Tig Notaro seems to be everywhere lately. The comedian has been a household name for years, but lately her career has swerved in ways few could have predicted. There was the time she popped up in a Phoebe Bridgers music video out of nowhere last year, and more recently, thanks to a quick casting substitution in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, the self-described “low-key” lesbian has become 2021’s sexiest action star.
“Especially after turning 50, it was a real curveball,” the comedian told The Daily Beast during a recent interview. “But I’ll take it.”
Tig Notaro: Drawn, which debuts Saturday on HBO, is another kind of experiment—a fully animated special that transforms the comedian’s confessional anecdotes into cartoon vignettes.
Notaro’s relationship with animation has shifted somewhat in recent years thanks to her twin sons, whom she and her wife Stephanie Allynne welcomed via surrogate in 2016. The boys share two passions, Notaro said: They love to watch baseball, and they’ve gotten very into cartoons. Their adoration for the form has rekindled Notaro’s appreciation as well. Her father, who lives with the family, has even begun to break out the classics.
“They love all the new animation,” Notaro said, “but it’s really fun to see them cracking up at Tom and Jerry and the Pink Panther.”
Done poorly, Drawn could feel gimmicky and overdone. But beyond his skill with visual and aural gags, director Greg Franklin’s greatest virtue is knowing how to use them sparingly.
Each of Notaro’s stories takes on a new animation style; some are sketched, and some are 3-D animations. There’s an extended meditation on the Kool-Aid man, a relationship horror story or two, and an ode to a charming, if very lonely, great aunt named Myrtle. And there’s an extremely relatable story about Notaro’s frequent childhood daydream of her idol, Eddie Van Halen, witnessing—and, more importantly, admiring—her soccer skills.
Asked what it was about the late guitarist that made her so eager for his approval, Notaro said, “I think he just was the coolest rock star and had that famously cute, adorable face and smile. I used to run around with rock and roll guys and I think, you know, he just seemed like your buddy—that just happens to be the biggest genius in the world.”
Notaro, a former band manager, knows a rock star when she sees one. Last year, she even surprised one of the genre’s rising stars. Asked how she wound up in Phoebe Bridgers’ pot-infused “Garden Song” music video, the comedian said she and Bridgers’ manager have been professional friends for years. Notaro had discussed directing the music video for “Kyoto” but couldn’t due to a schedule conflict.
So the manager reached out with another idea: Would she like to surprise Bridgers by appearing in the music video her brother was directing in their childhood home? “I was like, yeah, I'll do that,” Notaro said. “So I drove over to her mother's house and did that.”
Notaro appears dressed as a monk, and lurks behind Bridgers for most of the video after she takes a huge rip from a bong. As the singer herself noted when she shared the video, she’s not a big smoker—and evidently, Notaro’s surprise appearance was a bit of a trip.
“We were standing in her mother’s kitchen, and she was high, and she was laughing, and she was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so freaked out right now. I can’t believe you’re in my mom's kitchen, I don’t ever smoke pot,’” Notaro said.
Notaro is a rock star in her own right. Her career exploded in 2012 thanks to a brilliant and bracing stand-up set she delivered shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She received a double mastectomy and has since released a memoir (I’m Just a Person), been the subject of multiple films and documentaries (Showtime’s Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro, Netflix’s Tig), and released a critically acclaimed dark comedy series inspired by her life (One Mississippi).
No matter what Notaro appears in—which, just this year, includes Star Trek: Discovery, the Ed Helms-Patti Harrison film Together, Together, and Bob’s Burgers—her off-kilter swagger and dry wit make her a consistent stand-out. And now, on top of everything else, she can add “bona fide action hero” to her résumé.
For Notaro, Army of the Dead has become something of a turning point—at least in the way she thinks about her career. After years of being told that someone like her cannot appeal to the masses, it seems the countless tweets calling her “sexyAF” beg to differ. Whatever grand experiment or surprising career move might lie ahead now, Notaro said, she’s ready for it. Today she’s turning into a cartoon; what might the next grand experiment be?
“The reality is that I have more possibilities to my life and career than I maybe ever imagined,” Notaro said. “So I'm leaving the door open for whatever is to come. [I'm] always wanting to do whatever feels right for myself... I’m open to doing anything because I feel like maybe I could do anything.”