Norm Doing Standup
SNL veteran still has the knack on
By Michael Shashoua
/ Jester editor-in-chief
Former SNL Weekend Update anchor Norm MacDonald has returned to
the comedy spotlight with “The Sports Show” as well as a new set
of material, to be released on CD, MP3 and DVD on June 14,
called “Me Doing Stand-Up.” A version of this special aired about
a month ago on Comedy Central. In this performance, MacDonald
plays on his biggest comedic asset, the tone of his delivery, to
effectively sell the humor.
MacDonald’s mastery of timing and sardonic delivery is evident
in many pieces on the album. One is “Courageous Battle,” where
he talks of how an uncle’s death due to cancer might
euphemistically be described as “losing his battle” with the
disease. “I’ll tell you what that battle is …” MacDonald says.
“It’s sitting in a hospital room watching ‘Matlock.’” And this
obfuscating practice of calling it a battle makes anyone who
doesn’t make it a “loser,” says MacDonald, driving home his
point. In anyone else’s hands, or delivered seriously, this
would be deemed mean and cruel, but with the wink always present
in MacDonald’s voice, it’s funny.
Coupled with this knack for deadpan sarcasm, MacDonald also
scores by archly using old-style terms and ways of speaking.
Talking about “Tiger Woods,” in another piece, MacDonald
repeatedly talks about Tiger’s associations with “the ladies,”
and “laying down with the ladies.” He brings it around to posing
the question, “what do you think he’s going to do after winning
a tournament, go back to his room and sit alone with a chicken
sandwich from room service?” But again, this quotation, without
MacDonald’s delivery, doesn’t do the humor justice. What reads
as crass or male chauvinist is spoken with impish mischief and
gives it a different spin.
There’s also a certain intricacy in MacDonald’s material. In
“Sex,” he’ll digress about the shame aspect of it, saying “you
wouldn’t draw the blinds to bake a cherry pie for old Witta
Hamilton,” and then going on about how the “community” comes
together to do this, and without that, “I don’t know if the old
bird would still be with us,” before concluding, “but my point
was – sex,” as he returns to the matter at hand. Through this
winding turn, which comes about midway through the special,
MacDonald clearly has his audience along for the ride.
One test of a great stand-up special is when it’s just as funny
or even funnier with repeated listens, and it makes you want to
quote pieces of it to your friends. MacDonald has definitely
done this with “Me Doing Standup,” and made it a must have