Meet Cute, Plus Cancer | the new yorker


Ten years ago, Stephanie Allynne auditioned for an animated show. In the waiting room, she heard one of the other actors, a thin woman with delicate features and cropped hair, say, “Every time a director comes to give me a note, I say, ‘Before you were giving me a word, I gotta tell you, I don’t have a range. But go ahead. What were you going to say?’ Allynne thought it was so funny she went to the sheet of presence and found the woman’s name: Tig Notaro.

Notaro, whose first name is Mathilde, is a dry standup from a French family in Mississippi. Her brother nicknamed her Tig. When people avoid calling her by name, she knows why: they’re afraid her name is Pig. She and Allynne married in 2015. Now they co-write, co-direct, co-create and co-parent. Their sons, Max and Finn, are five years old; their names are Allynne Mom and Notaro Mother. Allynne’s father, who moved in with them during the pandemic, is Papa Grande.

The other day, Notaro and Allynne were at their home, an ivy-covered house in Los Angeles, sitting on a white sofa with a giant gray cat, Fluff, between them. (When Notaro uses Instagram, which isn’t often, it’s from the @therealfluffnotaro account.) They had just returned from a Dodgers game. Max and Finn were in the yard with Papa Grande, working on their stick.

Allynne, who has auburn hair and blue eyes, said that shortly after meeting in the waiting room, she and Notaro met for real, on an independent film. “We were kind of funny, small roles in the movie,” Allynne said. Notaro added, “And we played love interests. You should watch it knowing that we got married later and I was deathly ill. It turned out that Notaro had pneumonia, a serious intestinal infection called It’s hard, and bilateral breast cancer; Allynne was twenty-five and straight.

After Notaro received her diagnosis, she took the stage at Largo, a club where she does a monthly show, and greeted the audience with “Hello. Good evening, good morning. I have cancer. How are you?” It was an electrifying set. She later joked about the revenge her body was taking on her: After so many years of listening to her talk about being flat-chested, she said, her boobs were fed up and she decided, “Let’s kill her. She chose not to have reconstructive surgery.”

Notaro and Allynne started a text friendship. “I started bringing my phone into the tub, I didn’t want to miss anything,” Notaro said. Then, on Valentine’s Day, Allynne invited Notaro to meet her at a bar. When Notaro arrived, she discovered that she and Allynne were wearing the same type of chunky wool cardigan. They exchanged sweaters and spontaneously kissed. “I’ve never started kissing someone in such a public place like this – I would never do that!” Notaro said. “And she had never kissed a woman.”

The next day: confusion. “I had a little mental breakdown,” Allynne said. “I wrote Tig the longest email: ‘I really like you, I liked kissing you, but I just want you to know I’m not gay.’ ”

“Again and again and again,” Notaro said.

“Tig replied, ‘OK, dyke.’ And I guess that was kind of it.

On her new album, “Drawn,” Notaro describes how she knew she wanted to spend her life with Allynne. After a concert in Philadelphia, Notaro was hospitalized, bleeding internally, and had to undergo stomach surgery. “We had so many times where I was, like, ‘That’s the person,'” Notaro says. “But this particular moment. . . I’m in my little diaper, crumpled, crumpled, while I’m moving, and that’s how I knew, Stephanie, I was, like, ‘Ah, that’s her.’ She was laughing so hard.

This spring, Notaro’s stepfather—Cowboy Ric, for his children—died suddenly, from It’s hard infection. Max and Finn overheard their mothers talking about burying him next to Notaro’s mother, in the Mississippi family plot. (Ric inspired a central character in “One Mississippi,” a series Notaro co-wrote with Allynne and starred in, based on his mother’s sudden death in 2012.) “I’m grieving up to my neck” , Notaro said. “And then your kid is, like, ‘Wait, we have to bury Cowboy Ric?’ It’s, like, ‘Oh, gosh. Uh, yeah, we have to bury him. ‘Why do we have to bury Cowboy Ric?’ “Because he’s dead, and that’s what you do when somebody dies, you bury people. And he’s, like, ‘In the ground?’ “Yeah, in the ground. And he’s like, ‘Well, we can just dig it up whenever we want, right?’ She paused to consider the children’s mannerisms: “You are destroyed by your emotions, but you also laugh. ♦


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