Norm Macdonald has a new Netflix comedy special, and in the spirit of Norm Macdonald he doesn’t really care for it.
Asked what he thinks about Hitler’s Dog, Gossip, and Trickery, he responds: “Eh. It’s dumb. I don’t like it that much to tell you the truth.”
He says every live show is different, and he does at least 200 live shows a year. The two shows that Netflix edited together to make this special were probably the 199th and 200th show, and to him they were probably his worst shows.
“But the material is good,” he says. “I like the material. The material was strong enough to pull me through the special. If I had another chance to do it, it would be entirely different. The material would be entirely different. But, it is what it is. It’s not that important anyway because it will still be one of the top 100 comedy specials that Netflix puts out this year.”
Classic Norm. And he’s right. Despite the way he feels about the final product, it is still going to be a big hit with his fans and people who love watching standup. The special is full of tickle humor, much like his classic punny routines that sometimes come out of left field.
If you are looking for him to preach about the current state of the union, don’t hold your breath. The closest Macdonald comes to talking about politics is when he says, “It’s raining in the forest.” It probably means he doesn’t like getting political onstage. And that’s fine because he is his audience.
“It’s just kinda aimed at myself,” he says of the material. “If you try to write something that is aimed at somebody, it ends up bad. Maybe some people can do it, I don’t know. But it’s mostly just stuff I see that makes me laugh. I see something and I think it’s funny and I’m a person so… maybe other people will think it’s funny too.”
Luckily for him his standup was successful right from the start.
“I started in Ottawa, Canada,” he says. “I was lucky because there was only two comedians. Because of that I got way more work than I would have if I was in a big city.” Not only did he start making money doing gigs his first year as a standup comic, he also got to travel and learn from a comedy legend.
“Sam Kinison, in my first year came [to Canada] and liked me,” he says. “He couldn’t get work in the states at the time. It was about a year before he broke, so he took me around Canada with him. Which was fantastic. He taught me a lot of stuff that guy.
“The biggest thing he told me was, ‘You’re funny, but why are you talking about these things?’ And I was like, what? I had a big long bit about a dog or something. He would go, ‘Are you that interested in dogs?’ And I’m like, ‘Not really.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, because I never hear you bring it up when we talk. And because you’re up there [onstage], you can talk about anything in the entire world. That’s the beauty of standup.’”
Macdonald’s standup career led him to writing for television shows like Roseanne and The Dennis Miller Show, and being one of the most beloved Weekend Update anchors on Saturday Night Live. He also lends his talents to the Adult Swim animated series Mike Tyson Mysteries, as the voice of Pigeon.
It’s hard to believe that after 30-plus years of doing comedy, you can still be working out the kinks.
“I did this one joke the other day,” he says. “And I was like ‘Are you guys laughing at me or are you laughing because I am retarded and don’t know how to use a thermostat?’ Sometimes you don’t know why they are laughing.”
That’s the beauty of standup, Macdonald says. You can keep learning forever.