Recently, television has given worthwhile, prosaic voices a vehicle. Tig Notaro is a terribly funny, wry voice that has been popping up all over television for years now on things like The Sarah Silverman Program, Comedy Bang Bang, and Transparent, not to mention producing some glowing stand-up specials like, Boyish Girl Interrupted and Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro.
Notaro is also someone who has undergone an extreme amount of hardship over the past few years, undergoing tragedies like the death of family member and a cancer diagnosis. Notaro channels these difficult years along with her trademark sardonic wit into a soothing show that distinctly feels evocative of whom she is. One Mississippi is a great insight into Notaro’s mind, as well as another stepping-stone in this comedian’s career. With the series set to premiere on Amazon, we had the opportunity to pick Tig’s brain regarding the fundamentals of her new show, mixing comedy with tragedy, and why her hometown is such a crucial part of the series.
DEN OF GEEK: One Mississippi does a really great job doing this call and response where your character is interacting with her past. What do you like getting from that juxtaposition between past and present?
TIG NOTARO: Well I feel like it fills in a lot of blanks. There are also the moments where it’s not something from my past. They’re just these moments that I’ve created with my mother that never happened. All of that comes from the moment where I walked in the door from taking my mother off life support. I mean, it’s not all from that, but those moments that I’ve fabricated with my mother are when I walked into the house and she wasn’t there to greet me, and she always had been at every age of my life, no matter what time it was. She would always greet me. I guess it’s just a long goodbye where I’m creating moments to continue to say bye to her.
This is certainly a series where you don’t shy away from any of the tragedy or trauma. Do you think that embracing that extreme allows the comedy to hit harder and work even more effectively?
I hope so! It’s such a weird thing to put something out there that mainly people are watching as they’re lying in bed or sitting on the couch. So it’s been kind of hard to gage what’s been going on behind closed doors because only the pilot’s out so far. But there have been about three opportunities at screenings where I’ve been able to watch a live audience take in the pilot and it was so fun to see the room explode with laughter at the comedic moments and then really come down to those emotional moments. I really couldn’t believe that people would hit those and follow along. I was sure that it wouldn’t happen, but I’m so happy that they do, and hope they continue to throughout the season.
Those moments of absurdity where you get lost in your head are so great and really punctuate the show. Were having those sorts of breaks from reality important for you in doing a series?
Yeah, I think it’s just natural for me. I love those two extremes. I love drama and I love absolute and utter silliness. The silliness, as silly as it may be, is still rooted in the inability to accept a reality in whatever moment. So as crazy as we go I think it’s still rooted in something real. But yeah, it’s really fun to do and at times hard to believe that it’s happening in the same show as the other material that we’re filming.
There’s such good chemistry in this show between your character with Remy and Bill, even if you’re all so different. Talk a little on those off kilter relationships and your take on that dynamic?
I think I can’t speak enough about the casting on the show and everybody’s talent. I really lucked out when it came to Bill and Remy because I feel like there was nothing that we had to work at. They both had a really great understanding without having to meet my family. Like it was hard for me to understand that John Rothman was not that personality. He plays it so well that it blows my mind. I think that I just know how to play off that removed, stoic, awkward character because I’ve been doing it my whole life.
You have some really exceptional directors on board for the show. How did you go about selecting them?
Well I had heard through the grapevine that Nicole Holofcener liked me, so when we were moving in the direction of shooting I just casually mentioned that she might be someone that we would want to consider. So we met with her and I would say that we had a pretty immediate connection. She did half of the season.
Ken Kwapis I met on a pilot that Sarah Silverman and I did on NBC several years ago [Susan 313]. I just walked away from that experience thinking, what a kind, talented, invested, passionate, sensitive person that Ken was. So I always kept in the back of my mind that if there was ever the right thing I would want to work with him again, and as soon as this came up we reached out to him. Then with Shira [Piven], I had scene the film that she had done with Kristen Wiig [Welcome to Me] and had worked with her on Transparent, so we thought of her. Nobody had worked with her yet, but we gave her a try, and we wrapped up this season very pleased with everyone’s contributions.
I really like how the show operates like a love letter to your hometown of Mississippi at times. Was doing your home justice a satisfying part of the show?
Well yeah because there are so many misconceptions about the South, and being gay from the South, and being gay in the South. Certainly a lot of those stereotypes and ideas are true, but I wanted to show people the beauty that I know via the people, the scenery, and the experiences that I know. There are certain complex issues that are no doubt going to come up in that area but my experience is very different and I wanted to show my version of it.
You might not have thought of this much, but what would you hope to say with a second season of the show? Where do you see things going next?
Oh my Gosh, I can’t blow this! I can’t blow this story that I haven’t even pitched to the rest of the writers in the writers’ room, yet! I mean we’ve barely touched on ideas, but the ideas that we have—I certainly think there’s more to my love life and the on going relationship that I’m trying to build with my family now that my mother is gone. I think it’s a lot of highs and lows and that’s kind of the realities of life. We’ll just keep exploring the highs and lows of health, and love, and family.
Lastly, do you have a particular favorite moment from the season, or something that you can’t wait for people to see?
I wrote an episode with my wife Stephanie [Allynne] and we had so much fun making that episode and writing it. I think there’s just a part of me that’s so proud of my collaboration with her. There are some scenes in that episode that I really love. I think people will enjoy watching it but I don’t know if I want to give anything in particular away. Just episode five in general, I’m excited for people to see what Stephanie and I made.
One Mississippi begins streaming on Amazon on September 9th.