Published Sep 25, 2014"I'd like to tell you a story about the time I should have been molested," is how comic Tig Notaro began her first JFL42 set in Toronto this night. I'm not saying Canadian comedy audiences are prudish, but there was a sharp intake of breath at this gambit — after all, we weren't gathered for Anthony Jeselnik or Dave Attell, comics from whom we'd expect some sharp edges. This was Tig Notaro: cancer survivor, Amy Schumer collaborator, seemingly nice adult person.
We shouldn't have been fooled, for we were in the hands of a comedy master; she guided us easily around that tale of watching Little House in the Prairie with a grown man neighbour during her pre-teen years. In fact, the opening was carefully deliberate in retrospect: Notaro maintains utter mastery of pace and particularly silence. She was in complete control. Having put the audience on our heels initially, she let us trust-fall into her safe embrace.
That control was in evidence during every story, from the funniest thing she ever saw ("It's Santa!") to why there would ever have to be a "Please don't swim with diarrhoea" sign at a public pool. (No, Tig, I couldn't spell it without looking it up.) And text pranks you can play on your friends are almost certainly being circulated today (pick a random friend, text "What's your ETA?," hilarity ensues).
Where Notaro demonstrated her mastery, after 17 years as a stand-up comic, is in her playful audience interactions. She delighted in trying to find someone — anyone — in the audience who could explain the construction of a "that's what she said joke," and goaded us into a well-deserved three-minute standing ovation as she looked at her watch and declared "just one more minute!"
Rarely have I seen an audience more willing to give themselves over to a performer in the way that Toronto just rolled over and showed Tig Notaro our comedy belly. We got plenty of rubs in return, with little self-awareness that we were putty in the hands of a master trainer.