Arts & Culture News

Jeff Liles on Tig Notaro's Performance Tonight and the Future of Comedy at The Kessler

Of all the stand-up comics booked in all the venues in town, Tig Notaro and The Kessler seem to go together like indie kids and vinyl. And The Kessler folks couldn't have picked a better comedian to launch their new Comedy at The Kessler series, tonight.

Notaro, who once toured with future label mate and Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman, has garnered quite a bit of buzz lately as the first and only comedian signed to indie label Secretly Canadian.

We had hoped to speak to Notaro , but an interview with her fell through because we received word that "Tig had a Will Ferrell benefit, did coverage correspondent work for the MTV VMA's and had episodes of her podcast to record. All this weekend."

She's quite busy, but then again so is Kessler artistic director Jeff Liles. Since reopening in 2010, The Kessler has hosted everything from concerts and variety shows to movies and weddings, but Notaro's appearance launches what Liles says is the first of three comedy shows by the end of the year, with hopes of doing a show a month by spring. Ideally, by next summer they're hoping to bring in folks like Sarah Silverman, Dave Atell, Charlie Murphy and David Cross.

We asked Liles what's in store for The Kessler and who he wants to see on stage in the future.

Why did you choose Tig to kick off the Comedy at The Kessler series? Why Tig? Why not? She's perfect kind of comic for what we want to do at The Kessler. She's part of that group of West Coast comedians (Sarah Silverman, David Cross, Todd Barry, Kristen Schaal, etc.) who write and create a lot of the creepier, weirder material that shows up on HBO or Comedy Central in the middle of the night.

Parts of Notaro's stand-up routine utilize silence as a comedic prop, and the delicate acoustics inside The Kessler are perfect for a comedian who delivers their material with such detail to nuance. [Correction/Editor's note: Todd Barry, as he has noted in the comments below, is from New York.]

Considering that The Kessler is predominantly recognized as a music venue that occasionally plays host to variety shows, burlesque performers, supper clubs and the like, do you feel like a comedian on a small, indie label like Tig appeals to a different audience? Being signed to a hip indie label like Secretly Canadian gives her an intangible street-level credibility and certainly helps to micro-market her material to a specific demographic who may not have heard of her otherwise. I imagine that most hardcore comedy fans could care less if their favorite comic is signed to specific record label or imprint. I'm trying off the top of my head to remember any comic that was signed to an indie label, and the only other one I can even think of is when Andrew "Dice" Clay was signed to Def American 15 years ago.

Will Comedy at The Kessler continue for the long run? Is comedy something that you have been considering hosting for a while? Yes, we're certainly committed to presenting comedians, public speakers and performance artists on a regular basis at The Kessler, but we're not at all interested in directly competing with the comedy clubs in Addison or North Dallas.

As a talent buyer, I'm more interested in recapturing the spirit of the old Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, where they would regularly bring in writers and thinkers like Timothy Leary and William Burroughs. We've managed to connect with successful engagements featuring people like Dan Savage (not a stand-up comic, but holy shit he was hilarious!), Bob Schneider (again, not a comic, but an absolutely hysterical improv performer) and trippy visual artist Alex Grey (who spoke at length about his myriad experiences on DMT).

In a perfect world, if every evening of Comedy at The Kessler is well attended, who would you like to see on stage by next fall? We're not really looking for mainstream performers, but the kind of comics who exist in the spirit of people like Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Mitch Hedberg and Lenny Bruce. Hopefully the next generation of intelligent comedians will seek out a warmer and more comfortable alternative option to the typical "two drink minimum" comedy club when planning an upcoming Dallas appearance.

Ideally, The Kessler Theater will eventually become a sort of public agora where orators like Amy Sedaris, Henry Rollins, Patton Oswalt, Karen Finley, Marc Maron, and Doug Stanhope might feel comfortable enough to really push the envelope with their material.

I know it's a lofty aspiration, but at The Kessler we're trying to be all things to all people. Of course, we would certainly love for our patrons to always leave our venue feeling inspired, enlightened and entertained. Our musicians, photographers and visual artists are accomplishing that already. Now it's time to shift gears again by adding the next generation of edgier comics, writers, spoken word artists and progressive thinkers.

Tig Notaro performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. at The Kessler. Doors open at 6. Purchase tickets for $15 plus fees and tax on

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Daniel Rodrigue
Contact: Daniel Rodrigue