Tig Notaro Performed Her Set Topless, Revealing Her Double Mastectomy

November 10, 2014 | Prachi Gupta

If there were any doubt that Tig Notaro is the most badass comic in America, she confirmed it when she recently took her shirt off mid-set, revealing her double mastectomy.

You might remember that Notaro first sprung to national consciousness in 2012, when she processed her breast cancer diagnosis into a poignant stand-up bit that went viral. Since then, as a publicly out comic interested in non-binary gender, she has become an essential voice on identity issues.

Performing in front of an audience at Town Hall in New York on Thursday night, she was well into a bit about how a TSA agent assumed, based on her breastless chest and her androgynous appearance, she was a man. As the New Yorker tells it, an audience member then heckled her with a catcall. It’s a rare instance when both a heckler and a catcall turned out not to be a nuissance, but the credit for that goes to Notaro, who transformed the moment into something instructive and gripping. “Did you not hear the story I was telling?” she asked, amused, as the crowd gave way to laughter. Then this happened:

“You know, it’s funny,” Notaro continued. “I was going to do this show with my shirt off, anyway. I’m about one more ‘Whooo’ away from going topless.” It was a joke, obviously. But, predictably, several whoops emerged from the crowd. Notaro made an instant calculation. Then she ripped her shirt open, Superman-like, and she was topless.

At a time when it’s considered brave for the statuesque Keira Knightley to appear topless in an unedited photoshoot, for a primped Chelsea Handler to battle sexist double-standards by posting a photo with her nipples on Instagram, or for Angelina Jolie to openly discuss her double mastectomy, Notaro’s topless half-set is nothing short of revolutionary. What’s more, though, is that Notaro was unfazed. Reports of the routine suggest that she made no ceremony of what just occurred on stage; she resumed her set as if nothing significant happened, paradoxically making it even more significant. A strong, funny, confident woman continues to a strong, confident and funny woman — with or without her breasts. It’s one of the strongest feminist messages a woman has made on stage, possibly ever. If this doesn’t make Notaro one of the most compelling, influential, and important comics of our day then I don’t know what does.

There is a sad update to this story as of Monday, however: Over the weekend, Notaro was hospitalized for an unspecified “medical emergency,” forcing her to cancel stops in Denver and Boston on her ongoing Boyish Girl Interrupted tour. “Tig is dealing with a medical emergency and is being hospitalized,” reported the New York Times, citing a statement by Denver venue AEG Live Rocky Mountain. “She will be all right but has to cancel the show tonight.”

(Photo: CleftClips)