This interview was originally published in October of 2008. Much like all super heroes have an origin story, our Bentzen Ball comedy festival has one as well. This is the interview that introduced us to Tig Notaro, and from that point on we were a match made in heaven. This year we celebrate 10 Years of Comedy and friendships with a 2019 edition of Bentzen Ball, happening Oct 24-27t in Washington D.C.. We hope to see you there. Enjoy. – ed.
Photos: Alicia Kersting
A few months ago I was in Minneapolis and stopped by Acme Comedy Club (one of the best clubs in the country). Headlining was a comedian named Tig Notaro, who absolutely blew me away as the best improvisational comic that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen A LOT of stand-up comedy). She killed it. She immediately jumped to my list of top three favorite comedians of all time (Mitch Hedberg and Dylan Moran are the other two). You might have seen Tig on the Sarah Silverman Program or Comedy Central or some other place that I’m too lazy to wikipedia to find out. She rocks.
Here’s a short clip:
Tig was in DC a while back opening for Todd Barry at 6th and I Historic Synagogue for the DC Comedy Festival. After the show I flagged down Tig and told her I was there to interview her for BYT, but I didn’t have a tape recorder. She suggested doing a photo shoot, and then broke into an impromptu comedy routine in the pews of the synagogue.
And that’s where The Weekend of Tig began.
We ended up going to dinner at St. Ex, joined by comedians Todd Barry, Robert Buscemi and Dave Hill. Next it was off to the Black Cat for the DC Comedy Festival VIP party and on to Jesse Bishop’s Swann Street Farewell Party. Along the way I came to realize that hanging out with comedians is like being at the comedy club all the time. It’s really non-stop fun. The night culminated with an impromptu stand-up routine in front of the White House with Tig, me, Alicia and a really tolerant DC Cop at about five in the morning. I’m mildly surprised we didn’t get arrested.
Here’s the interview that’s taken months to compile:
I need to preface this interview by admitting something to you. And I shouldn’t be doing this on paper, because my roommate is, like, the biggest feminist ever, and she’ll read this. Here goes anyway, though (sorry, Mary). I never thought women were very good in the stand-up comedy department. I didn’t. I mean, Roseanne Barr was funny. Kind of. Sandra Bernhard, a bit. But I’ve always had a bias towards men when it came to comedy. And then I saw you perform in Minneapolis and it kind of rocked my world. You are one of the three funniest comedians I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen A LOT of stand up. Thanks for making me a little bit less of a chauvinist pig.
BYT: Where did you go to Grad School? What did you study?
Tig Notaro: I failed 3 grades and dropped out of high school. I ended up getting my GED, but nobody has ever asked to see it. And besides, when I lived in Denver, one day I came home to my apartment, only to find that my cat had eaten half of my GED, which I had left out on the table. Why was it sitting out? I don’t know, possibly just so I could throw it in my cat’s face, YET AGAIN, that I was an educated human being and she wasn’t. P.S. That is a true story. I plan on having my GED (half-eaten, bite marks and all) framed one of these days, to display in my house here in LA.
BYT: If you had three wishes, what would they be?
- I wish you hadn’t asked this question.
I wish I had a better response.
I wish you had asked for 4 wishes.
BYT: I heard that you are like BFF with Sarah Silverman. Now that Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel have broken up, how is this going to effect your relationship with Jimmy? Are you still going to be on his show? And more importantly, does this affect your relationship with well-known Washingtonian Ben Stein (Jimmy’s partner on Win Ben Stein’s Money)?
TN: I AM totally like BFF with Sarah. However, I REFUSE to let my relationship with Jimmy change at all. I’m still going to show up to his house for the holidays, just as I always have. Whether Jimmy likes it or not. I have become accustomed to celebrating Christmas with Ben Stein, Super Dave Osbourne and Adam Carolla. Nothing will take that away from me. Certainly not some silly break-up. Oh, and thanks for clarifying who Ben Stein is. When you get a moment, will you email me some info on this Jimmy character too?
BYT: Who are your favorite actor/comedians? I don’t really care about your favorite stand-up comedians. I want to know who you really admire for crossing genres. For example, I love what Eddie Murphy does in Norbit. But seriously, Jeneane Garafalo was, OMFG, in the Truth About Cats and Dogs. Seriously, OMFG.
TN: I think you are asking which comedic actors I like. Assuming I’m correct, I guess I’d have to say I really think Jim Carey is amazing. Mainly for his more dramatic roles. I mean, I’ve never seen him in anything, but I hear he’s great.
BYT: What kind of motorcycle do you ride? When did you start riding?
TN: I started riding when I was 17, I think. I have a 1970 Honda cb 350. It’s actually in the first episode I did for Sarah’s show. The one where Sarah thinks she’s in love with me. Speaking of the Sarah Silverman program, it begins airing again October 8th. I’m officer Jay’s partner. You can’t miss me, my character is called, “officer tig.” I think having the name “tig” really made me stick out in the casting process. Being friends with Sarah had NOTHING to do with me getting hired on the show. It was more my complete and utter lack of acting experience that I think sealed the deal.
BYT: Tell us about your pilot/movie/thingy? The one where you do standup in people’s living rooms? I was thinking we could do it in my friend Joel’s backyard. And have some fireworks too. And dancing girls. And people could bring their dogs and dress the dogs up in costumes like it was Halloween. Halloween for people who like to dress up their dogs. And I’ve got some other ideas. We should talk.
TN: The pilot/movie/thingy is called the Crackpot Comedy Tour. It entails going directly to peoples homes and doing stand-up. I’m working with the director Wayne McClammy. Maybe you heard about the emmy-nominated “fucking matt damon” and/or “fucking ben affleck”. Anyway, he’s the same director. He heard about this project and came up to me at a party and said he wanted to shoot it. Wayne’s still working out the details with the production company, but we are hoping to tour the states, Canada and Europe very soon. Oh, and your ideas for the show at your friends place sound horrible, but count me in.
BYT: I hear your house in L.A. is pretty rad. Can you send us some pictures? It can be like an online version of MTV’s Cribs. Tig’s Crib. We want to know how many pairs of shoes you have and what’s in your fridge.
TN: I have a lot of shoes. Most of them are wooden, hand-carved, by me. I only wear maybe 4 though. Please see photo. As for my refrigerator, I have a tub of butter and some frozen birthday candles. I rarely eat at home due to the limited selection. Here’s the thing about my living situation: I live part-time in a house with some friends that rent rooms from me, then I share an apartment with a good friend of mine in NYC in a time-share kind of way, and then I also have a place without any friends. if I show you photos of my living situations, you have to promise to mail me a photo of one of your shoes or something.
BYT: I read an interview with the Austinist where you said you’d rather die onstage than stoop to the level of, well, whatever level Michael Richards stooped to when he was dying on stage in L.A. and flipped out.That got me to thinking. How do you want to die?
TN: I would LOVE to die of leprosy. But, I guess if that can’t happen, Just suprise me!
BYT: You’re a musician, right? Any bands? I was talking with my friend Alicia about starting a band. We decided on either ‘Drowning Retards’ or ‘Punching Infants’ as a name. Want to join? What do you play?
TN: I like how you drop Alicia’s name, as if i don’t know her. Better than you do. anyway. I play guitar, bass and drums. Thanks for the band invite, but I already have a band. It includes many hilarious comedian types. Kyle Dunnigan (Reno 911), Nicol Peone (the Big Gay Sketch Show), Peter Spruyt (every commercial you have ever seen) and Michaela Watkins (the other half of all the commercials you have ever seen.) We practice RELIGOUSLY and are getting pretty mediocore. We throw out a topic and music genre, turn on the video camera and just make up songs on the spot. Three of our hit songs that you’ve never heard and never will, are “A-peekin'”, “Get in the Van” and also, who could forget “I Don’t Feel Safe Tonight.”
BYT: Okay, I’m totally serious about the Cribs thing. Please send photos of your house. And your shoes. And I’m also totally serious about doing the show in Joel’s back yard. Don’t forget.
TN: Why am i so tired today?
BYT: Probably because you aren’t mixing those prescription painkillers with the uppers anymore. Now it’s your turn to interview me. I’m spent. And I have a demolition derby to win. (he didn’t -Ed)
TN: Do I look phat in these jeans?
BYT: Send me a picture. We can have a vote.
TN: Are you in love with me?
BYT: It’s like my ex-wife said to me, I love you, I’m just not IN love with you. (True story)
TN: What’s alicia’s favorite song right now?
BYT: ‘I Woke Up Today’ by Port O’Brien
TN: Who are you?
BYT: I always enjoy it when people try to describe themselves as the ‘musical offspring’ of two artists they think they sound like. Like if somebody said ‘if Leonard Cohen and Cat Power had a musical baby it would be so and so’. So here goes. If Hunter s. Thompson and the Crocodile Hunter had an adopted a gay korean baby named Tad, I’d be the guy who roomed with him for a year and occasionally sang showtunes with him when we were both drunk. I do a really good ‘Old Man River’.
TN: How much would it cost me to hire you, to leave me alone?
BYT: Ouch. Fine. 10%, which is probably what your agent takes.
TN: Do you want to spend grandparents day together this year?
BYT: Again, ouch. Grandparents day this year was last week. I’m beginning to sense that you don’t like me.
TN: Did you think I forgot to answer these interview questions when I didn’t respond for 2 months?
BYT: No, I just figured that the prescription painkillers were doing their job. And without the meth to counteract the painkillers, I figure you probably won’t get much done for a while. It’s cool though. Lowered expectations, y’know?
TN: Did you know i don’t have a computer?
BYT: No. But the fact that you typed these questions on a typewriter and sent them to me via fax was probably a pretty big hint. Did you pawn your computer to buy paint thinner for huffing purposes? I had a friend who did that, once. You can get really, really high for a short period of time by doing that.
TN: Do you want to borrow a couple dollars?
BYT: I feel like you already owe me a couple of dollars. At least your deadbeat friend, Todd Barry, does.
TN: Does it really bother you that nothing really bothers me?
BYT: I feel like if we spent enough time together, I could figure out a few things that really bother you and keep bringing them up. You know, really pick at open wounds. In due time, Tig. But yes, I am a bit thrown off by the fact that I can give you shit for not graduating from high-school right off the bat and you just come back with a made up story about how your cat ate your GED. Riiiiggghhht. I mean, if YOU had started off an interview with ME with some condescending shit like that, I wouldn’t have answered your questions. For like two months.
TN: Remember when you took me out to brunch when i was in DC?
BYT: I do, it was at a lovely place called the Tabard Inn. Although I believe YOU took ME out to brunch, since you paid. If I remember correctly, I had the Toasted Pecan Waffles with ginger-rhubarb compote and cinnamon whipped cream. If you’d like to reminisce further about what I ate, you can check out their summer brunch menu online (if you can get access to a computer): They also have jazz in the main room on Sundays in the Winter.
TN: Do you miss me?
BYT: Actually, yes.
TN: What do you want for dinner tonight?
BYT: I would like a chicken souvlaki sandwich from The Greek Spot. I’ve eaten there the past two nights and I really plan on eating there again tonight. Next time you are in town I’ll take you there. They have amazing carrot cake. Without raisins. I firmly believe that putting raisins in carrot cake is a really bad idea. They get moist and chewy and really disgusting. If I’m going to eat raisins I like them to be hard. Like the ones in raisin bran. I like that they’re dusted with sugar, too.
TN: Did you know i quit smoking 12 years ago?
BYT: I wonder how many Virginia families have lost their homes because of people like you. Way to fuck over the American farmer.
TN: Do you like horses?
BYT: Ha. It’s really weird that you ask me this question. I really don’t like horses. I mean, I don’t hate them. But my friends Jason and Alexandra were pestering me a few days ago about my inability to get on board the whole ‘horse’ craze. And I’ll tell you why I can’t. My dad dragged me to see the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, and it was the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. Lord of the Prance, he called it. For those of you who have never heard of it, google it. Or better yet, we can have William write an article on it since his wetwork* always brings him to Austria. So, then, a few years ago, my ex’s mom dragged me to see the SAME thing at the Verizon Center. With lots of screaming 8-year old little girls. And I got drunk with her step dad and fell asleep in the middle of it. And that made me into a big jerk because I fell asleep during the dancing horse show and the tickets were like a hundred dollars or something crazy. So, yeah, horses suck. Except when they are racing. Then they are kind of cool.
*Wetwork or wet work is a euphemism for murder or assassination, alluding to hands literally wet with blood. It is most popularly attributed to the KGB and their broad euphemism for such activities, mokroye delo (wet job). There have been others however, who variously attribute it to the Mossad, the CIA and MI5.
So there you have it. Less an interview, more me bumbling my way into an epic weekend with one of my favorite comedians. And now someone I consider a good friend. Awesome. Tig, if you are reading this, next time you come into town you better get on somebody’s rooftop and jump into their pool. Or Joel’s Pond. This is more how I envisioned the weekend going:
Except instead of Rolling Stone insert Brightest Young Things. And instead of Russell, insert Tig.
Tig Notaro can be seen as the character ‘Tig’ on the Sarah Silverman Program. Watch the season premiere Wednesday, October 8th at 10:30pm, followed by another all-new episode on it’s regular night, Thursday, October 9, at 10:30pm