He may be best known for his work on "Saturday Night Live," but he is truly worth remembering for decades must see club sets and music videos.
My favorite Norm Macdonald joke - and believe me there is serious competition - is one he said as the anchor of the weekend update on" Saturday Night Live "in the late 90s. Papers in front of him, he enthusiastically reported, “Yippie! Jerry Rubin passed away this week. Looking down, he apologized for his mistake and tried again, "It should read: 'Yippie Jerry Rubin died this week.
Silly, somber, ruthlessly concise, this gem is a model of craftsmanship, and like many of Macdonald's pieces, it proves how the smallest change in tone, language or, in this case, the exclamation mark can drastically change the meaning, providing the kind of surprise that produces belly laughs.
Macdonald, who died of cancer on Tuesday , maintained a studied modesty about his work. He said his act had no substance, that it was all "gossip and deception". And he said without feeling sorry that he would only be remembered for his few years on "Saturday Night Live ", and not for his decades of stand-up, which he called " from a lousy company, made up of lousy guys like me who walk across the country, stay in lousy hotels and tell jokes they don't think are funny anymore. "
He described his life as a sprint to outrun the wolves of uselessness. "They grabbed and devoured me years ago, " he wrote in his 2016 quasi-memoir, "Based on a true story ".
It doesn't matter whether he believed this about herself (Macdonald was a very skillful liar) and there is merit in his remarques about the stand-up and its credits, but the ornate way he fights hints at a deeper truth: Macdonald was not only one of the funniest comics of his generation, but also a devious esthete who has elevated the stand-up, helping to transform its cultural prestige over the past decades into an art worthy of respect.
Its legacy is not clear from his level of fame or even his roster of TV shows and specials, although he has a few notable accomplishments including a first stint as a writer on "Roseanne " and one of the best Netflix specials of the past decade, "Hitler 's Dog, Gossip & Trickery ". Macdonald 's magnitude is not on target its IMDb page as much as in the number of moments that you have to see, the kind your friends tell you about at parties and then send you the clip the next day.
A lot of them were from talk -shows, where he was a renowned guest. He told one of the targets most deservedly revered jokes at the end - the show 's night story Conan O 'Brien ' s "Tonight ", an absurd literary thriller masterpiece about a moth in a podiatrist's office. Another couch moment on the same show has gone viral. decades later: he interrupted an interview with actress Courtney Thorne-Smith to savagely insult Carrot Top, the star of the film she was promotion, a brutally hilarious act of sabotage.
Macdonald had other talents. When it comes to roast parodies, he stood alone, intentionally spinning horrible jokes at Bob Saget roast in a disorienting performance art that remains l One of the funniest anti-comedy pieces you will ever see. And on "Saturday Night Live," he may have been at his best on the weekend update desk (he was eventually fired after his jokes on OJ Simpson), but he also delivered several impressions. singular, including a version of David Letterman that was both accurate and far too bizarre to be realistic.
Letterman has proven to be a key figure of the career of Macdonald, a champion of the travail of stand-up (the talk show host said no one was funnier) who booked the comic for the last week of his show. Macdonald, breaking away from his characteristic acerbic style, ended with a surprisingly moving tribute, displaying an emotional side that usually only lurked under the surface of his comedy.
In a 2017 column , I argued that what set Macdonald's comedy apart was h is its sensitivity to language, its particularly poetic way of speaking bluntly. He made elegant turns and folk flourishes seem conversational and casual. A lover of Bob Dylan, Macdonald was also a sponge for influences, borrowing and reusing figures of speech or unusual words to create funny phrases. But describing him as a simple joke-writing master, his speed, his unflappable and ironic delivery and, most importantly, a unique level of engagement. He never gave up on jokes and never flattered. We see it in his roast Bob Saget: the conviction to pass despite the confusion of the answer. It pleased the crowd without pleasing the crowd. And no one had a more agile and assertive sarcastic voice, which he used to find humor in ambiguity. A few years ago, there was a wonderfully weird moment on David Spade's talk show when Macdonald told Jay Leno he was perhaps the best talk show host ever, and that no one, including Leno, seemed able to tell if he was sincere.
There is a lot of fun to be had in this liminal space between seriousness and joke. One of Ma's most impressive featscdonald is to write an entire memoir that stays there. It is one of the greatest memoir of comedians, but also a conspicuously frustrating mix of fact and fiction, cliche and originality. It is very funny, sometimes tedious, sometimes wise. The title, " Based on a true story , "is not just a gag. It 's rooted in his faith that, as he puts it," there is no way to tell a true story. I mean really true, because of the memory. It's just not good. "
This is no Just because you can't tell a real real thing doesn't mean that art can't come close to the truth. In a interview with New York magazine ,Macdonald opposed the trend toward denominational art, saying he believed art was meant to be about cover-up. This was revealing.
The fact that he battled cancer for a decade was something thing he certainly didn 't do in his job. His death was a shock to many. But the clues were everywhere. Death has been one of his favorite subjects in recent years. In a big viral moment, he delivered one of the first and best coronavirus comedy club sets. It was at Improv in Los Angeles in March 2020 just before theaters close. "It 's funny that we all know now how we are going to die," he said. "It's just a matter of ordre. "
At the beginning of his memoirs, he says that he read on his Wikipedia page that he was dead. Then he imagines if that was true, laughing until a thought froze him over. "The absurd lie on the screen in front of me isn't that far away ", he said. he writes. It sounded like a funny melodrama when I first read it, but now it hits differently.
Macdonald has already spoken of 'an uncle dying of cancer, twisting the way we now describe people suffering from this disease as "fighting a battle" because it means the last thing you do before you die is lose. " I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure if you die the cancer also dies at the same time, "Macdonald said on Comedy Central." For me it's not a loss. It's a draw. ”