Tig Notaro's new live 'album'

Tig Notaro reclaims the hand bra on the 'cover' of her new 'album'.

Given the choice, I'd always prefer to own the CD or the record instead of the digital file. If you want to make the digital download a bonus for buying the CD or the vinyl, thank you, it'll save me ripping the CD or hooking my turntable up to my computer. But if I'm going to pay for the download, I'd rather pay a couple of dollars more for the CD - than just buy the digital file. Because the physical artifact comes with stuff: there's the artwork on the cover, the sleeve notes, perhaps an inner sleeve with more jokes.

Consider the delicious artwork and bonus inserts that meant that almost every Monty Python album was an extended satirical take on the record industry itself .

Matching Tie Handkerchief
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief

The artwork, for example, that made The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief appear three-dimensional, as if you'd just purchased a matching tie and handkerchief in the box. The actual black polyvinyl chloride disc housed within the 'box' was labelled as a 'Free Album' that came with said tie and handkerchief. And when you removed the inner sleeve from the cover, it turned out the matching tie and handkerchief were on the recently hanged corpse depicted thereon.

Matching Tie Hand Inner
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief inner sleeve.

The other really cool thing about Matching Tie and Handkerchief was that it was 'three-sided': side 2 of the record consisted of two concentric grooves, each with half the material from that album. What you heard when you played side two would depend on where the stylus fell on the record. Confusing, until you worked it out.

Matching Tie Hand Label
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief free record label.

The Monty Python Instant Record Collection
was a compilation album. So it was an 'instant record collection' because it gave you the best bits of the back catalogue in one go. But it was also an 'instant record collection' because the original cover had extra flaps you could fold and connect so that it resembled a stack of records, the spines of which contained music industry jokes.

Try doing that with digital downloads!

But, some people would argue, it's all about the comedy, not the packaging. Particularly with stand-up: who needs all the frills and overheads? Cut out all the guff, the middlemen, the nonsense, and just bring the funny. Particularly in the digital age.

Louis C.K. makes a fine case for the digital download. For starters, he charges a flat five bucks, via paypal. The download system is simple. In the ten days of his making Live at the Beacon Theatre available, he made a million bucks - about a million bucks more, it would appear, than he was ever paid royalties for previous releases through the usual outlets. Furthermore, he makes the download method straightforward.

Now he's gone and released Tig Notaro's latest set.

I say 'latest set', but it's not the neat, polished show a world-class comedian might deliver after several months of developing material, breaking it in, having exposed it to a broad range of audiences in different cities and/or countries. It's her 'latest set' as delivered by a world-clash comedian, raw and fresh, while big, important events have just happened and she's still dealing with them - still exploring without necessarily having finalised her conclusions. It's happening 'in-the-moment' - or as close to that as live comedy will ever be.

But I'll let Louis tell you in his own words, from the email sent to subscribers earlier today:

Greetings to the people and parts of people that are reading this. Hi. This is Louis. I'm a comedian and you bought a thing from me. Well, I'm writing to tell You that there is a new thing you can buy on my website louisck.com. It's an audio standup set by not me but another comedian named Tig Notaro.  Why am I selling someone else's comedy on my website?   

Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn't seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied "well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad." She wasn't kidding. I said "uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you... Have your family... Helping?". She said "well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died". She still wasn't kidding.   

Now, I'm pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn't know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. "jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly." She said "I value you highly too, Louie." Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said "I'm gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It's probably going to be a mess". I said "wow". And with that, she went on stage.   

I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience "hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I'm going to die soon". What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life.  Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying "wow. Right?". She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example.  So generous.

After her set, I asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of Largo (great club, by the way) if he recorded the set. Largo is set up for excellent recordings. He said that he did.

A few days later, I wrote Tig and asked her if I could release this set on my site.  I wanted people to hear what I saw.  What we all saw that night.  She agreed.  The show is on sale for the same 5 dollars I charge for my stuff. I'm only keeping 1. She gets the other 4. Tig has decided to give some of that to cancer research.

Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to... Enjoy.

Please go to my site louisck.com and buy her show.  You can buy it here:


Thank you. Have a terrific afternoon. 

Louis C.K.

The show is available as an MP3 or FLAC. I've bought it. (Both MP3 and FLAC - the latter is a non-lossy format and I'm a nerd; whatever!) It comes with a digital booklet - which isn't the same thing as having cover art to fetish, but it exists. And it's brilliant.

You should buy it.

Ecco Hammo

Many years ago I encountered a story-telling comic who was excellent to watch in action. He knew how to spin a yarn and be hilarious in the process.

At the time, I felt compelled to ask him if he’d ever heard Woody Allen’s stand-up (settle down, it was during the pre-YouTube/Facebook/MySpace age, you actually needed to read stuff or know people who read stuff to know about stuff back then). Cos this comic’s story-telling style – reminded me of Woody Allen’s stand-up.

Of course the comic knew Woody Allen’s stand-up; the comic was one of those people who actually read stuff and knew people who read stuff. That comic was – and continues to be – Justin Hamilton, a brilliant writer and stand-up comic. (Of course he’d know stuff; being a brilliant writer, he’d also have to be a brilliant reader; you can’t be good at writing if you’re not also good at reading.)

Furthermore, for his 2011 festival show Circular, Hammo has a pretty impressive poster. How impressive? The only reason this blog exists is to give me an excuse to publish it.

Nice work, Hammo.


Radio Ha Ha Episode 34

Episode 34 was a tough one to do — it was the first one without co-host and co-founder of the show Tammy Tantschev, who has accepted work overseas. She's not left the country yet, but she has left the show — for all of a week — and I already miss her!

Anyway, this is the first episode to feature a 'guest co-host', as it were — stand-up comic Dave Jory.

The first time I met Dave — in fact the first time I met all the comedians in this episode, and Tammy for that matter, was during a heat of Raw Comedy, that competition to locate fresh talent run by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival every year.

As we discuss in the episode, my first impression of Dave — in his black suit, with his bald head, doing dark and shocking material that wasn't necessarily funny — was that he was scary enough to be one of those crims in a Guy Ritchie crime flick.

In addition to playing a bit of Dave’s stand-up, and discussing his development as a comic, we also feature an excellent piece from Sam Bowring. Sam's got an interesting story — having started doing comedy at age 17 at the now-legendary (and sadly defunct) Harold Park Hotel, formerly in Glebe. Since he was under-age, his father had to accompany him to the venue, as legal guardian. But his father wasn't allowed to see him perform — potentially, too embarrassing for Sam!

Not so now — I saw all of the Bowring family at a recent performance, where I got to record Sam. The routine involves him spitting venom at the proprietor of a pie company responsible for the worst pie he‘s ever ingested, and it was recorded — as was all the comedy apart from a little snippet of Dave’s stuff featured early on —live at the Mic In Hand; that’s the Thursday night gig at the Friend In Hand Hotel, Glebe, run by Sam Bowring and fellow stand-up comic Kent Valentine. (The other Dave Jory snippet was recorded at the Comedy Store, at Moore Park).

Actually, now that I think of it, Sam insists we met long before he tried out in Raw Comedy. When he was a 17 year-old open mic comic at the Harold Park Hotel, I was an earnest wannabe publisher, of a comedy zine called Stand & Deliver!. I don't remember encountering him there, but he certainly remembers me and my little zine — which still almost kind of exists, as my blog, also entitled Stand & Deliver!. Before I move on, I think I'd be withholding important information if I didn't add — for the less familiar — the fact that Sam Bowring was shortlisted for 'best newcomer' at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival. And Kent Valentine enjoyed a sell-out season (much to my embarrassment, virtually the only Sydney act I didn't see down there — only because every time I set aside an evening to see him, he was, of course, sold out!)

The other comedian whose work gets a run in Episode 34 is Mat Kenneally, another comic from the ranks of the legal fraternity (that gave us the likes of John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, James O'Loghlin and many others I should be able to name but can't off the top of my head right now). I got to know Mat this year because he was one of four comics appearing in The Comedy Zone — the show the Melbourne International Comedy Festival puts together by selecting a bunch of up-and-comers from a series of auditions. Of course, Mat insists that I saw him in a Raw final (he would have been a law student in Canberra then; I would have seen him in a NSW State final) and that I commended him on a particular routine for being politically aware and still very funny. I don't actually remember the conversation or the bit of material, but I can still commend Mat for producing that sort of comedy. In fact, it was a joy to see him MC at the Mic In Hand a couple of weeks ago; he was the MC at The Comedy Zone, and was great, but he's already come a long way since then!

If any of this interests you, you may read the transcript of the episode here;


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