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Norm MacDonald Review: Dry & Witty Comedy

Norm MacDonald Review: Dry & Witty Comedy


On Saturday night (October 10th) I made the trek to Austin, TX to see the performance of Norm MacDonald on his most recent tour. For those of you that have little or no knowledge of Norm MacDonald, you have probably seen him at some point. MacDonald was a regular cast member on ‘Saturday Night Live’ from 1993-1998 and is probably best remember as the host of Weekend Update for 3 seasons. He also has a number of well-known impersonations including Bob Dole and Burt Reynolds. He also starred in the 1998 comedy ‘Dirty Work’, which has become a cult classic. He also starred in his own sitcom, The Norm Show, from 1999 – 2001. In recent years he has stayed out of the limelight by working on his standup routine and appearing in cameos in a variety of movies and television appearances such as ‘My Name is Earl’.

MacDonald’s comedic style can be best described as dry and off-beat. He covers a variety of topics that, in general, have nothing to do with each other. MacDonald might be considered King of the Non-Sequitur for his manner of jumping from topic to topic without any warning or reason. MacDonald makes no attempts to edit his jokes nor has any use for political correctness. Instead he just says whatever he is thinking, which is often considered controversial due to their lack of tact and discretion. MacDonald has actually been banned from many of the talk show circuits due to comedic statements he has made or intentionally arguing against the host (e.g. – he was banned from The View for jokingly saying George W Bush was an OK guy and Clinton has somebody killed). MacDonald often goes for the laugh rather than giving an actual opinion.

MacDonald walks a strange line between clean topics that you might hear from somebody like Bill Cosby and raunchy material you might hear from somebody like Andrew “Dice” Clay. The October 10th show was full of new material that covered a plethora of subjects. He started off his show by pointing out the restaurant that is located next to the comedy club called Drakula’s. It serves Romanian food and features a picture Vlad the Impaler on its sign. MacDonald immediately claimed this restaurant to have the “Worst name for a Restaurant Ever” and went on to discuss the cuisine by saying “it serves Transylvanian food, whatever that is……..I guess women’s necks.” From there he went right into why it is kind of morbid to own a dog when you know it is going to die in 15 years anyways. His argument was that a giant seas tortoise seems more appropriate. In a strange way this set the tone that it was going to be an interesting show and an example of MacDonald’s non-sequitur style.

It would be nearly impossible to go over all of MacDonald’s material as he covered a ton of topics, some of which were merely 30 second side notes to his routine. He talked about how eating out is so strange because waiters seem to be so normal and then when the desserts come they turn in strange people that try to “tempt” you with a treat and take on a whole new tone. Finding comedy in topics you wouldn’t think had them he jumped into a long routine about death row inmates and explained that he kind of felt bad for them. He had a hilarious take on last meals in which one of his most memorable lines was, “Nothing builds a hardy appetite like when you’re about to be put to death.” He went on to cover several more topics including why tofurkey is wrong, which included his anti-cannibalism stance and how to talk to people when you have no idea what they are talking about (just say “I blame the media). Another subject included was serial killers and why their biggest mistake is getting sloppy and only digging shallow graves. One of his funniest bits was about President Obama’s campaign theme of “Hope.” Which MacDonald described as “Hope: That thing that never works.”

MacDonald’s comedic style is great for people that like to hear unique or off-the-wall views on things. The way he speaks is very conversational. He never seems to talk down or act like people are dumb, in fact he is very self-deprecating in his style. You get the feeling that he is talking to you in the same manner he would on the street. This is not entirely surprising as MacDonald always chooses to play very small night clubs rather than larger venues like arenas. This really adds to the atmosphere of the show. A large portion of the material is enhanced by Norm MacDonald’s speaking voice, inflection, and timing. All of which he has perfected and make it hard to give justice to his material. Also, MacDonald’s use of generic topics makes if great because you do not have to have any prior knowledge as you would with politics or pop-culture references.

However, his comedic style is not for everybody. His material at times is somewhat blue and he does not dilute any of his comments. He does not use profanity for shock value, but the same way people might use it in a personal conversation. The most likely cause of people’s reactions to her is probably a response to his lack of political correctness rather than vulgarity. He doesn’t seem to care about his topics, reflected in his use of taboo or emotional topics for his comedy. Also, as stated before, MacDonald uses his voice and inflection to make his jokes funnier. But if you happened to not enjoy the tone of his voice it could ruin a great deal of the show.

Overall, the performance was great. MacDonald performed for a solid about an hour and 15 minutes with no pauses or breaks. He went from one story to the next and closed the show with an odd yet somewhat fitting reading of the poem ‘The Devil and Billy Markham’ by Shel Silverstein. For those that are not easily offended and have love dry, witty comedy this would be a great show to watch and is highly recommended. If you are a fan of Norm Macdonald from other venues such as ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Dirty Work’ you will definitely not be disappointed. However, if you tend to be easily offended, especially by coarse language, or need more structure then MacDonald may not be the choice for you.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the performance a 9.

Review By: Jacob C.

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  1. I first saw Norm on SNL doing weekend update and to me, he’ll always be the weekend update guy. Even though Amy P and Tina Fey did it the best. Or Fallon and Fey. I can’t decide.


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