In many cases, an artist, musician, actor, writer, or celebrity becomes a favorite because that performer verbalizes or otherwise captures very closely the feelings that fans experience inside their own heads. It’s especially powerful when the fan is never quite able to express those feelings, but the performer has that ability. Norm Macdonald was that figure for me.
Norm, for many, is in the running for the title of funniest person ever. I agree with that, and Norm’s comedy has provided me laughs of a degree and nature that simply do not happen with any other comedian. He might hold the top five spots of what I consider the best jokes ever written in professional comedy. And yet, that’s not why he was –and will always be—my favorite person that I’ve never personally met.
It’s because every now and then, something comes out of his mouth (or pen, or Twitter) that is so strikingly similar to what is happening in my innermost workings that I didn’t even realize another person could possibly understand it. Partially because I couldn’t completely understand it myself. It’s not because I think Norm and I are exactly alike or always feel the same way about life. In fact, I’ve disagreed with plenty of things Norm has said over the years. But then, there are those personally poignant moments that grab me by the face and “give my head a shake.”
I have likely watched every video that exists on YouTube that features Norm. Probably twice. That includes interviews, his shows, podcasts, movie clips… everything. That sounds crazy, but it’s not hyperbole. I have pored over “norm macdonald” search results on YouTube and made sure I didn’t miss anything. Of course, new ones pop up daily, but I can promise that I’ve seen a solid 95% of anything that exists right now. And I’ll be continuing to watch and rewatch to maintain that A+ grade. Probably the only one I’ve really cared about.
I don’t hero-worship any celebrities. It’s just not my style to hold somebody up on a pedestal because they’re famous. Norm is the closest thing to that for me, although I’d like to think it’s less of putting him on a pedestal and more just sincerely appreciating him as a human being. Maybe it’s a little of both.
Norm really didn’t give a shit about politics, he only ever cared about following a religion for spiritual reasons over dogmatic, and I don’t think he stood for anything but being funny as often and intensely as possible. Don’t let anybody tell you differently, because he’s said as much in his more serious interviews. He only ever made controversial statements or sweeping generalizations to get a rise out of people. He certainly had personal, private thoughts on lots of stuff, because he was wildly intelligent, but the commitment to funny was the only thing he was unambiguous about publicly.
Make it a point to see every bit of his standup that you can. Watch his movies over again and enjoy the weird, surprising, and sometimes oddly profound laughs. Go back and be blown away at the balls it took to do his Weekend Update jokes. Do all of that and remember why Norm is a hilarious and remarkably unique performer. But please, please, please watch my second favorite Norm clip below from when he had an extremely rare moment of true public vulnerability a few years ago. Be reminded of all that was going on in Norm’s head to produce all those great moments for fans. It’s only my second favorite clip because the “chairman of the bored” moment is the greatest clip ever. I want to pretend his vulnerability is my favorite, but Norm wouldn’t stand for insincerity or holding up sentimentality over funny.
Thanks, Norm. I wish you’d actually been with us long enough to really be the old chunk of coal you pretended to be, but you’ve gone too soon.