I know it is getting a little depressing to keep posting comedians who died tragically before reaching the full potential of their talent. Wait, what’s that? Norm Macdonald isn’t dead? What the H? *(kudos to anyone who got that reference to Macdonald’s short-lived The Sports Show) Yes, Macdonald is very much alive and continues to excel at his chosen profession despite the American public not giving him the love he deserves.
Most of the comedians posted here have fallen into the category of observational comedy. Bill Hicks and Greg Giraldo both used a lot of dark humor in their acts. Macdonald uses both of these elements, but also adds something that none of our previous comedians have, surreal comedy.
Surreal comedy or comedy of the absurd focuses on breaking all logic in comedy. It sets-up a joke to the point where we expect a certain punchline and then are delivered a completely illogical one out of the blue. It involves a lot of bizarre juxtapositions, non-sequiturs, irrational and absurd situations, and expressions of non-sense. Absurdist comedians keep the audience on its toes and the humor comes from the strange journey these comedians travel, more than the actual jokes. If you told a friend you saw a great comedian last night and then tried to repeat the jokes, your friend might come to the conclusion that you’re taking a dangerous level of drugs. Only a select few can pull this style of humor and Macdonald is atop my list.
Macdonald turned his stand-up success into a stint on Comedy U – Saturday Night Live. SNL has bred so many comedic geniuses over it’s nearly 40 years on the air. It is a special honor to be part of any SNL cast. However, an even greater honor is Weekend Update anchor or co-anchor. Over the 38 seasons of the show, only 13 cast members have anchored or co-anchored Weekend Update. Note, from 1981-85 Dick Ebersol produced the show and was not allowed to use the name Weekend Update. When Lorne Michaels returned to the show, the segment returned with him.
Macdonald served as solo anchor for three and half seasons from 1994-97. Chevy Chase, the original host, calls him “the other guy who did it funny.” Chevy, always so humble. Macdonald’s absurdist style meshed well with the mocking of news stories. He approached the job as if he were a real news anchor and let the dichotomy add to the humor.
Unfortunately, Macdonald was fired in the middle of the 23rd season by NBC producer, Don Ohlmeyer, who claimed that he was not funny. Many believed the real reason was the quantity and quality of jokes he told about Ohlmeyer’s good friend, OJ Simpson.
It was a big loss for the Weekend Update desk, but a great opportunity for Macdonald and he delivered with Dirty Works.
This movie should be remembered for more than being Chris Farley’s last screen appearance. As far as I’m concerned it is in the pantheon of classics with Animal House, Caddyshack, Anchorman, and others. It should have cemented Macdonald’s status as a big screen comedy star, but America just could not get on board. It did lead to a gig hosting the ESPYs and this terrific monologue that would blow up twitter had it happened today.
I may never understand why enough people don’t love Macdonald to make him one of the biggest comedic stars of all time, but it doesn’t matter. Nowadays, with all the different sources that stream content comedians that have been pushed to the fringe can still be found on podcasts, strange websites, or one of the 500 hundred available cable channels. And Macdonald continues to produce fabulous, comedic material for all his fans to enjoy.