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Tig Notaro Talks Dolly Parton And Making History With ‘Drawn’

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at July 23, 2021

Tig Notaro: Drawn is making history.

Utilizing a broad range of styles, it is the first stand-up comedy special to be fully animated. It premieres on HBO and HBO Max on Saturday, July 24, 2021.

Rather than taking one single live show, Drawn, directed by Greg Franklin, involved sifting through over 48 hours of performances and using the audio to construct a unique one-hour performance. The animation process used over 150 artists. 

I caught up with the acclaimed comedian and writer to discuss the special and how and why country legend Dolly Parton became part of the equation.

Simon Thompson: Is this the first time you’ve been approached about doing a feature-length animated project like this?

Tig Notaro: Stand-up has been combined with animation previously. I’ve seen people animate some of my stories and jokes on TV shows and websites. There was a show called Shorties Watchin’ Shorties on Comedy Central, so the idea has been out there, but I just figured it might be fun to animate material that I wasn’t necessarily planning on delivering in a live stand-up special. The audio was recorded live but about three years ago. I considered putting it out as a comedy album, but then I thought, ‘Oh, maybe the whole thing could be animated, and I could still deliver the audio as an album.’

Thompson: Seeing the finished product, did it match the vision that you had in your head?

Notaro: For sure. It was a common interest of every studio or network that we talked to where they wanted to see a lot of different styles of animation. It’s so fun to see, and I enjoyed going back to the live version of myself on stage at the Largo interacting with the audience. The audience interaction really kind of ties it in and makes it feel like a live show.

Thompson: How much input did you have on animation styles, and what got used for which part?

Notaro: I was a part of the process the whole way through. They presented different animation styles to me and told me the reasoning behind why they thought a particular animation would work well with a particular type of storytelling or type of joke. I felt like everybody was right on target, and I was very happy.

Thompson: Were you surprised about what the animation added to the storytelling and the jokes, how it elevated or enhanced them?

Notaro: Well, I think it tastefully adds something more to the jokes that I think my live presentation of the material doesn’t necessarily bring. It can’t help but elevate it. I guess it could hurt it if you overdid it, or it wasn’t quite aligned with my taste, but I had seen Greg Franklin’s work before; he’s the guy who directed it. Well over a decade ago at this point, he and I had talked about working together, and he was going to animate my comedy back then. If I had done it then, I would have been paying out of pocket, and I wouldn’t have been supported by a network or studio. I decided I wasn’t going to pay out of pocket to do this, so we went our separate ways. It just felt nice and felt right to reconnect all these years later and for him to direct us because, as I said, I had seen him animate other comedians, and I loved what he had done.

Thompson: Has this made you look at your comedy from a new perspective?

Notaro: Oh, for sure. It’s made me not only look at it differently but really love it. It’s made me enjoy my comedy. I don’t want to sound like I’m high on myself, but as a comedian, you live an experience, or you observe something, then you write the story or the joke, and then you perform it a million times. Usually, that’s the way it goes. You can tire of the story or the joke. Seeing it animated, I almost look like a lunatic sitting and watching my comedy and enjoying it. It’s not even so much that I’m laughing at myself, but I’m enjoying it from other people’s perspectives and what they’ve added to each story or joke. It makes it fun in a whole new way.

Thompson: You round out the show with a great story involving a road trip with friends and the Dolly Parton song, Two Doors Down. It can be challenging to get these things cleared, so how did you get approval? 

Notaro: I’m telling you, I’m just as shocked as you are. I love Dolly Parton so much. Here’s the thing. As I mentioned, this material is from three years ago, but the Dolly Parton story I didn’t start doing until about two years ago, and I had this other story that was going to end the special was about Ringo Starr. As a side note, I had told Greg about this newer piece I was working on about Dolly Parton, and he said, ‘Can I just listen to that? I’m curious to hear it.’ So I let him hear it, and then he was like, ‘I am so sorry, but I would love to just edit this newer piece in as the ending of the special.’ I was fine with that as it’s such a visual piece. It comes across live on stage, but I always felt like it would be a really good short film or something to be animated, so it was perfect that he wanted to add that to the show. So Ringo got booted out, and Dolly got brought in. When we were going to Dolly and her manager for approval, we all, and I think myself especially, had every finger and limb crossed that she was going to okay this. Apparently, her manager was really into the idea, but I would check in with producers every day and be like, ‘Have we gotten word back from Dolly Parton yet?’ I thought for sure, because it’s such a kind of morbid, dark story, that maybe it wouldn’t be approved. I can’t believe we got it.

Thompson: I wondered if perhaps Dolly was a fan. I love the idea of her sitting at home watching your stand-up.

Notaro: I doubt that’s the case. I bet what happened is, she’s just the nicest, greatest person on earth and just agreed to do it.

Thompson: Because Drawn was such a positive experience, would you do another project like this?

Notaro: I’ve thought about it. I’d be surprised if I have too much more material out there that I think should be animated. I’ve also thought about some other ideas that I haven’t shared with anybody yet. I’m also very eager to film a new live stand-up special. I guess I’m just open to whatever.

Tig Notaro: Drawn debuts on HBO and HBO Max on Saturday, July 24, 2021 at 10:00-11:00pm ET/PT.


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