedy gold for her sophomore album, Live. Since then, she’s written a memoir, I’m Just a Person, and has written and starred in a semi-autobiographical Amazon show, One Mississippi, in addition to continuing to do stand-up.
Houstonia talked to Notaro before her visit about her experience doing One Mississippi, and how drastically her life, career—and Houston!—has changed in the last five years.
What do you think of Houston and how it's changed since you lived here?
Even though I do go back a couple times a year, I'm typically not ever driving myself around, and I don't know my way around the city anymore. I'll just go my hotel or to my friends' or stepfather's house and hunker down, because I do not at all know the city anymore. It's changed so much. It's funny because the area where I used to live out in the Spring and Cypress area used to be so podunk and just pastures as far as the eye could see, and just a little bit of development, and now it's just—I can't even believe it's the same area.
What do you like about writing and acting in your own TV show? What do you like about your career right now, and what has surprised you about it?
I never set out to act, but it's become something that's interesting to me. When I do my stand-up I don't like to go back and watch or listen to that. I'm so used to it; I'm tired of my own voice as far as my material goes. But I can actually watch myself act, just because it's more of like, I don't really connect to it, so it doesn't even feel like I'm watching myself. It just fascinates me to just be acting and in that world. I'm not saying I'm the best actor, but I feel like I'm doing fine and pulling it off.
When I was writing One Mississippi, I was just writing the best stories and ideas that I could think of, and I forgot that I was going to have to act them out. And I remember finishing all the scripts and being like, ‘Oh my god, what was I thinking?! I'm going to really have to act.’ I was pretty scared, but like I said, it's turned out to be a really fun and interesting aspect of what I do.
I like being able to use my brain in a bunch of different ways. There's different parts of my brain I have to use for stand-up and writing a book and writing a script and structuring a season of television and character development. All of that is very different, so it's kind of hard to get bored with what I'm doing. It's nice to be able to be constantly in creative spaces. I've just started directing. I've done a handful of comedy specials that I got to direct, and Ellen Degeneres hired me to direct her upcoming Netflix special, and I'm directing my Netflix special in Houston, so that's been a fun part of everything—finding out that I'm enjoying that.
What was it like writing a few episodes of One Mississippi season 2 with your wife?
She's so talented. I know most people say this about their spouse, but it really is the truth: She's smarter than I am, and she's tremendously funny, and we inspire each other, and we crack each other up, and we're just very like-minded, but different enough to, of course, interest each other. I feel really lucky. We're working on other projects together that haven't surfaced into the world yet but hopefully you'll see or hear about that.
What was the experience like of turning your life into a TV show?
It was fun because so much of what I had done had been so factual and autobiographical. It was nice to have the freedom of a TV show to make it semi-autobiographical and utilize the different writers in the writer's room and take from their lives and their stories and be able to create a storyline that I didn't know. Obviously I don't know my own future in life, but I really don't know how things are going to go on the show until we actually get in there and write it and create it. It was just a different kind of experience rather than writing my memoir and doing really personal stand-up, and there was a documentary made about my life that really stuck to all the actual specifics of everything. The TV show allows [us] to veer off in so many different directions. I always say it's somebody's truth and somebody's reality, but not always mine.
Is there going to be a third season of One Mississippi?
I don't know, we're waiting to hear. We’re hoping to get news either way, because if so, we can't wait to get back to working on it, and if not, we have other things we'd like to move on to.
Your life has completely changed in the last five years. How would you characterize those years, and how does it feel?
Sometimes when I picture the last five years, I picture the evolution of man, and I also picture just being teleported from the past into the future just so quickly. It was just a lot of growing pains and unbelievable experiences. I was making plans for my own funeral five years ago, and I'm happily married with two children and thriving in my career, and my health is really good as far as I know. I'm officially in remission at this point. I don't have a complaint. I always say that my dream and my hopes are to maintain everything that I have, it's really something that I focus on daily, because I can embarrassingly say that all my dreams have come true.
Tig Notaro on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 11 p.m. 5 and 8 p.m. shows are sold out. Tickets $35. The Heights Theater, 339 W 19th St. For more information and tickets, click here.