Norm Macdonald passed away this past week. Macdonald wasn’t an A-list personality. He even admitted that in one of his podcasts and a lot of younger people may not know him at all. I loved Norm Macdonald. I first remember him on Saturday Night Live and then later performing stand up. Lately we have lost some really top-notch comedians, Robin Williams, Gary Shandling and now Norm. He was edgy like no other and told some amazingly politically incorrect jokes, but they always came from somewhere. He always told the truth and meant well. From what they say he was a caring, good guy, who like most edgy comics was misunderstood. He once got lambasted on a radio talk show for saying black people make less than white people. The black host got upset. She said that is clearly untrue, but Norm backed it up saying he never said all black people, it’s more about the %. He was saying it’s not right, wage should be equitable. He wasn’t a political guy, but he wasn’t a dummy either. Here are three of my favorite Norm Macdonald things, I don’t include the three sitcom The Norm Show or the most recent podcast/videocast, Norm Live! But what I had seen from both I liked a lot.
1. The Bill Cosby story – Like Norm, I too loved Bill Cosby as a kid. The album Bill Cosby – Himself was a masterpiece, I remember laughing with my dad over it. Present day Cosby is the worst of man – vileness and evil in the form of an elitist celebrity. But Norm’s Cosby story about Cosby is terrific, he could always tell the best stories. His pauses, his quirkiness, you never know where he is going. This Letterman clip is a clip in a long line of late night visits that always seemed on the edge.
2. Dirty Work (1998) – Norm was not a movie star by any stretch of the imagination. This was his only lead vehicle. He had bit parts in other films, but this was it. Directed by his best friend Bob Saget. He played a loser who lost his girlfriend, couldn’t hold down a job, and had no money. He and his best pal Artie Lange – no doubt – decide to open a revenge for hire business called Dirty Work. I was pumped for this film and I remember it well. It’s become a cult classic of sorts. I rewatched it after Norm’s passing. It’s not good, but any time Norm is cracking wise, I smile. He is just a funny guy. Some jokes do work. I love the whole “note to elf” bits. If anything, Chevy Chase is not good in it, phoning his part in. Great character actor Jack Warden brings some gravitas to the film. It really fits the Adam Sandler/Chris Farley movies of the times with both of them showing up, even Happy Gilmore baddie Christopher McDonald appears as – you guess it – the baddie. Traylor Howard is the love interest. Gary Coleman, Don Rickles and Rebecca Romijn also show up in cameos. It’s got great 90s music in it, Better Than Ezra, Green Day, etc… Originally rated R they cut half the movie to be PG-13, I want to see that version, can we get the Bob Saget cut?
3. Saturday Night Live (1993-1998) – Norm was never a prominent player on SNL, he just didn’t have the range to do as much as the Dana Carveys and Will Ferrells of the world, but the stuff he did do was fantastic. He did Bob Dole during the presidential race, and it was killer. So over the top. Dole even realized it, tweeting about his passing this week. He also did Dave Letterman (“Do you have some gum?” and that crazy laugh), Quentin Tarantino, and of course Burt Reynolds on Jeopardy (AKA Turd Ferguson). But with all that, it’s the Weekend Update where he shined. I loved him in that role, even if Lorne Michaels did not. His fake news was edgy. He destroyed OJ Simpson, week after week, and he wasn’t afraid of going after Michael Jackson, way before anyone ever came forward. This is what basically got him fired from SNL. But he had the stones, and I am afraid most comics are afraid now to tell those jokes that have that gut punch. Sometimes they need to be told. A line can be crossed, but most don’t go near it. His best OJ jokes:
MG: It is sad he died relatively young after dealing with cancer for years. I respect those celebrities that deal with tough diseases privately, vs. making it a public spectacle, especially on social media. Some would say it helps to bring visibility to certain diseases, but I think there is nobility to keeping your struggle quiet, thus not indirectly making a case that YOUR cancer battle is more significant than the average person’s. I wasn’t as big a fan as DJ, but I enjoyed some of his work on SNL, especially his Burt Reynolds impersonation. His Weekend Update stuff did set a standard for that segment that influenced everyone who has done it on SNL since then.