Keeping a straight face with Norm MacDonald

By in Culture

ALAN PIFFER
Nexus (Camosun College)

VICTORIA (CUP) — Besides his late-night talk show appearances, people will no doubt recognize funnyman Norm MacDonald from his Saturday Night Live gig in the ’90s.

Or, if they’re really into MacDonald’s style of comedy, they’ll remember the short-lived Norm Show, or even the cult classic film Dirty Work, with Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange.

Dirty Work was a classic SNL star vehicle with an advantage over similar flicks due to surprisingly edgy director Bob Saget (best known for his wholesome dad role in Full House). The movie’s comedic chemistry was pure gold, as fans of the Quebec-born MacDonald constantly remind him.

“A lot of people come up after (stand-up shows) with DVDs of it, so I have noticed that it’s become more popular than it was,” said MacDonald. “There was talk about a Dirty Work 2, actually. I had an idea about them going back in time, and then Saget had an idea about getting Artie a new heart. Saget’s was probably a funnier idea.”

Speaking of Saget, MacDonald had a notable appearance on Comedy Central’s Bob Saget Roast; if people found MacDonald’s routine unfunny, it was surely because of how purposefully unfunny it was.

MacDonald says that being unfunny is harder than it looks. “It is a little bit tricky because your natural instincts tell you to either break up, or to cut it off when it goes on and on,” he explains. “But I had to fight against that tendency, because I didn’t want to really break character on it.”

For MacDonald, keeping a straight face pays off in other ways, like in his many celebrity poker matches.
“It’s good to play poker when you’re a celebrity — if you’re any good at poker — because they just naturally think you’re an idiot because you’re a celebrity, which is usually the case,” said MacDonald. “So if you’re in any way smarter than a celebrity, you’ll do all right.”

MacDonald also gets a fair amount of voiceover work. Something that stands out is his unforgettable portrayal of Death in an early Family Guy episode. While the role was taken over by comedian Adam Carolla, MacDonald still gets a lot of fan excitement over it.

“It’s funny, because I only did it once and, just constantly, people come up to me about that one little thing,” said MacDonald. “I just went in for Seth [MacFarlane] and read it into a mic in his office and that was it. I do cartoons and voiceovers just so my kid has some idea of what I do in life — until he grows up and realizes I do the exact opposite.”

One thing MacDonald is known for is his outrageous remarks, including a 2006 bit on the Daily Show about crocodiles, reflecting upon the then-recently deceased “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.

“I remember that because, afterwards, everyone was shocked and everything,” says MacDonald. “I had no idea that the Crocodile Hunter was a beloved character or anything like that. I thought people just sort of made fun of that guy.”

Despite his perennially relaxed demeanor, MacDonald says his act does depend on his level of personal comfort.

“With Jon Stewart or Conan, because they’re my friends, I’m much more reckless in my comedy with them than I would be with David Letterman, or somebody that I’m a little afraid of,” said MacDonald. “I sort of forget that I’m on TV and I just talk to them like I would off the air with them, you know?”

So when MacDonald stops in Canada for his standup comedy tour, what will he talk about?

“I’ll probably talk a lot about the Olympics because it was just such a big thing for me,” he says. “I ended up watching the (men’s gold medal) hockey game in a big room in Chicago and it was all American fans except for me. It was knee-buckling at the end of the third period and it made it sweeter in overtime.

“I went fuckin’ crazy. But people were a little upset with me. And then in my head, I was like, ”˜Oh, this would be cool to get in a fight. Like, get all drunk and get into a fight for Canada, that’d be fun.’ ”

Norm MacDonald will perform at Dakota Dunes Casino Sept. 29.