Tig Notaro has no reservations about serving up deeply personal comedy in her inspired-by-real-life Amazon series “One Mississippi.” For that reason, it’s easy to feel like you know the comedian well. But a word of caution: The line between actual and imagined is blurred enough on the series, you might not know her as well as you think you do.
“The funny response to ‘One Mississippi’ continues to be that people don’t know what is true and what’s fiction,” Notaro told CNN in a recent interview. “Sometimes I’ll find myself in conversation with people, even crew that works on the show, where they’re telling me a personal thing that is connected to something to the show, and I am listening to them and then I’ll be like, ‘Well, actually, that didn’t really happen.’”
More biographer than jokester, Notaro is a compelling storyteller. She has artfully – and with humor – explored experiences ranging from awkward airport screenings to surviving breast cancer and grief in her stand-up and on “One Mississippi.”
In the show, which she co-created with Diablo Cody (“Young Adult,” “Juno”), the lead character, played by Notaro, returns to her hometown in Mississippi to cope with her mother’s sudden death and some complicated family dynamics, not long after recovering from a double mastectomy. All of that is based on Notaro’s own experiences.
Other details in “One Mississippi’s” six-episode first season were created in the writers’ room, but the show is still rooted in its star’s candor and willing-to-bare-it-all approach.
“I feel like I’m playing myself in a world that has become not my world,” Notaro said. “I’m aware that I am a character, but it’s me and how I would react to that world.”
Poignant and at times heartbreaking, “One Mississippi” is billed as a dark comedy. But much like Notaro, the series maintains an impressively optimistic spirit.
“I feel like I am the most hopeful person you could possibly meet,” Notaro said. “You really don’t know what’s coming [in life], and so you’re doing yourself a favor to let go and trust that what is unfolding in front of you is going to hopefully serve you in some way. I know it kind of, it starts to not make sense when things become so terrible, but I did tell myself that, even when I thought I was going to die.”
Nearly five years after opening her now famous stand-up set with the words “Hello. I have cancer,” Notaro is thriving. Married to actress Stephanie Allynne, who plays Kate on “One Mississippi,” the two are parents to twin sons.
“Even in losing my mother, beautiful, amazing awakenings have happened within my family,” Notaro shared. “Of course, losing her is not what you want. The things that happened after her death, she would be so just beside herself with joy that life turned out that way.”
The other side of tragedy, Notaro teased, is where Season 2 of “One Mississippi” will pick up.
“Everyone has crawled out of the rubble and is dusting their pants off, and they are ready to reacquaint themselves with the life that was waiting for them,” Notaro said. “If there is any way for this to make sense, there is way more honesty in Season 2, while being way more fictional.”
Notaro’s willingness to reveal her story, combined with an ability to tap into shared experiences, may just be the secret to her appeal.
“There’s definitely been moments in my life, even recently, where I’ve taken chances or spoken up about something where I don’t know how it’s gonna go, but it is true or it is my truth,” Notaro explained. “That’s kind of that trusting life.”