What resonated most with the audience?
I always think about the idea that God never gives you more than you can handle, and just the idea that God would be looking at me and thinking, Eh, I think she can handle more. And the angels thinking: What are you doing? You’re a lunatic. And God being like: “No, no, trust me. She can handle this.”
Do you see this as the universe being cruel?
No, I don’t believe it’s karma, I don’t think the universe is turning on me, I don’t think it’s God, I don’t think it’s any of that.
Your trials have added a new dimension to your podcast, “Professor Blastoff.” One of your co-hosts asked if you hope to try AIDS next. Does it help to make light of it?
I was with a friend of mine last night who was like, “I don’t know if I can take all these jokes about you having cancer.” And I was like: “Oh, I’m sorry. It occupies 99 percent of my brain right now, and I just don’t know what to do with it.”
Your comedy is off-kilter in a way that reminds me of Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg. Were they influences?
Oh, sure, I love them tremendously. As a kid, I loved Paula Poundstone and Richard Pryor. But my mother was a huge influence on my comedy.
Do you remember anything funny your mom said to you?
I didn’t like to stop playing for a second to bother with eating or going to the bathroom. I was a really skinny kid, and I remember my mother always telling people: “I don’t know how she’s alive. I think she gets all of her nutrients from air pollution.”
Is any part of you glad that your mom didn’t live to see you go through this?
Even losing my mother, I wanted my mother. That’s who you want instinctually when you’re having a hard time. Having cancer, of course, I instinctually want and need my mother, but I wouldn’t want her to go through it. She would have taken it hard. She was very strong, but very emotional. She was kind of the opposite of me.
You are planning to move to New York to work on Amy Schumer’s coming Comedy Central show. You lamented your current romantic predicament as, “Hey, I’m moving to New York and I have cancer, anybody interested?”
The doctor has prepared me for more weight loss and losing my hair. Dating isn’t the main focus here, but it’s fresh in my mind, because I just got out of a relationship. So I’m just sitting here, thinking, Wow, not only am I single, but I’m about to be four pounds and bald.
She’s going to be a very special girl.
That lies to me and herself.
There are so few positives to this experience, but it must be nice having so many people be kind to you, like Conan O’Brien.
The day I was diagnosed, my friend Nick Kroll demanded I get out of the house. So we went up to Largo to see Megan Mullally, who I adore. Conan was the surprise guest that night. I was standing in her dressing room with a bunch of people. Nobody knew. The only reason Conan knew was because I was supposed to be on “Conan,” but I canceled to have my biopsies. When he walked by, he was like: “Tig! How are you? Are you O.K.? I love you. Come on the show anytime. Come hang out at the show. Just come and make fun of us.” And I was like, “O.K., thanks.” I looked so cool, you know, because they didn’t know.
You should’ve worked it, said, “Thanks, Conan, mind fetching me a Diet Coke?”
Exactly. Except, I do not drink Diet Coke. Just a water. Room temperature, Conan.
INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.