Tig Notaro on Why Humor Was Instrumental to Therapeutic After Her Most cancers Prognosis: ‘Something Has to Break the Tension’

Comic Tig Notaro mentioned receiving her most cancers prognosis in 2012—which adopted a collection of tragic occasions that had upended her life—was so horrific, she needed to giggle.

Notaro, identified for disarming, deadpan-style of comedy, spoke about discovering the humor in devastating moments throughout an interview on the TIME 100 Well being Summit on Thursday.

“I kept thinking maybe I was cursed,” she mentioned. “When I went in for my appointment and was diagnosed with invasive cancer, it took my breath away in horror—and like, oh my god, this is hilarious. Of course, it wasn’t hilarious but something has to break the tension.”

Notaro’s prognosis of most cancers in each breasts got here after a four-month interval throughout which the comic suffered a uncommon intestinal dysfunction, lose her mom unexpectedly and went by a breakup. Just a few days after she was advised she had most cancers, Notaro opened her comedy set at Largo in Los Angeles with: “Good evening, hello, I have cancer. How are you?” — a line that captivated the viewers and cemented Notaro as a comedy nice. Since that set, Notaro has channeled the highs and lows of subjects like most cancers and loss of life into her comedy, providing transparency about her hardest challenges.

TIME 100 Health Summit
Brian Ach—Getty Photos for TIME 100 Well beingComic Tig Notaro speaks onstage through the TIME 100 Well being Summit at Pier 17 in New York Metropolis on Oct. 17, 2019.

Talking with TIME editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe throughout an interview about coping with well being points and therapeutic by humor, Notaro mentioned comedy was a useful software to navigate the heavy feelings introduced on by sickness. She later had a double mastectomy and, deciding to not have reconstructive surgical procedure, featured her surgical procedure scars in her 2015 comedy particular Boyish Lady Interrupted, which aired on HBO.

“I thought that it was funny to go on stage and take my shirt off and tell jokes that have nothing to do with cancer,” she mentioned. “I used to struggle with [the scars] but then I realized they just represent my body healing and I started to feel empowered by it.”

In a message directed to individuals who haven’t handled most cancers or different severe well being points, Notaro cautioned in opposition to selling fixed positivity to those that endure from sickness. Individuals present process therapy or coping with a illness want to have the ability to share after they’re in ache or are scared or really feel helpless about what to do, she mentioned.

“When you’re in these places of despair and pain, sometimes you need to be able to speak in that space … and for people to be able to sit in that moment with somebody and accept that and not try and suffocate them with ‘You’re going to be okay,’” she mentioned.

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