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September 09, 2014

Recommendation: Norm MacDonald Live

Norm MacDonald does about twelve podcasts a season. He started in 2013, and is either in the middle of his 2014 season or is just finishing up. The first show was with Super Dave Osborne.

They're an hour long. If you just want a selected clip to sample it, you can watch the end of the Fred Stoller episode, beginning at 59:10 as they begin to discuss the news. It's pretty funny, but not safe for work. The funny stuff involves the singer Adele, then there's some random chat that goes mostly nowhere, then they begin talking about the infamous serial killer Albert Fish, and it gets funny again.

Another really good show is with David Koechner. MacDonald does this thing with Koechner, similar to Steven Potter's "Gamesmanship" theory of cutthroat-ness in social interactions, where he keeps undermining/sabotaging Koechner, while pretending to be innocent.

He accuses Koechner of racism, for example, for no reason, and then later in the interview accuses him of sexism, again for no reason except to socially trump Koechner and show how he (MacDonald) is ready to white-knight on behalf of the women whom Koechner secretly hates. (He's kind of doing a parody here of what passes for "political" discussions.)

In running this game, he ultimately says one of the funniest little cheap subversions I've heard, but I don't want to tell you what it is or where it is, because I think you sort of have to see it in context, the context of MacDonald attempting to one-up and put down Koechner throughout the interview. That one is here. (If you want to skip to the joke I'm talking about -- it starts at about 52:00, when he begins asking Koechner James Lipton's list of questions. Maybe I'm overselling the joke, but if you keep in mind that Norm keeps sticking little knives into Koechner with a holier-than-thou deadpan on his face, I think it's pretty funny.)

Finally, there is a two parter with Gilbert Gotfried, if you don't mind complete gutter filth and also don't mind Gotfried's beat-the-joke-to-death-until-it's-funny-again-then-beat-it-to-death-some-more style.

Oh, and the first Gilbert episode contains an extended attack on "serious" comedians, like Bill Hicks and Jeanine Garofalo. The premise is that Norm has decided to be a "serious" comedian like those two.

They're all pretty good though. He has a great rapport with his sidekick Adam Eget, with whom he has an antagonistic relationship, like David Letterman and Chris Elliot did, except here, MacDonald is the meaner and crueler one.

At the end of every show, they do "Jokes," where MacDonald passes out five-by-seven cards upon which he's written some jokes, and MacDonald, the guest, and Eget take turns reading the jokes assigned to them by MacDonald.

MacDonald gives Eget jokes which are horrible and produce deathly silence every single time. Eget reads them with resignation, and with the body language of a beaten child who flinches at the sound of father's footsteps.

And then, having forced Eget to read the terrible, pointless joke MacDonald wrote for him, MacDonald looks at him with pure icy contempt.

It's kind of funny.

One thing, though: While they're campaigning to take over the 12:30 slot on CBS, the show is as far from a network comedy show as possible. It's deliberately shabby and rambling.

A network show hates silence and discomfort; this show loves it, and tries to make failed jokes, flop sweat, and pointless personal attacks funny. I think that works pretty well, but don't expect the rat-a-tat joke format you might remember from a more professionally-produced show, like his old Weekend Update gig.

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posted by Ace at 05:43 PM

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