9:51am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Tig Notaro: Being Gay Isn't the Focus of Amazon Comedy 'One Mississippi'
Amazon's upcoming Tig Notaro show One Mississippi — a semi-autobiographical comedy series — doesn't center on the fact that she is openly gay. And to hear the stand-up comedian and the show's executive producers tell it, that isn't even addressed on the show.
Inspired by her own life, One Mississippi centers on Tig as she leaves Los Angeles and returns to her hometown in Mississippi upon her mother’s untimely death. What begins as Tig reconciling her mother’s affairs becomes a poignant and surprising exploration of family, childhood and life after grief.
Notaro, Kate Robin, M. Blair Breard, Louis C.K., Diablo Cody and Dave Becky exec produce the comedy, which hails from FX Productions and C.K.'s studio-based Pig Newton banner.
"I guess the ceiling is cracking — or whatever is above us — but it's clearly a very slow process," Notaro told reporters Sunday at her show's stop at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. The series marks the latest TV project to center and star on an openly gay character. It's been nearly 20 years since Ellen DeGeneres came out on ABC's Ellen — which started with both the actress and the character in the closet — and the now-daytime talk show host followed that up with CBS' short-lived The Ellen Show in which she starred as an openly gay woman.
"What I do enjoy about doing the show is I think it could be expected in taking place in Mississippi that the option of being gay and coming out and conflict of family would be an easy way to go," said Notaro. "Luckily, that is not an issue in my life; it’s a non-issue. It's been an exciting element to present my life in the way that it is where nobody flinches if I have a girlfriend or three."
Amazon head of comedy Joe Lewis also noted that focusing the show around Notaro's sexuality "wasn't even a discussion" when the studio heard the pitch for the show.
Added Notaro: "I didn't even think about it when I was pitching it — it wasn't 'gay-themed.'"
The show marks the latest collaboration for Notaro and C.K. and comes after the latter used his website to release her 2012 stand-up show in which she addressed the death of her mother, as well as recent cancer treatments and personal struggles after being diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. For her part, Notaro wrapped a nationwide stand-up tour in January after the emotional special — which later was released on iTunes — took off. She scored a Showtime documentary, an HBO comedy special and a Netflix documentary.
"[It's] about 85 percent real and there were a few parts that we bridged moments together," Notaro said of the way One Mississippi blends the realities from her life with fiction. "The timeline is off from when my life actually fell apart; we crammed all that into the pilot so we could go from there if it went to series. Having gone to series, it's more fictional but there's still a lot of reality and real moments from my life."
Pressed by a critic what she meant by her life falling apart, Notaro used her dry wit to rattle off a long list of events she has endured that started in 2012: "My mother died; I had cancer; I had an intestinal disease and couldn't eat; and went through a breakup; I had pneumonia. The list goes on. The pilot captures all of that but overlapping rather than spreading it out over the four months that it happened."
She noted that the show is more real and dramatic but finds humor in the "real moments."
"There's nothing I tried to force any comedy into," siad Notaro. "I think it'd be harder to take everything so seriously; that would be more of a challenge to eliminate comedy all together and move forward in a strictly dramatic and sad way."
One Mississippi debuts in September on Amazon.