Comedian Tig Notaro is going topless, but it might not be what you think.
The rising star’s comedy special premiers tonight on HBO, marking a high point in a life filled with bouts of pain, loss and heartbreak. In a recent interview with TIME, Notaro talked about the difficulties in her life — a deadly disease, a double mastectomy and more — and how they’ve shaped her comedy routine.
Notaro may be most famous for set she did at the Los Angeles night club Largo, where colleague Louis C.K. was quoted as saying her set was one of the best he’d ever seen in his 27-year-career.
That performance earned her not only the respect of fellow humorists, but of the general public, as well.
Her success has resulted in, among other achievements, a Netflix documentary about her life and her HBO special, Boyish Girl Interrupted.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Notaro talked about the motivation behind the moment in tonight’s special in which she goes topless, saying she got the idea “after my double mastectomy.”
After my double mastectomy, I had the idea to take my shirt off. It just was something that I thought, maybe, if I get comfortable enough with myself, I’ll do this. Struggling with my situation and my body and then coming to terms with it and being like, ‘O.K., I can do this.’
The topless set will be the third shirtless set she’s done, with the first being at the Largo show in Los Angeles and the second at the 2014 New York Comedy Festival.
She said the shirtless routine was an important part of “coming to terms” with her life.
It was really just a part of the process of coming to terms with what my life was.
The comedian got her start in Mississippi before becoming a well-known name. Her southern roots play an important part in her comedy routines.