WHe was never supposed to see the mail Posthumous Norm MacDonald special Which landed on Netflix on this Memorial Day, eight months after Comedian Day Early death from a very special bout with cancer.
in nothing special, Filmed without an audience in the summer of 2020, MacDonald looks more emaciated than he has been in recent years. He wears headphones and holds a microphone handy in a nondescript room while delivering his unfinished material in one long shot.
The jokes are punctuated by the sporadic cries of a dog off screen. When his cellphone rings in the middle of the bit, he picks it up. “I have to call you back because I’m doing a special job,” he said on the phone with a smirk on his face.
Behind the camera is longtime McDonald’s producing partner Laurie Jo Hoekstra, who was among the very few people in his life who knew he was dying.
“Norm worked hard on a new watch of material and wanted to see it,” Hoekstra said in a statement about the project. “While this version of nothing special It wasn’t originally meant to be the final product, COVID restrictions prevented it from filming in front of an audience. We want to make sure his fans see this super funny watch. He left this gift to all of us.”
The clock is quite funny at times, and it’s also a lot less polished than if McDonald’s got a chance to work fully in front of the crowd and then record it in a niche. But the unusual shape gives us a glimpse into his process as a comedian and his state of mind towards the end of his life.
There is some unexpectedly progressive material about reparations for Native Americans and even the #MeToo movement – especially given Allegations that emerged after his death— and long digressions on topics like cannibalism that few other comics could spring from. But there’s also a very early section that mocks the idea of being trans and is sure to alienate some fans. In the same way, Dave Chappelle And Ricky Gervais It sparked controversy on Netflix in recent months.
That joke, a copy of which was also on the McDonald’s website when I saw him perform at the New York Comedy Festival in the fall of 2019, focuses on how he perceives his father’s old views on sex today. He says sarcastically that he’s just trying to show how “hate we were at the time”. Noting that his father did “good things” like fighting Hitler in World War II, he said he also had a “evil side,” which he described as “this crazy idea he had that having a cock had something to do with being a boy.”
“Right now, we can’t even wrap our heads around that kind of thinking,” he said. But people used to think that way. Isn’t that a thing? “
From his early days Anchor Weekend Update on Saturday Night LiveMacDonald has always been more interested in shocking viewers with his unexpected lines on topical issues than in sharing intimate details about himself, that he wrote entire “memoirs” called Based on a true story It consists of false tales about his life. Here, he includes jokes about a fictional wife named Ruth and tackles hot topics like “systematic racism,” as he puts it, while simultaneously mocking the idea that anyone should look to comedians for their political opinions.
“Here, he includes jokes about a fictional wife named Ruth and tackles hot topics like “systematic racism,” as he puts it, while simultaneously mocking the idea that anyone should look to comedians for their political opinions.“
“When you’re a comedian, they expect you to know things,” he says, a relatively recent phenomenon he encountered during interviews –like this—I began asking him to intervene in politics during the Trump era. He explains that he prefers not to pay attention to politics “because you only get one life.”
However, MacDonald began facing his own death when he said he stopped “dying” his hair black because he didn’t want to “die and be surprised.” He does a scenario where God says to him, “I mean, you made your hair white, what do you think of all this? I was telling you to put your affairs in order, for God’s sake.”
He describes himself as a Christian, but says one of his “biggest fears” is that he “chosen the wrong religion”. MacDonald imagines dying and going to the afterlife and says, “Ah, that’s you! I thought he was the other slave. I should have killed the apostates all the time. Ah well, what are you going to do?”
Towards the end of the set, MacDonald worries about making the special too “frustrating” before moving on to some material about what it’s like to write a “living will” and a bunch of very grim jokes about how eager his family is to pull the plug if he ends up in a coma – without directly acknowledging the cancer. .
In the end, he concludes with a surprisingly sweet joke about his mother, Furn, who outlived her son, and was with him in his last moments. However, it ends with “I don’t want to suck her boobs!”
After the screen turns black, viewers are treated to an instant reaction from six of Macdonald’s closest friends and fans who gathered together to watch the special earlier this month: David Letterman, Dave Chappelle, Molly Shannon, Conan O’Brien, Adam Sandler, and David Spade.
They begin to marvel at McDonald’s ability to grab attention without the audience present. It’s not a strict attitude, it’s something else,” says a stunned Letterman, adding that the “great gift” was watching MacDonald perform those jokes in front of a crowd.
Sandler shares that, to him, the special feels like “cute Norm” who’s been spending time on the tour bus after shows. “It looked like he just wanted to get it all out,” he notes, before he had a chance.
“My favorite comedy,” Chappelle adds, “is illogical, but it makes people feel safe, like everything is going to be okay.” “This man was, in a strange way, reconciling his death, with great glee. Ironically, he is no longer with us. We sit in Norm MacDonald’s heels, watching him incredibly alive.”
Before long, the comics relive the unique experience of being friends with MacDonald, a man who knew how to make them laugh when they were down but who has become increasingly distant in recent years. As some were close to him, each revealed that they had no idea how ill he had become in the months leading up to his death.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t know,'” O’Brien said at one point. “But he doesn’t want anyone to know.” When news of MacDonald’s death broke in the fall of 2021, he said, “We were so upset that we didn’t get a chance to tell him what he meant for us.”
They all agree that MacDonald would not have “tolerated” this kind of outpouring of emotional support when he was alive. However, his latest private shows showed that even in his darkest jokes, there was a man who knew what it meant to love and be loved.
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