Norm MacDonald is gone

I love comedy and good comedians. It is a terribly difficult profession, and those who succeed usually have years of struggle under their belt. The funniest man of my lifetime, and it is always subjective, was Mel Brooks. He was famous in years before I came of age for being the 2000 year old man, interviewed by Carl Reiner. Comedy is subjective, as I said, and I never found that bit funny. But Blazing Saddles? Hilarious! Brooks seemed to thrive in visual medium, as with Space Balls where, when teleported from one room to another, looked down and found his ass was on the front instead of the back. He chided his staff for not telling him how big it was.

Brooks is now 95 years old, a widower, and soon to go. But I would bet he is still funny.

I am slowly realizing, watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, that the real creative force behind Seinfeld was Larry David. The character George Constanza was based on David. This show, which has run for ten seasons now on HBO, hints at every bit ever done on Seinfeld, from the contest to annoyance at close talkers. David, playing himself, is annoyed at all of us. He even chides his mailman for wearing shorts, saying no one doing that can be taken seriously. A mailman annoys him? Seinfeld, who appears in CYE in a fake reunion, even says that he was the visible on stage talent while David was behind the scenes. Jerry is funny, but I am thinking that without David, Seinfeld, the TV show, would not make it.

Norm MacDonald died at a young age, 61. I loved his work, and I am not sure why. He had a straight-face delivery, and the lines were not that funny. Still, I laughed out loud. He sat opposite Letterman talking about the fictional image of Joe Camel, used to sell cigarettes to kids, and stated the obvious: “It’s a penis.” Anyone else saying that gets credit for insight, but from Norm, it brought the house down. He was a deadpan comic, one of the best I’ve seen, and yes, I loved Jack Benny too.

I was shocked yesterday to learn that he had died. The obit says cancer, but we really don’t know. I know he made and lost several fortunes gambling, and addictions like that often manifest in other ways. He did not drink, or was an ex-drinker. He did not smoke. Living so clean, it is hard to imagine that cancer, a byproduct of modern pollution and vaccines and all that rot, got him. I lost an older brother to cancer at age 68, a clean-living marathon runner who over-trusted doctors. I can only speculate about Norm, living so clean, that something about the way we live got him, maybe something about the way he lived that he hid from us.

Nonetheless, as comedians go, he was in my top five, along with Benny, Brooks, Conan and John Mulaney. (I do not understand how Colin Quinn even has a career.) In naming my top five, I am leaving out 195 really good and great ones, but we all have our lists.

PS: If ever you get a chance and have not seen it, get hold of a video of a SNL skit written by MadDonald, a parody on West Side Story.

26 thoughts on “Norm MacDonald is gone

  1. You mean this skit?
    I can just imagine him watching West Side Story, commenting, “You ever wonder why these gangs danced and sang? What kind of crap is that?”

    Norm’s gift was the deadpan, and the tone of his voice. I recall one of his Weekend Updates near Yuletide, when he reports about Michael Bolton’s new Christmas album, adding, “Happy Birthday, Jesus, hope you like crap!” Sadly, the clip is called that, so the joke is given away.

    Brooks and Reiner together were meh, but Brooks had many great moments and films. (Blazing, Young Frankie, esp) Benny has been a fave since I was a kid. Conan is on another level as well; his involvement with the Simpsons was crucial.

    RIP Norm.


  2. Speaking of greats, here’s a link to my favorite funnyman, Jean Shepherd:
    Shep wasn’t a comedian, per se, more of a humorist, and today we call this podcasting. I’ve listened to this long list twice and will likely go through it again down the road. The world he describes in the sixties was the world I grew up in and is a miraculous preservation of attitudes and mores that have been exterminated forcibly by the fascist culture creatures we suffer under today.
    Somewhere in these broadcasts, early 60’s, Mel Brooks tries out an early iteration of the 2,000 year old man with Dick Cavett in a Ballantine Beer commercial, one of Shep’s long time sponsors.
    Speaking of Dick Cavett, here’s a broadcast from sometime in the 70’s where he hosts a panel of film directors, Brooks included. Mel steals the show, ‘natch.


    1. That was a good show. The story Brooks told about changing all of the name plates on office doors in a three story building, that got him fired by Harry Kahn (?), is hilarious. (He was rehired with a pay cut.) People in the movie business are getting hired and fired all the time, so his stunt surely caused a great panic.

      Also, I was shocked to see them lighting up on stage, but then remember that once upon a time we could smoke on airplanes.

      And it is interesting that they are discussing making pictures in black and white, as Bogdonovich had just made The Last Picture Show. Brooks did not know that Young Frankenstein was in his future, apparently.

      Brooks was asked by some movie brass about a picture, and nothing had been made, and he was asked the title. He blurted out “Springtime for Hitler” as a joke, and said it was a year later that he thought that was a good name for. a movie, and started to assemble it under that title. He said once he had the idea of it being about producers, the rest was easy. (For him.)


  3. Tyrone, that looks like a great clip, which I will have to watch the rest of later.

    Thanks for reminding me of Jean Shepherd. As a writer, he was one of the reasons men would buy Playboy back in the day, “for the articles.” My old man had every edition, and lent them to me when I was older to read his hilarious short stories. Jean was also the narrator and writer of “A Christmas Story”, a funny film from 1983. There are many of his radio shows on YT, FYI.

    As for Altman, he also directed 10 of the first episodes of Combat!, before doing films.


  4. Norm was one of a kind – comedian and, most pertinently, human! And although one can attempt to identify the reasons for his knack in making people laugh, one that often goes unnoticed by many of his followers – and, surprisingly, the one most self-evident – is his self-deprecatory nature! Norm was a boomer (born in 1959); and growing up in that particular era – at least, here in Canada – one would have been exposed to some of the legends in Canadian comedic lore including but not limited to: Martin Short; John Candy; Eugene Levy; Catherine O’Hara; Joe Flaherty; Dave Thomas; Rick Moranis; Harold Ramis; Howie Mandel; Jim Carrey; etc.. Now, what’s most interesting about this list of comedians isn’t necessarily their talent or skill in the field of comedy – at least in relation to my point; it’s the fact most – if not all – of these individuals are renowned, nay notorious for not taking themselves very seriously (excluding possibly Moranis)! This was really what separated Norm – and, by extension, the others listed – from other comedic talents: he just didn’t take himself over-seriously; and, as a result, produced some of the most epic moments in comedic history! Sadly, Canada, today, is a much different country: angrier; pettier; meaner; sadder; prouder; and colder (temperament-wise; not temperature)! And for this reason – and many others besides – we, here in Canada, will NEVER produce anything akin to Norm – or said others – in the future; as we’re just too damn miserable – and serious! RIP Norm!! RGB-Y1 out!!!


    1. Moranis, as I have read, retired from the movie business, but after seeing him in Space Balls and Ghost Busters, I guess I am surprised that he took himself too seriously. His characters were classic underachievers in superhero clothing, comic gold. I guess I cannot distinguish between the actor and his role. Anyway, that is a grand list of Canadians, to which I would add Mike Myers.


  5. I’m sure many of us liked Norm MacDonald.

    I’m sure he’ll be greatly missed in the entertainment world.

    Let’s face it though.

    There isn’t much these days that surprises me any longer.

    From Donald Marshall’s DUMB’s/cloning centers–the elite’s secretive killing for fun places and amusement arenas–to multiples of our favorite musicians, actors and politicians.

    When I heard about Norm I immediately had a passing thought that he may have been awarded a ‘Rommel Death’.

    The thought passed but later came back to haunt a bit.

    Many of these insanely wealthy actors and musicians on the world stage have been identified as psychotic monsters, after being presented to us as loving, gentle warm human beings.

    They seem to push family and love yet they’ll sit down to a nice satanic ritual and snack a bit on tiny little helpless ___________. (This makes me want to extract revenge upon these humans-on-the-outside-only.

    Good God, I hope this wasn’t the case with Norm MacDonald.

    I hope he was one of the good guys in the entertainment world.

    Peace be upon you Norm MacDonald.


  6. With the loss of MacDonald, the current atmosphere in which we exist just got even more stifling because his honesty was always a breath of fresh air. I recently read a comment by him about how “wokeness” was hindering his ability to do his kind of comedy. I’m sorry that he is “gone,” but in this current cultural swamp, he was going to be comedically neutered anyway.


    1. All kinds of clips are making the rounds, one that just blew me away. He was doing Weekend Update and they showed a photo of Cochran holding up a knit cap that was found at the scene. Norm said things got a little out of hand when OJ yelled “Hey! Careful with that. It’s my lucky stabbin’ cap!”


    1. I was wondering if they were going to make Norm a Covid death. No assumptions or indications that he was a fake celeb death and they retired him? I never found him prime time funny of course that’s just my opinion. But he was fired from SNL for making fun of OJ Simpson too much, seems odd? Guess we could do a genealogy rundown, plenty of Macdonalds in the peerage. Apparently he did smoke cigarettes not sure if he was a chain smoker, but the media stated he had cancer for nine years.


      1. He quit smoking some time between 1994 and 2002, I would say closer to 1994 judging by his youthful appearance. He was on Dennis Miller’s HBO show, which ran during that time, and talked about having quit during one appearance.


      2. His perceived honesty was refreshing, but he was comedic controlled opposition nonetheless. If he had been revealing the actual truth, he would have been retired long ago. I haven’t looked at his family tree, although I’m pretty confident what awaits there. Just a perusal of his Wiki reveals that BOTH of his parents were “teachers” at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, a military base north of Quebec City.

        Norm’s older brother Neil and his wife Joyce Napier are Canadian journalists (propagandists). Neil, a Canadian, spent 12 years in Washington D.C. as the Washington Bureau correspondent for The National. Joyce Napier is the “parliamentary bureau chief” for CTV News. I haven’t looked into these characters but will go out on a limb and assume their stance on the current situation to be pro-agenda.

        Then there’s Norm’s moral character. A man who pisses away hundreds of thousands of dollars at casinos to feed his addiction is…well…I shouldn’t speak unkindly of the alleged dead.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Conan says he tried for three years to get Norm on his podcast, no reply. Now he knows why, he says.

          I suspect that no one gets on SNL unless they are juiced, including Conan, who is genuinely funny. He was a writer, not on-air talent. I tried to do some background on Tina Fey, and she is scrubbed.

          Some time look up a comedian named Colin Quinn. He was SNL and has had his own show on some cable network. He is genuinely not funny, but his career does not suffer for it. Seinfeld had him on Comedians in Cars, and the guy was horrible and just sat there with a dull expression when Seinfeld said a funny thing or two. Awkward, it was.


          1. Oh man, Colin Quinn is painfully unfunny. I have gotten more laughs from Anthony Quinn over the years. Of course, Colin appears to have been created in a test tube somewhere along with his imaginary “wife” Jen Sochko. The photo of them together in this link looks fake to me.


  7. Since watching Curb I’m now in tune to my own quotidian grievances and obsessions… I constantly get irked by things that later make me think “Now that would be a good idea for a Curb episode…”

    Of course he embellishes daily life with coincidences and call backs – what he called “comedy algebra.” He talked about learning, on Seinfeld, how separate gags could be enhanced by having them tie together in surprising ways.


  8. чт, 16 сент. 2021 г., 16:58 Piece of Mindful :

    > Mark Tokarski posted: “I love comedy and good comedians. It is a terribly > difficult profession, and those who succeed usually have years of struggle > under their belt. The funniest man of my lifetime, and it is always > subjective, was Mel Brooks. He was famous in years before I c” >


  9. Hi Mark, I know this post is about Norm Macdonald but there is another comedian I’d like to get your opinion on. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Patrice O’Neal but he was a comedian that told it like he saw it and talked very openly about the system we live in. So, I wanted to know if you thought he was for real or if he was close to the truth. I’m posting two links to YouTube where you can hear his take on society and events: Second link: I know they’re a bit long but I can’t think of any comedians speaking this candidly today. Thank You for your time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been traveling but did manage to listen to your links. I knew about him, but was not aware he was dead, or at least faked his death. It is show business, after all. Bill Hicks spouted all kinds of JFK trash, and then “died” of cancer, a way of imputing that people in power dispose of truth-tellers. Just one more layer on the cake.

      His opinions, while forceful, are not well thought out. Neither were Hicks’.


  10. Yes, he was a larger than life character. So, I guess the level of fame doesn’t matter in order for someone to “die” because Patrice was not a mainstream celebrity or really successful through tv or movies, but he was nationally know. I wonder if Greg Giraldo actually died of an OD because he too was not a big star.


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