bee joke

If you haven’t heard Tig Notaro’s stand-up act where she discusses her recent diagnosis of breast cancer (and I mean recent, as in just got the diagnosis before going on stage), you should.  It’s amazing.  Here’s an interview Ms. Notaro gave on NPR’s “Fresh Air”.  The set up, without giving away “spoilers”, is that Ms. Notaro has had a staggeringly terrible year by all accounts.  How many of us have been there?  Not a lot in the general population, but if you’re reading this blog, I think the odds that you’re in this group are greatly increased.  I don’t know if this act will resonate as much with others….I hope so.  For those of us who have been there, it’s like a bolt of lighting.

An excerpt:

What’s nice about all of this is you can always rest assured that God never gives you more than you can handle. (Pause) Never. Never. When you’ve had it, God goes, “All right, that’s it.” I just keep picturing God going, “You know what? I think she can take a little more.” And then the angels are standing back, going, “God, what are you doing? You’re out of your mind!” And God was like, “No, no no, I really think she can handle this.” “Why, God, why? Why?” “I don’t know, just trust me on this. She can handle this.” God is insane, if there at all.

My favorite part, it’s hard to tell.  I laughed until I cried about the survey the hospital sent to her mother, which Ms. Notaro opened and read just after she returned from her mother’s funeral.  But I think the very best part is the bee joke.  To me, it’s a moment of reflection on life “before” from the perspective of life after.  The absurdity of trying to pretend everything is normal when it’s so clearly not was captured perfectly.  A transcript is useless, an excerpt won’t give the set up, which is essentially the whole “act” to that point.  All the life shaking things that have happened, the unknown that she’s looking toward, wondering if god has more in store for her because clearly she can “handle” it, and there’s this bee joke which was funny before but now is elevated to the level of breathtakingly painful, and yes, funny but for a totally different reason.  It’s the funny of standing there, pointing and laughing at the absurdity of the world being turned completely inside out and knowing that not only do you need to get up and keep going but that you’re supposed to keep going like nothing happened to show how strong and unafraid you are – be normal, care about things that you now see as simple and not worth the time, tell the bee joke.  What an amazing gift she has that she can communicate this experience.

The act is available for purchase on Louis CK’s website.  No DRM, no corporate overhead.  Proceeds go to Ms. Notaro and Louis CK (who hosts the site and is an amazing comic, worth supporting).  Ms. Notaro has said she will donate a portion to cancer research.

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