Well-known stand-up comedian Tig Notaro had feared that “One Mississippi,” her new Amazon series premiering on Friday, was being promoted as a traditional comedy, and that viewers would be misled.
“I think that I was really concerned about people being alarmed when they think it’s the next ‘Everyone Loves Raymond,’ and it’s ‘trau-medy,'” Notaro, combining trauma and comedy to explain her show, told Business Insider during the recent summer Television Critics Association press tour.
Certainly dark, “One Mississippi” straddles the line between comedy and drama. Though a half-hour show is typically considered a comedy in television, “One Mississipi” is a semi-autobiographical portrayal of Notaro’s life struggles.
“My mother died. I had cancer. I had an intestinal disease and couldn’t eat, and I went through a breakup,” the openly lesbian comedian explained during the show’s TCA session. “And I also had pneumonia. The list goes on. It was over a four-month period of time, and so the pilot captures all of that, but overlapping rather than spreading it out over the four months that it all happened.”
The show picks up as Notaro arrives in Mississippi to see her mother, who’s in a coma and pronounced brain-dead. It also explores Notaro’s complicated relationships with her family.
“It’s been fun to watch the show, but it is so heavy, and people cry a lot of times watching it,” Notaro told us. “I think my biggest fear was that people were going to tune in ready to just ‘LOL,’ and it takes these crazy intense turns, where people are like, ‘I was crying in the first five minutes.'”
Meanwhile, the definitions of comedy and drama have been plaguing the entertainment industry for years. This is most evident during the awards seasons.
Last year, Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” was denied entry into the comedy category by the Emmys and had to enter the much more competitive drama category. Meanwhile, Showtime was able to successfully enter one-hour show “Shameless” into the comedy category against more likely half-hour comedies.
It isn’t just an issue for TV. Earlier this year, there was some controversy over Matt Damon’s film “The Martian,” about a man’s death-defying experience surviving alone on Mars, being admitted into the comedy category by the Golden Globes.
Possibly in a move to sidestep the debate, Amazon Studios stopped referring to its original programs as comedies or dramas. Instead, it refers to them according to length.
“There are a lot of stories that are insightful and great and naturally a half-hour, and others are insightful and great and naturally an hour,” Amazon Studios head Roy Price explained during TCA. “And we decided to pull back, let’s just stick to the length, and those are facts, and we organised it that way.”
As for Notaro, she’s been able to overcome her early fears. First, she believes that her fans already understand her brand of humour. And as for everyone else, Notaro gained some insight from attending screenings of the show.
“People have really taken to [the show] so easily and are moved,” Notaro said. “I’ve sat in the back of screenings and listened to a packed room laugh hysterically and then during the devastating moments, you can feel everybody taking them in. I have so much confidence that I now don’t care. It’s like prep ’em or don’t. I really don’t care.”
Watch a trailer for “One Mississippi” below:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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