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Ira talks to comedian Tig Notaro, who recently had a bunch of horrible things happen to her all in the course of 4 months.

Act 3: Ashes

How writer (and frequent This American Life contributor) David Sedaris and his family reacted when Sedaris's mother—a lifelong, unrepentant smoker—developed lung cancer. After a lifetime of barbed, funny remarks, no one in the family is prepared to talk about their feelings.


Ira talks about the adage "Comedy equals tragedy plus time." Usually it's true, he says, though today's show is devoted to someone who decided to go on stage the same week she was experiencing some horrible things — and talk about those things.

Act 2: Julia Gets Cancer

In the second half of the show, she talks about her own cancer — cervical cancer that was diagnosed six months after her brother got sick. Julia eventually turned some of these vignettes into a one-woman show called God Said, Ha!, which Quentin Tarantino made into a movie and Julia released as a book.