Norm’s fake late gift to Conan for The Tonight Show, given after Conan was leaving, is a great example of his sort of expectation-bending humor.
His appearances on The View are legendary examples of his ability to be uncontrolled and play the dumbest guy in the room at the same time while actually being the sharpest. His intentional subversion played off as uninformed is a seemingly one of a kind talent. There are videos of interviews where he describes some of the background to things he did on the show.
“Not everything has a point” just gets me. It’s amazing how the hosts just want to jump from talking point to talking point and just refuse to let the guest actually talk, which Norm really plays off of.
And lastly, the moth joke remains a shining example of his anti-jokes.
His monologues at roasts, awards shows, and the correspondents dinner were examples of not being afraid of anything.
The other part about Norm that I'm not sure everyone knew was how compassionate and well read he was. This came out on his podcast frequently. Not only could he deliver a multi-layered joke on the fly but could casually pull references to art & literature.
I always appreciated his reverence toward his guests. Even during Jim Carrey's infamous and awkward flame-out on his show, he was never fazed or allowed it to affect his conduct towards his guests. Unless he had extra special reverence for them, in which case he might give them a harder time.
He's the only celebrity loss I can remember being brought to tears over. An absolute legend.
(If outside the US, you'll need a VPN.)
He would've won top prize on Millionaire but backed off before answering the last question from nerves.
What a legend
What's extra funny about that is that one of his The View appearances (linked above) was the day of or soon before his Millionaire appearance. One of the hosts said something along the lines of "you think he's dumb here, just wait until his appearance on Millionaire", and of course they all cackle at that. Then he goes and gives a great performance.
He was one of the funniest people ever and there is probably no one who was a more entertaining talk show guest. I can spend hours just watching whatever comes up after plugging "Norm Macdonald talk show" into Youtube.
So perhaps a draw still in the long term since eventually the corruption could terminate itself.
This year has been the absolute worst.
From his special: Me Doing Standup
Interesting in context -- wonder if he knew at the time, it would be right at the limit of the time-window described in the article I guess.
There were many things that made him special, but one thing stands out right now:
I don't think I've ever seen a comedian pursue Truth so rigorously. So much of his comedy was him shining a light on a given topic and giving 100% unflinching attention toward it, even if everyone else wanted to ignore it or "move on". This often made the "joke" the audience, in that we found ourselves laughing when we thought we shouldn't be. But why shouldn't we be laughing? Why shouldn't we be discussing this? Wait, why is this uncomfortable in the first place? Have I thought about this enough?
If there were a Michelin star, we just lost two three star Michelins in about a decade... There aren't many (perhaps even any) left to fill this void.
podiatrist, going to be something about feet...
psychiatrist vs podiatrist, some kind of pun incoming...
...then you both want to strangle him and fall on the floor laughing simultaneously.
Unfortunately his comedy is held up by way too many people as a gatekeeper to "true appreciation of comedy" which is ridiculous. That always seemed part of the self-destructive aspect of top comedy, which almost always is a public face of deep depression.
Norm was a tragic figure, much like many of the comedic greats.
[edit: yep it is :) - a virtual hug to you friend ]
You might appreciate the backstory:
Bit starting at :43 (Germany) will easily go down as one of the greatest stand-up bits ever written and performed. And he was the perfect guy to do it.
I'll just drop this here, his last standup on Letterman - which (at the end) reveals that he was not "just" the wittiest, most fearless funnyman ever. RIP Norm.
Norm really was for the birds.
Looking for HD but this one actually has video; the others I found didn't.
He was so well-read that he played the "dumb guy" well.
Norm had a scathing criticism, and it was the most serious I'd ever seen Norm. He said something like: "It's not funny to use Harry Potter to make fun of Christians. J.K. Rowling is a Christian, and she said if you understand the Gospels, you'll know how the Harry Potter series will end."
Now there was a bit on Seinfeld about how someone had converted to Judaism simply to gain the right to tell Jewish jokes. And Jerry was talking to his therapist about this and the therapist said, "So, this offends you as a Jewish person?" And Jerry replied, "No, it offends me as a comedian."
Despite his faith, one inferred from his LCS critique that the Harry Potter joke offended him not as a Christian, but as a comedian. That's how professional a comic he was.
Same way he refused to do any Trump jokes. Norm didn't want applause, he wanted laughter.
I can see the point he is trying to make, although I think it's nonsense
To what truth does he refer to? You don't get to pick and choose which bits you like and which you don't, when making this kind of argument.
I really enjoyed his Netflix talk show a few years ago as well, especially because it was (seemed to be?) such a mess. Also introduced me to a great country artist in the last show, and I don't even like country:
None of it was by accident: He was really good at comedy and was getting exactly the laughs when/where he expected them. Coming off as ill-prepared was a shtick.
Saw him twice in standup. Second time he was completely committed to a theme of being a born-again Christian and it was hilariously puzzling.
Norm really embodied what comedy is truly about. No one likes the smartest guy in the room. Nothing is off limits. Always speak Truth to Power. His style and ability to write jokes, as opposed to the popular story telling methods of today, is still one of a kind. I loved hearing his "meta musings" about comedy and joke writing, where he said the "perfect joke" is one where the set up and punchline are the same. (https://youtu.be/9GKKnlsZvQA?t=231)
My all time favorite performance of any comedian will always be Norm's white house correspondence dinner performance during the Clinton administration. His ability to understand his audience, and write and perform real jokes (unlike the pandering we see in the decades since) is truly the mark of a master. The truest of comedians play the role of the philosopher and jester: through their performances we ought to recognize the things we refuse to see in ourselves and our societies. Norm has a library of noteworthy clips, but this will always be my top. This is art. I implore you to watch.
RIP Norm. You old chunk of coal.
Devastated to hear this. RIP Norm. I loved you.
Damn, what a massive shock. He was an absolute legend and will never be forgotten. RIP.
His appearance on Letterman's last show is one of the greatest stand up sets of all time and now I'll consider it his farewell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFjEvl43zYY
A more recent appearance where he was great, just talking, was on David Spade's show. His quick comeback on the Paul Newman line is a great example of why he was so amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbanVqLk1lQ
He is probably the only North American comedian I really, really like, I am genuinely sad.
Edit: I initially said American, but obviously norm is from Canada, but the statement is still true of North America so I'll go with that as Canada doesn't have the same gravitas...
My absolute all-time most bestest favourite comedian is Chris Morris (Brass Eye, Jam, Four Lions) - who is a genius whose work is still blisteringly modern today even though most of it was recorded 25 years ago now. The way he uses neologisms is pure trip-fuel too if you enjoy banned substances.
https://youtu.be/r3BO6GP9NMY, a little sample.
https://youtu.be/0lhJ3YJkfcg longer but more insane sample
He's not really a standup though. I think Norm was probably my favourite long-form standup all things considered, and it feels slightly weird comparing him to a British one because although he definitely reminded me of the subversiveness of comedy this side of the pond, he was still very much an American comic. Comedians over here are typically much more personal if they do "bits" (i.e. expertly performed but often true stories), or just pure one-liner merchants. Similarly, "improv" has always seemed very alien to me.
If I had to pick one pure standup it would have to be Frankie Boyle just by the volume of laughs I've got out of him.
If you want endless hours of fun British comedy (mostly improvised, I'm a hypocrite), listen to a little of the old Gervais, Pilkington, and Merchant radio shows from back in the day.
I get it.
Benny Hill: real
Doug Stanhope: fake
One of the bests.
It's an animated show by Adult Swim where Mike Tyson (voiced by himself), his adopted Korean daughter, the ghost of the inventor of the rules of modern boxing, and a talking pigeon who is a complete asshole solve mysteries in the style of Scooby Doo. Norm Macdonald plays Pigeon.
His ability to tell a whole absurd story that sounds like it's building into a huge climax and fizzles into an anti-joke is legendary.
but what I always found odd was that a lot of comdedians who I consider very funny - openly consider him to be the most funny guy every while to me he didn't seem funny at all. he had something striking and charismatic about him - I give him that. but I can't remember having seen any sketch or interview with him where I found him funny. often watchworthy and interesting - but never funny.
I've been a fan since 1995 and have spent countless hours on YouTube watching Norm Macdonald clips from SNL and various talk shows.
There are so many great clips, here is one of my favorites:
Fully realizing this will be downvoted, but RIP anyway.
In recent years lots of his comedy centered on his fears of death and related religious musings...
The fact that he had been struggling with cancer really puts this in a different perspective.
RIP Norm. You were funny!
I miss him already.
To this day I still speak of my "inner Norm MacDonald voice", which kicks in when I observe something hilariously absurd. Like when Jeff Bezos launched his evocatively-shaped rocket, what Dennis Miller called the "Pynchonesque cock rants" practically write themselves -- in Norm's voice in my head.
Bob Uecker: https://youtu.be/eiooeRAdcjU
Quentin Tarantino: https://youtu.be/0imUF8EmDIQ
His Burt Reynolds impression, one of his most famous, was a good example of a good impression: close enough to show a resemblance but with a weird caricature twist. Most of Norm's impression were like this. His Johnny Carson was also not half bad.
(Listening to his 2017 Netflix special right now in memoriam).
It's a pity he didn't have Dick Shawn's timing.