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Tig Notaro Is Scared of Chrissie Hynde, Dominates at Marky Mark Karaoke

Tig Notaro / Photo by Robert Chamberlin

Last August, comedian Tig Notaro took the stage at Largo in Los Angeles and got serious, discussing her breast cancer (she’s better now) and the then-recent passing of her mother. Louis C.K. saw the set and was so moved he put a recording of it up for sale on his own website. The hilariously deadpan Notaro, 42, will be physically releasing that performance, called LIVE, for the first time this summer on Secretly Canadian. She’s also spending the warm-weather months on the road doing in-concert tapings of her podcast, Professor Blastoff. Tig called from a stop in Napa, California, and discussed the music of her life.

What’s the last song you listened to?
Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.” That song makes me think of my mother. She used to give me Willie records for Christmas and my birthday and it would end up just being me giving her Red Headed Stranger or something back because I didn’t want it. I’m pretty sure that’s what she wanted to happen.

When you were growing up, did your mom object to anything you were listening to?
It was a free-for-all with music when I was growing up. My mother was a huge music fanatic so I was listening to everything from country to heavy metal to Indigo Girls to Elton John. I guess when I was really young I didn’t like Willie Nelson and she obviously loved him. Now I do too, I’m so thankful to her for playing his music nonstop.

What’s your favorite song?
One of my favorite songs is “Ghost” by Indigo Girls. Emily Saliers wrote that and she is one of the most talented songwriters ever. I’m continuously blown away by her. She writes these beautiful love songs but seems like she’s inspired by anything. I’d love to use an example of “Oh, here’s a song by Emily that’s not a love song,” but this one’s my favorite and it happens to be a perfect one.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?
The Pretenders’ Pretenders II. I didn’t set out to buy that record, I saw it in a half-off bin. At the time, I had just heard a radio interview with Chrissie Hynde and before that I had just been into John Lennon and Eddie Van Halen. I was perfectly fine being into those guys but then I heard her talk and she sounded like such a badass. I hadn’t experienced a woman talking like that before. I had heard them act tough or rock star-ish but no one struck me like she did. I wasn’t looking for a female hero, she just authentically popped up.

Have you ever met her?
Nope and I’m scared to. One time Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel took me and my ex to see the Pretenders and they were going to take me backstage but I couldn’t do it. To me, it’s literally like meeting God. I wouldn’t have anything to say. I don’t want to ruin it. I want to have a hero.

If you were going to curate a festival who would you put on the bill? They can be alive or dead, it doesn’t matter.
It would be a weird festival. I would have Willie Nelson, Elton John, the Beatles, the Pretenders, Indigo Girls, Van Halen, Wilco, and Regina Spektor. I’d also put Billy Joel on there. I’d set him and Elton John up doing a dueling pianos thing.

What was the last concert you went to?
I saw Regina Spektor at [Manhattan’s] Beacon Theatre in October of last year and she was so fantastic. Earlier that month I saw Frightened Rabbit at the Bowery Ballroom. They’re one of my favorite bands to see live. There isn’t a bad fist-pumping moment at their shows.

What’s the name of a mix or playlist on your iPod?
As much as I love music I just recently understood how to work my iPod. I’ve been thinking of making a playlist for this one girl. I think I want to start the mix with “The Absence of God” by Rilo Kiley and “Better Be Home Soon” by Crowded House. We were driving for this tour and that song came on and I just had a vision of this person right when it started playing. That got me thinking of other songs I’d put in a mix for her. Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” would definitely be on there, too.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations.” I always go with that one because I don’t have a good singing voice. But I can rap up a storm to that song.