The funniest man in the world has died.
Norm Macdonald is often spoken of as a “comedian’s comedian”, which serves as a backhanded compliment, implying that he’s an acquired taste, and if you don’t get him, well, go watch some more Kevin Hart.
In my experience, the opposite is true. A Norm Macdonald joke is best understood as a feat of strength, almost as if it were designed in response to a dare: how can I make you laugh at this horrible, terrible thing? How can I make an audience explode at an absurd pun? How can I take a two-line street joke and turn it into a six-minute tale of Russian sadness?
It is the comedy equivalent of deciding out of nowhere to lift a car with your bare hands, and Norm seemed to love it every time.
We didn’t have cable growing up, and I was too young to watch Norm’s original “SNL” run as “Weekend Update” anchor. So it was only when I got to college and Comedy Central ran old “SNLs” on repeat all afternoon that he became the permanent background to my life. The plethora of clips on Youtube today create the ability to take your darkest day spent in a hospital and turn to a clip of Norm’s combination of acid tongue and impish glee – and spur unrestrained laughter and relief.
Please, if you have not done so before, consume them. I can’t do justice to the amount of funny there is contained within. There is no line he would not cross, there was nowhere he would not go for a joke he believed in. Or as he told it:
“I did this joke in which I showed that picture of the girl running away from napalm in Vietnam. I said, ‘In gossip news, Woody Allen’s dating again.’ Lorne told me not to do it, and I told him he was wrong, that people would like it. Then I did it in dress rehearsal and there was this insane audience reaction that went on for two minutes: hate. I was completely wrong.”
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