A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

Norm MacDonald

This week's focus is on Norm MacDonald.


Born October 17, 1963 in Québec City, Québec, Norm MacDonald worked his way from city to city doing odd jobs and manual labour and eventually ended up trying his hand at stand-up in Ottawa. After performing at comedy clubs throughout Canada he received his big break when Dennis Miller hired him to write for his talk show, and later when Roseanne drafted him as a writer for her sitcom of the same name. He joined the ranks of Saturday Night Live in 1993, first as a writer and featured performer, and the following year as a cast member and most notably, Weekend Update anchor. Famous for his dead-on impressions of Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, and Bob Dole, among others, and notorious for his incessant quips about O.J. Simpson, Norm was suddenly fired from Weekend Update in 1998 by then-NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, supposedly for simply being "not funny." He eventually left SNL altogether and pressed on with minor film and television cameos, eventually starring in his own film, Dirty Work, and landing his own sitcom on ABC with former Roseanne cast member Laurie Metcalf, which is moving to 9:00 EST starting this Friday.

Past Work

The Dennis Miller Show (writer)
Roseanne (writer)
HBO's One Night Stand (half-hour stand-up special)
Saturday Night Live (1993-1998, writer and performer)
Norm (originally titled "The Norm Show")
The Jackie Thomas Show (guest star, 1993)
The Larry Sanders Show (guest star, 1995)
The Drew Carey Show (guest star, 1996)
Where's Elvis This Week (cameo, 1996)
NewsRadio (guest star as Jimmy's lawyer, Roger, 1997)
Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary (cameo, 1999)
Dennis Miller: The Millennium Special (cameo, 1999)
Family Guy (guest voice of Death, 2000)

Billy Madison (as Frank, 1995)
The People vs. Larry Flynt (cameo as a network reporter, 1996)
Dirty Work (as Mitch Weaver, 1998)
Dr. Dolittle (as voice of Lucky, 1998)
Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo (cameo as bartender, 1999)
Man on the Moon (as Michael Richards, 1999)
Screwed (as Willard Fillmore, 2000)

The KITH Link

Norm shared the stage with Mark McKinney for years on Saturday Night Live, matching wits as Bob Dole with McKinney's Steve Forbes (and kicking Mark out of the chair in the "Real World" parody); Mark and David Koechner even appeared on Weekend Update as their Lucien and Fagan characters claiming to be the leaders of Norm's fan club. And he guest starred on NewsRadio opposite Dave. Other than that, Norm is just another funny Canadian (who coincidentally happens to have the last name MacDonald and hail from Québec. . . close enough to someone else we know) who shares a love of Monty Python, country and western music, and small dogs, who never learned to drive until he moved to LA, and who frequents the Conan O'Brien stage nearly as often as Scott Thompson and similarly with nothing pressing to promote. The KITHiness is uncanny.

Why You Might Like Him

Unabashed and unashamed, Norm takes no prisoners with his offbeat, dark yet hilarious brand of comedy. Some comedians head to Vegas to tout the perils of airline travel and visits to the dentist to seedy, shady characters; Norm does the opposite, making light of crack whores and compulsive gambling for the unexpecting television audience, and affirming that all sex is indeed "dirty, dirty sex." Norm bypasses traditional modes of humour; there's no physical comedy and relatively few one-line zingers (although "Kenny G released a new Christmas album this week; happy birthday Jesus, hope you like crap!" stands out in my mind as a good exception). Norm is a storyteller; to get the full punch of one of his jokes, you inevitably have to hear several minutes of extrapolation before you get the full effect, and the funniest jokes sometimes come back to hit you even harder minutes into another bit. (You might compare it to the Cincinnati Kid sketch; just when you've forgotten what he told you five minutes ago, Norm comes back with something akin to "I didn't even know she was pregnant; I don't live with her" that ties all the loose ends together). And Norm is completely his own man. If you ever wondered what so funny about his Weekend Update catch phrase "you guessed it: Frank Stallone," consider how many times your KITHless friends have asked you what was so funny about the whole Kirstie/Shelly thing. The joke is sometimes just in getting the joke, and that's what makes Norm an original.)

Forget What You May Have Heard

The most oft-leveled criticism you've likely heard about Norm is that he can't act. Chances are you've probably even heard him say it himself. Yet while Norm does lack the natural poise of an accomplished actor, occasionally appearing awkward and as if he doesn't know what to do with his hands or when to turn to the camera, he makes up for it with natural humour that other actors would kill for. A favourite guest of Conan, Letterman, and Dennis Miller, Norm lets the jokes do the talking. And in the end you believe him because it's really him being himself. And the facial expressions that accompany the dialogue are funny enough to be parodies of traditionally accepted "looks" without even trying. Other actors strive for naïveté; Norm just lets his innocent eyes glaze over in confusion, and it works. And no one else can quite pull off that quintessential grimace that can only be summed up in three of Norm's favourite words: "holy Lord God!"

No, the critics don't seem to like Norm. But Norm doesn't seem to dislike anybody; he has always refused to comment negatively on Ohlmeyer's firing of him or Colin Quinn's subsequent work on Update, and even Howard Stern can't coerce him into saying a bad word about his ex-wife. Most frequently Norm's stabs are at himself, his own insecurities and shortcomings, and his "really horrible body." Norm's work typically combines what he likes most about the world and what he likes least about himself, and it turns out that a lot of those things are what we struggle with too, so we can all relate when his characters get incessantly screwed over, and we all root for him when he decides "not to take crap from anybody" anymore.

-Elizabeth Strong (9.18.00)

More about the YML: This site is a first and last stop for all things Norm-related, containing the most comprehensive archive of articles and transcripts available anywhere and regular updates on news from the Norm world. Check out the archive to get a taste of Norm's humour; if you don't know where to start, start by reading the One Night Stand transcript first, especially the "Dating Game" segment (and RealAudio always enhances the experience). ABC's official site for "Norm," the TV show. Find out what episodes are going to be on, read about the cast, and check out the videos.

yahoo club- Yahoo club devoted to MacDonald and McDonald (Norm and Kevin that is)



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