Tig Notaro is doing better now, thanks, after a hellish 2012.
“My health is great,” Notaro said. “I am in remission, and I am eating healthy and going to see the doctor every three months, and I feel really good.”
It’s the first thing anyone familiar with her story wants to know. Notaro, a Grammy-nominated standup comic who will perform Friday at Sacramento’s Assembly nightclub, took more hits during a four-month span than many people do in four decades.
Her summer 2012 diagnosis of cancer in both breasts (she eventually underwent a double mastectomy) was the woeful capper to pneumonia, an intestinal bacterial infection that required hospitalization, her mother’s unexpected death from a fall and Notaro’s breakup with her girlfriend.
She weathered that terrible four months, Notaro said by phone from Los Angeles, partly because she stayed on the move during it, an approach she would recommend to others in crisis.
“I didn’t want to just let my life fall by the way,” she said. “I didn’t want to just lie in bed and cry every day.”
Part of that movement involved performing at Los Angeles’ Largo nightclub days after her cancer diagnosis, turning a comedy set into an extraordinary piece of catharsis. Greeting the crowd with “Hello, I have cancer,” she followed with a bracing mix of raw emotion and gallows humor delivered expertly in style riding the line between straightforward and deadpan.
The set became famous in comedy circles, with Louis C.K. tweeting: “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.”
Louis C.K. offered an audio recording of the Largo set, titled “Tig Notaro Live,” before the digital album was released elsewhere. “Live” sold 100,000 copies in six weeks and drew a Grammy nomination for best comedy album.
The album’s success and surrounding publicity marked a breakthrough for Notaro, a 43-year-old Mississippi native best known before then for her role as Officer Tig on the 2007-10 Comedy Central series “The Sarah Silverman Program.” Which is to say, not very known at all.
“It is easier to get work” now, Notaro said. “People seem more interested in meeting with me.”
Notaro is writing a book and also is the subject of a documentary. She said both projects, due in 2015, deal with “the four months that my life fell apart.”
But those months are not her career focus. She co-hosts the weekly podcast “Professor Blastoff,” wrote for the first season of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer” in 2013 and is working on other TV projects.
An observational comic who once did an extended bit about continually running into singer Taylor Dayne, Notaro did not adopt a more serious style after the Largo show.
That show “just happened to be a moment in time,” she said. “I am the same comedian I always have been.” She said Friday’s Assembly show will include “personal stuff, observational (humor), storytelling and just some silliness.”
She’s clever about how and when she incorporates her traumas into comedy. In 2013, she explained to host Conan O’Brien on TBS’ “Conan” that her experiences the year before had taught her always to be “present.” She said this while checking her cellphone.
But she sincerely does appreciate every moment, Notaro said.
“I am definitely more keenly aware of my life and happiness and my loved ones,” she said. “I always kind of tell people it feels like it was a wasted lesson on me because I didn’t feel like someone that needed a wake-up call. (But) I am a lot happier now. I was happy before, but I am happier now.”
She has been in a “a good relationship” for about a year, she said. “She is somebody that I met a couple of years ago, and I was not single at the time. After my relationship at that time fell apart, I ran into this girl and we started seeing each other. … It is just another element of me feeling very happy and very lucky.”