It's been far too long since we've seen Norm MacDonald. True, now he has a new TV show on Comedy Central and he's just released a new album, Me Doing StandUp , but besides the random appearance on a celebrity roast or Adam Sandler movie, I've missed Norm. And Standup is a great example of just why he's been missed.
This is MacDonald at his best, and he never misses a beat. Part incredulous bystander trying to process everything life throws his way and part out-of-touch old guy telling tales of how things used to be, MacDonald seamlessly transitions between the two characters.
MacDonald shines when he takes a simple common phrase like someone "waging a battle against cancer" or a "heart attack" or "gay pride" and veers into their literal meaning. We talk about people battling cancer but is it really a battle as much as it is someone in a bed plugged to an IV? A heart attack becomes literally that: Your heart attacking and trying to kill you. And yes, a parent may love and support their homosexual son, but MacDonald hilariously explains why "pride" may not be the best choice of words.
Sure, MacDonald is reading too literally into the words but that's exactly where he mines some of his best comedy. When someone told him his deceased father was "in a better place," MacDonald begged to differ. "He's on the floor. Dead. Earlier he was alive in the bed...I'm no physician but I think that's the better place over there."
When it comes to storytelling, there's no one else quite like MacDonald who often finds himself chuckling at the absurdity of what he's describing as if he's hearing the material for the first time. His approach is unassuming and modest and his delivery comes across like he's trying to remember just how everything went down. Even the smallest details, like his deliberate pronunciation of the word "a" in not-totally-grammatically-correct phrases like "eat a egg" or "half a hour" pack a huge laugh.
Which brings me to another wonderful aspect of MacDonald's comedy: Explaining things. It's fascinating to hear not only what he believes, but also the logic that backs his claims like AA isn't truly anonymous, alcoholism is the best disease ever, and mathematically speaking, Tiger Woods is the most faithful man who ever lived.
MacDonald has a real flair for tackling subjects that may at first seem too heavy to make good comedic material. Not only does he find the funny in them, but he does it with what appears to be relative ease. It isn't until after the bit is over that you realize, "Wow...he just talked about the best way to abduct and murder a woman for the last seven minutes and it was hilarious." I know it sounds bad when it's worded like that , but trust me, he somehow manages to pull it off.
Of course, you can't talk about Norm MacDonald and women getting murdered without touching on O.J. Simpson, the topic that - depending on who tells the story - was responsible for MacDonald's dismissal from Saturday Night Live. In the final track, we get to O.J. and it may surprise you to find MacDonald has gained sympathy for him. Naturally, the humor lies in why Norm has changed his tune.
This project is one of the most consistently-funny comedy albums I've heard and there are no tracks that get skipped over even after multiple listenings. Me Doing StandUp is solid proof of why Norm MacDonald is one of the funniest guys working today. I just hope we don't have to wait too long before we get "Me Doing Standup Again."