One of the most respected “comics’ comics” around, Tig Notaro rose from having nothing more than a seventh grade education to become a sought after performer known for her hilariously uncomfortable deadpan delivery. Her early years could probably fill an entire film on their own, but filmmaker and friend Kristina Goolsby and co-director Ashley York find Notaro at a massive crossroads. While on the set of the film In a World, she meets Stephanie Allynne, a fellow actress that Tig will develop romantic feelings for, despite the fact that Stephanie is straight. On that same set, she will be diagnosed with C. difficile, a ravaging infection that would nearly kill her. Shortly after that, Tig’s mother passes away. Not long after getting back on her feet, Tig is notified that she has breast cancer, something that will hamper her long dreamed of plans of having a child. To top that all off, her battles with cancer have been incorporated into an increasingly confessional stand-up act that leaves her existentially questioning her newfound notoriety.
Tig, this year’s Hot Docs opening night film (and Scotiabank Big Ideas series entry), certainly doesn’t skimp on the human drama. Real life tales of personal adversity are rarely this complex. While Notaro’s body language sometimes conveys an understandable reluctance to open up about certain things immediately, she seems to be approaching this documentary project as a form of personal therapy. While the film itself is fairly bare bones in terms of its construction, it’s the people at the heart of the story that matter most. Even if Tig’s purposefully awkward stage and screen persona isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the film about her life stands on its own as a refreshingly straightforward inspirational story that maintains its subject’s darkly straight-faced eccentricities.