Norm was working hard preparing material for his Netflix special – until COVID shut things down.
In the summer of 2020, he was scheduled to undergo a procedure and as he put it, “didn’t want to leave anything on the table in case things went south.”
At home, the night before going in, he shot this – in one take.
[Lori Jo] Talk, talk.
Hello there, everybody. That sounds good to me…
[Lori Jo] Okay.
…through my earphones…
[Lori Jo] All right. Good.
[Lori Jo] The boom’s a little loud. I’ll turn that down. Just give me a second.
[Norm] Lori Jo. Do you like where my hand comes in?
[Lori Jo] I’m not watching the camera.
[Lori Jo] Testing, testing.
[Norm] Testing, testing.
[Norm] We don’t know where…
[Lori Jo] You were talking about…
[Norm] I know where.
Hey, everybody. It’s Norm Macdonald. And this is my comedy special. That’s right. Now, of course I’m looking forward to getting back out there, you know. Seeing you folks in person, you know. I love doing gigs. And I miss it. My God, I miss it. Especially casinos. Those were my favorite gigs because I’m a degenerate gambler as it turns out.
I think the casinos know that. Often they’ll pay me in chips. Which I find… that’s not nice, you know? Sometimes they’ll just give me a real big chip. They’ll go, “Here you go!” Then they break it in half. They go, “Have fun!” I go, “Goddamn, guys.” That’s not nice.
But, anyways, I prefer the Indian casinos. That’s what I like. You know? Because I don’t want to give my money… If I’m gonna lose money, and I’m gonna lose money, I don’t want to do it in Las Vegas to a bunch of corporate businessmen. I would rather go to an Indian casino and lose it to the Native Americans. You know? On account of my forefathers systematically murdered them years ago. Which looking back on it… way out of line. Way out of line.
Anyways, I look at it as a form of reparations. You know? I tell you, I’ve done my part, Goddamn it. Probably done your part too.
Anyways… I love casinos. I was in Las Vegas, the last time I was there… People go to Vegas sometimes and they got a system. You know? They go, “I got a system, I’m gonna break the bank ’cause I figured out a system.” And oftentimes these systems actually do not work at all. And I think that I saw the unraveling of a system. Sometimes all you need to hear is like a snippet of conversation and you can infer from that information, more. You know what I’m saying?
For instance, one time I walked past these two homeless guys. One guy said to the other, “When the fuck were you ever goaltender for the Montreal Canadians?”
He was tired of the horseshit. It was the last straw. But anyways, I think I heard what was the unraveling of a system. On account of I got in the elevator, it was going down, and then a couple got on, a man and a woman. And then tension, you know? So it was just the four of us. And we’re going down the elevator. Out of the blue, out of nowhere, the man says to the woman, “I don’t give a fuck what I said, give me the money.” “That’s my money.” So I believe, I’m only inferring, once again, I have no proof that that…
But here’s the thing about gambling. It’s irrational, you know? You gotta– you can’t be rational to actually gamble, because it doesn’t make no sense, you know? And I remember I was at the– one time I got… I went– I was walking down and I saw a roulette table. Now, I don’t know if you know the game of roulette. How could you not know the game of roulette? [laughs] It’s not that hard. But anyways, I put a hundred dollars on black. You know? And the little silver ball spun around the wheel and everything, and then it landed on red. This is what I said, “Fuck, I almost picked that!”
But I do miss being out on the road, you know? Seeing you folks live, you know? I mean, I’m all alone looking in the TV. It doesn’t make much sense. But what– that’s what it is.
You know, I’ll tell you one thing I don’t miss is airplanes. I don’t like airplanes. I finally figured out why. After years of therapy I figured out why I don’t care for the airplanes. I don’t like the crashing and dying in the airplane. That’s what it is. You know?
Hey, by the way, I got a little tip for you if you fly on an airplane. Always pick the exit row. Choose the exit row. That way you get the extra two, three inches of legroom. And all you have to do to get the exit row is to lie. That’s right. You just lie. You know? The stewardess comes up. Flight attendant! [laughs] Flight attendant. I apologize. Words are different now. When I was young, if you were a flight attendant, and you were a lady, we would call you a stewardess. And, if you were a flight attendant and you were a man, we would call you a… Wait, what? What are you guys thinking? Good Lord! What’s wrong with you? I’m outraged. I’m outraged, I tell you. I’m outraged at what you are thinking just ’cause I pause for a second. I was going to say a steward. If you were a flight attendant and you were a male, we used to call you a steward. You know?
But words have changed, folks. That’s the way things go, man. They are always gonna be different. You know, words, they change. That’s why I can’t understand goddamn Shakespeare. You know? I remember one time when I was a little boy, I went up to my dad. I said, “Dad, I think I’m a little girl.” And he said, “I thought you had a cock.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. You got me.”
Now, the only reason I tell you that is to show how hateful we were back then. You know what I’m saying? My dad– now, every person knows that people are nuanced. They’re not all evil or all good. You know? My dad did good stuff, you know? He was in the Second World War. You know, he fought Hitler. I mean, he had help. It wasn’t like he had a fistfight with Hitler. But I’m saying he liberated us from what could have been the icy grip of Nazism. How about that? So that was his good side, you know? His evil side was this crazy idea he had that having a cock had something to do with being a boy. I don’t even know where he could come up with such an idea. Nowadays, we can’t even wrap our heads around that kind of thinking. But people used to actually think that. Isn’t that something?
Now, in other ways, my father was very progressive. For instance, we had a gender neutral bathroom. You know? I used it, my brother used it, my sister used it, my mother used it. Anybody. It didn’t matter what gender you were.
You know what I was way ahead on? Slut-shaming. I was always, always against that. I remember telling the fellas in high school, I’d go, “Guys, I think we’re making a big mistake by shaming the sluts.” You see, here’s what is my concern. I feel if we shame them too much they might stop becoming sluts. You know? And further ladies might not want to be sluts either. I have a different idea. Other than shaming the sluts, it’s a different, it’s a bold idea, I say we take the sluts and we put them on our shoulders. And we go, “Oh, hail the slut!”
♪ For she’s a jolly good slut ♪
That kind of thing, you know? So I was way ahead of it, man, way ahead of it.
But anyway, that’s not what I was talking about. What the hell was I talking about? Oh, yeah, the airplane. Yes, yes, the airplane.
Man, I don’t understand it, you know? They make all their announcements, you know? What are they? Why do they think we still believe that horseshit? You know? I heard one. I guess I just zone out because I haven’t heard it before. They say, “If your oxygen masks happen to fall, make sure to put your oxygen mask on first before you put the oxygen mask of the little boy.” And then, I’d go, “Yeah, that was my fucking plan. You didn’t have to tell everybody, blabbermouth.”
I don’t know why they think we’re going to believe them. They’ll say, “Listen… I know we’re flying over the Pacific Ocean, but don’t worry, on account of if we happen to crash into the Pacific ocean, the seat cushions are not only seat cushions, they are also boats.” Yep, they’re boats. All the time, you turn on the TV and the guy goes, “Well, a plane crashed in the Atlantic, but it’s all right, everybody listened to that lady so they’re all on their boats.”
People are going, “Goddamn, why’d I buy that boat? I should have just got a fleet of seat cushions. I would have saved all kinds of money.”
Here’s the thing. If you crash, let’s be honest for a second. If you crash in an airplane, you got zero chance of survival. They’ll take pictures of crash sites, take videos. You know? And they don’t even see anything. Because at that point you become just dematerialized. You know? You’re nothing, you’re stuff, basically. “Ashes to ashes, stuff to stuff,” as the Scriptures say.
You know? And, uh… and then the victims, they’re called remains, you know, but stuff. And the victims’ families always want the remains. They go, “Oh, I can’t go to sleep because I keep thinking of poor Kevin and his last moments on this Earth. Spiraling downwards towards certain death. Oh! Oh, if only I could see his remains. Then I’d have a good sleep. Oh, I’d sleep soundly that night. Then I get closure and just forget this whole thing.”
I don’t understand it, but that’s what they say. And really, do you think you’re going to get Kevin if you’re Kevin’s mother? Do you think they’re going to go on a plane and go, “Hey, look at that. Look over there. Doesn’t that look like Kevin’s hair? That lock of golden blonde– That looks like Kevin’s hair.” “Fred, didn’t you see Kevin’s thigh bone earlier? Let’s reconstruct him.”
No, that’s not what they do. You know? Best thing they can do, maybe they’ll find your ID. “Look, it says Norm Macdonald. It says he weighs 190 pounds. Okay, shovel 190 pounds of stuff into a bag and write Norm on the side of that one, and hurry up. Daylight’s burning and his mother wants it.”
Then my mother gets it. “Oh, look at that! That’s Norm. How about that? I don’t remember Norm having three ears. Oh, well. I guess none of us really knew him when you get down to it.”
The only time it seems you ever survive an airplane crash is if you crash into the Andes. You know? That’s even worse. Because, you know, you– then you have to fight with the moral quandary of cannibalism. Which I am against, by the way. If you know anything about my work, you will know my tireless devotion to the anti-cannibalism cause. But I’m not going to use this as a bully pulpit. Most of you are adults and you’ve cemented your views on cannibalism. I like to go for the kids, you know? The young people. I go all across this great country, and I go to the schools and I talk to the children, you know? And I tell them, I go, “Listen… you might think it’s cool to eat your buddy in Algebra class. I’m not going to lie to you, you will be the talk of the school for a few years, but what about the future? What about the future?” I tell them.
Here’s the problem with crashing in the Andes and having to resort to cannibalism is they take so long to decide. You know what I mean? They go, “Oh, I don’t want to eat a guy! Oh, I can’t do it.” You know? And, uh… “I can’t eat the copilot, I can’t do it.” You know? And then days go by, I go, “Hey, maybe we should eat the copilot.” You know? And, uh… finally, they are maddened by hunger and they just attack… [screams] And they got copilot blood all over them, copilot viscera falling out of their mouth on their pink shirts, you know?
And… that’s no way to eat. You can’t gorge. Any dietician will tell you. You cannot gorge. The thing to do is graze. That’s the right way to eat. You know? You wake up, you have a small meal of copilot. Then, around lunchtime, you have a small meal of copilot. Then, around I think about six times during the whole day, you have a small portion of copilot.
Any dietician will tell you, I tell you, not that I’m a dietician. I don’t pretend to be a dietician. Well, sometimes I do, but… it’s only to get the ladies, you know? The big fat ladies. I go up, I go, “Hey, you want to go on a diet? On account of I’m a dietician.” And then they leave with me sometimes. Sometimes they just get angry, you know? I don’t know.
But, I don’t even know what I was talking about. Weren’t we talking about slut-shaming? I don’t know. Nobody knows anymore.
Oh, I know, yes, the airplane! Yes. You know, you… this is the thing. You gotta be ready for anything life throws you in this here world. That’s what I’ve learned as I’ve aged. You know? And I’m ready. Like cannibalism? I know what I would do in the Andes on account of I’ve thought it over. I’ve thought over my position. You see what I mean? Like I flew in from Vegas, I remember, one time, and there was some turbulence. And I was like, “I’m eating that fucking fourteen year–“
The thing is, you got to be ready. You got to be ready for anything this world throws at you. You know? And, you know… and I am, you know? Like, I remember one time I was flying from Vegas to LA and there was a little turbulence, and I remember I said, “I’m going to eat that fucker in 14-A.” Oh, that guy looked delicious. [smacks lips] Big fat guy! [laughs]
But, anyways, enough of this grim nonsense. You know what I mean? We got problems in this country. For instance, systematic racism. And here’s the problem, nobody thinks they’re racist. I remember I was in Portland one time. Portland, Oregon. And the driver picked me up to take me to the gig. I got off the airplane, the driver’s driving. And we’re driving through downtown Portland and he says, “You know, we got no racists in Portland. No racism at all.” And I looked around, everyone was white. You know? [chuckles] So I said to the guy, I said, “Well, it’s pretty easy not be racist when everybody’s white.” And then the guy says to me, he goes, “We got our share.” I’m like, “Good Lord!” “We got our share.” That’s not right.
Why are all– not all, but a lot of drivers for some reason, like taxi drivers and something, turn out to be racists, you know? That’s what I hear a lot of, ’cause I don’t drive, so I’ll get in a cab and the guy’ll go, “You know what’s wrong with this country, don’t you?” And I go, “I got an idea. So what is it?”
You ever have it when the guy says it and you don’t even know which race it is? Like I had a guy once, he goes, “You know what’s the problem in this country?” I go, “Tell me.” He goes, “Too many goddamn scuddleheads.” I was like, “Huh?”
So I looked it up in the dictionary, in Wikipedia. Everywhere. I found scuddle. I found head. And I tried to put them together. I couldn’t understand it. I’ve asked people of every race. And no one has ever heard of the term “scuddlehead.”
By the way, I would be fine if we just blamed all our problems on the scuddleheads. You know what I mean? Just make them the scapegoats. Why not? As a matter of fact, why not make the goats the scapegoats? Like in the old days. Yeah, sacrifice a goat. Make it his problem. He’s– that’s the one that’s at fault. That goat eating a tin can.
But anyways, I’m not here to talk about goats. I don’t know why I’m here. [soft chuckle] You know what I’ve noticed lately? Everybody has an opinion. And I, you know, when I was young, it wasn’t that way, you know? People would have maybe, I don’t know, six opinions. You know? Sometime you’d meet a guy, he’d have eight opinions. You’d go, “Goddamn! That guy’s opinionated!”
But about six opinions… and most of them were about food, you know? To tell you the truth. People would go, “Count Chocula? What the fuck’s wrong with you?” Stuff like that.
You know, I mean, I have opinions… I mean, I have opinions that everybody holds. You know? Like, I don’t know. Yellow’s the best color. You know? I don’t know if you’d call that an opinion. It’s just a…
Oh, hold on, it’s my phone.
[phone continues ringing]
Hello. I got to phone you back on account of I’m doing a special. On the TV. Comedy special. So I’ll call you back, okay? Okay.
Sorry about that, guys.
Anyways, I was saying, I don’t got really no opinions and I know a lot of people don’t have opinions on account of I see it on the TV. Like, I’ll watch CNN and they’ll ask a question. Sometimes it’s tough. They’ll say, “What do you think of that Southeast Asian sea treaty? How do you think that’ll affect the gross national product of Singapore?” And… Anyways, at the end they ask that question. “Do you think it’s good, yes or no?” And then at the end they show the answer. I’m a sucker for a poll. So, I always like to– I take, you know, I take part in… at the end you always see the same thing. It’ll be like, they’ll show the poll and it’s in like a pie chart. You’ll go, “Goddamn! I wish I had some pie!” Anyway, they show a pie chart and it will be like 45 percent yes. 45 percent no. Ten percent: “I don’t know.”
So that’s fine, you know? I’m not ashamed of being part of the ten percent. You know? Sounds small, but ten percent of this great country, that’s 35 million people that don’t know. That’s fine.
And I’m a sucker, man, I always… anytime I see one of those polls, I phone up. I go, “Hello, is this the TV? Yeah, you asked a question earlier. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to the question. Listen, I got a question for you. What did that second word mean, anyway? It did? [chuckles] All right, I better end up in that poll that looks like a pie, fella. I’m no sap.” And then I hang up… my phone.
But, I tell you, man, you got to, especially when elections are around, you got to have a lot of… When you’re a comedian, they expect you to know things nowadays. You know what I mean? It didn’t used to be like that. During the Vietnam War, they wouldn’t go, “I wonder what Red Skelton thinks on this.” But nowadays, I’ve heard– they go, “A comedian is the modern-day philosopher.” You know? First of all, it always makes me feel sad for the actual modern-day philosophers who exist, you know? They’re working, trying to come up with their philosophy and they go, “Goddamn! You ever hear of this night club comic? He’s doing some very good work on ‘totaligism'” or what the hell… [chuckles] Whatever you say…
I’ll tell you, when the election cycle starts, this is what I’ve noticed. They’re very difficult. Because they are trying to get the people that are smart, that know things. The people that know, because they are 90 percent, remember? I don’t know people are only ten percent. So, they will try to get you with very hard, very difficult commercials. I’ve seen them, you know? Like, a guy will come on TV, or a lady, and say, you know, “If you want to hear how I will fix healthcare as well as the mass of student debt problem in this country, as well as keeping our borders secure, but still being compassionate, then please go on ‘www.myname’ and I have a 45-page position paper.” Then I go, “Oh, no… I will not be doing that.” I’ll tell you why, it’s nothing against you. You seem like a fine enough fella, It’s just that I cannot read your 45-page position paper on account of, earlier today, a guy told me that I only get the one life. So… What are you gonna… I still got half a box full of Matlock. Matlock box sets. You only got so much time, you got to choose. You know? You got to choose.
But later on, man, when you get closer to the election, here’s what always happens, I’ve noticed. Whenever you get close to an election, they go, “There’s only three days left till the election,” and it’s always tied. You know, and they go, “You know what we have to get? Those people that don’t know anything.” It’s a very odd way of choosing the leader of the free world, but that’s the best we got. And they go, “We gotta get those guys that don’t–“
Then the commercials become very tough. Nothing about the sea of Japan or anything like that. There’s a guy that’ll come on TV and go, “Hey, listen, let me ask you a question. Do you like yellow?” And I go, “Yeah, of course I like yellow.” And he goes, “Yeah, well so does this guy.” And they show a guy waving, pointing at someone that doesn’t exist. Wearing a yellow shirt, you know? Then I go, “Ruth, get out here! Goddamn! Here’s a guy on the TV that’s speaking for me finally. Ruth! You know how I’m always talking about how cool yellow is? Well, this motherfucker… finally, a person that’s speaking not at me, but for me.”
You know what I read, actually? They say that the reason you vote for people is you vote for the guy you’d most like to have a beer with. I know that sounds odd, but it’s true. They vote for presidents by who you would most enjoy having a beer with. But what I find even more interesting is that no one has ever used that to their political advantage. If it was me, that would be my whole campaign. That would be the spine of it. Beer! You know what I mean? Everywhere I went I’d be holding a glass of beer. You know what I mean? My slogan would be… “Ah!” And I’d hold up my beer. I’d go, “Ah!” “You like beer?” [laughs] “Me, too! Vote for me and then you can come to the White House and… Ah!”
Goddamn, I’m getting old. You can tell, I don’t have to tell you that. I like wearing these on account of it hides all my white hair and everything like that. I don’t want to get my hair colored no more, you know? I don’t want anybody painting my hair black. On account of I don’t want to die and then be surprised. You know what I mean? Go, “Goddamn, I look good.” And the guy goes, “Well, I made your hair white. What do you think that was all about? I was telling you to get your affairs in order, for God’s sake.”
But anyway, I tell you how you know you’re growing old is when you start checking your left arm status. You go, “Goddamn, my left arm, I feel a little odd.”
That’s all I know about medicine. If your left arm feels odd, you will either have an impending heart attack, or nothing at all will happen.
I like doctors. I like specialists, though, you know? Like, let’s say… this is what I don’t understand. Your foot hurts, so you want to go to the foot doctor. You phone the foot doctor, he goes, “I can’t come, you got to go to a regular doctor.” Then you go to the regular doctor and he goes, “Yeah, you got to go to a foot doctor. Just pay Agnes 80 bucks on the way out.” What is that scam? You know? You go, “All right.” He goes, “While you’re here, you want me to take your blood pressure?” I’m like, “No, that’s fine. I’ve had my blood pressure taken about five thousand times.” I don’t even know what it means. They go, “It’s 150 over 60.” I go, “Is that good?” They go, “Ah, I don’t know, it’s all a blur. I’m a doctor. I’m going to be hitting your knee with a hammer now.”
That’s the oddest one to me of all time. We haven’t got past that? That’s like a cartoon from the 1950s. Guy pulls out a hammer, hits your knee with it, you go, “Ah, my knee! Oh, my God, that hurts!” And the guy writes down: “Excellent. Very good. That’s exactly how you should react when your knee is struck by a hammer.”
Sometimes doctors just know smart words. You ever see those guys? One time, I remember I was real tired. I had this thing, I don’t know what it was. I say, “Hey, Doc, I got this thing, I’m real tired.” He goes, “Sounds like chronic fatigue syndrome to me.” I said, “Really, what’s that?” He says, well, “Chronic means always, and fatigue means tired. And syndrome, that means something you got.” Anyway, you can pay Agnes 80 bucks on the way out.
Who knows what these doctors mean with their medical gobbledygook. Guy told me yesterday, the doc, he said, I’m now more of a virus than a host. What does that even mean? Who knows?
Here’s the problem. You go to doctors too much, they start thinking you’re a hypochondriac and then they don’t take anything seriously, you know?
Word gets around with these guys. Small community, the doctor community. And I made the mistake of one time… one time… I had a Pap smear. Guy smeared my pap, you know? It turned out good. But then word got out that I was a hypochondriac. But I’m not a hypochondriac. I only think I am.
My friend who does have a medical issue, it’s terrible, he’s 586 pounds. Not a lie. Now, I’ve been blessed to have the same friends since I was in grade four. Billy, Jimmy, Ricky, me. Now, we all went our different paths, but Jimmy became fat, then he became really fat, then he became obese, then he became morbidly obese. And now, 586 pounds. It’s incredible. He’s one of those guys that can’t get out of his house and stuff. But he’s finally decided to change, thank God. So he’s got a psychiatrist in there, we got him a dietician, people are around the clock. One of the three of us go and visit him and keep his spirits up. And it’s great.
But he said something that struck me odd the other day. Last time I saw him, which was about six months ago. The other day. But he said to me, he said, “Norm, you wouldn’t believe it, but at one point in my life I weighed 135 pounds.” And I said, “Oh, no, I believe that. I think you weighed every weight up to 586 pounds. I don’t think you just showed up looking like this.”
My other friend was mentally retarded. Now, I know you’re not supposed to say that anymore. But that’s what we said then. You know? I understand that term. It means that you’re arrested. You’re mental capacity has been retarded or arrested. So, anyways, I’ll say Down’s syndrome, I don’t care. I didn’t say it for a long time on account of I thought people would think I was a doctor. And I’d have to hit their knee with a hammer or something. I don’t know.
But anyways, I love– my best friend had Down’s syndrome, you know? I love people with Down’s syndrome. I wish I had Down’s syndrome. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause they’re happy. You know what I mean? They are happy! What’s wrong with that? Man, I wish I was happy, you know? I was happy when I was with my friend, I’ll tell you that. I would love to have a friend right now. ‘Cause how often are you happy? You ever be happy? It happens once in a while, you know. With me, it’s usually when I wake up. I wake up, I go, “Ah! Goddamn. I’m glad I bought that Tempur-Pedic pillow. [chuckles] That was the best purchase I ever made.”
But then the light comes under the door, and bathes over you. Then your life comes in and gets all over you like a cobweb. You’re like, “Goddamn. That’s not fun.”
You ever go in the mirror and look at yourself? I’m not talking about physically. Just eye to eye. And then you go, “Good God, what’s become of me? [shudders] I’m going to go back to bed and cover myself up.” [shudders] That’s when I would like to have a mentally retarded friend next to me. A guy with Down’s syndrome to go, “I like bananas!” I go, “Goddamn, I never looked at it that way. I like bananas too.” He goes, “They’re yellow!” “Goddamn, you’re right, they are yellow. Ha! What say you and me go buy a yellow banana?”
See, people get mad at me and yet they pity them! I envy people with Down’s syndrome. You know? They pity them. Now, who’s the bad person in that scenario? I tell you right now, man, if there was some sort of injection where I could be Down’s syndrome, I’d take it because I’d love to be happy all the time. You know? Some people go, “Oh, mentally retarded people aren’t always happy.” I go, “Well, I never seen…” You know? You ever see a cynical Down’s syndrome guy? You know? Ever see a guy go, “Fuck bananas, they’re yellow. I don’t care. Who cares?” I never seen them.
But, happiness. The thing we strive the most. People pity these people that have it. They’ll look over at a group of people with Down’s syndrome and go, “Oh, man, look. Breaks my heart when I see them. You know why? They’re happy, right? It’s on account of they don’t understand life’s horrors. Makes me sad, makes me shake my head sadly like this here. And you know the saddest part of all? There’s no cure. They’ll probably die happy.”
Anyways, I hope you guys are all doing well. I’m glad I got my wife, you know, Ruth. She’s all right, you know? She’s watching a lot of TV. She’s got her guilty pleasures, you know? And her guilty pleasure is watching Housewives Of Atlanta. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that. My guilty pleasure is finding elderly gentlemen and shooting them in the leg. No, that’s… that’s just a joke. That is a joke! I felt it was time I tell a joke. I think it may be in my contract.
Anyways… my wife, man, she ain’t the brightest girl, Ruth. We have what’s called a hall pass. You know what that is? A hall pass? That means you’re allowed to have sex with any two people that you would like to have sex with because they’re special. I chose– and the other partner has to agree to it. So I chose on my hall pass Angelina Jolie and Christie Brinkley. And Ruth, my wife, she’s so stupid that, you know who she chose? The Mexican guy that mows my lawn and his brother. Of all the people in the world, of all the people in the world.
But I love women, you know? I consider women to be superior to men and I’ll tell you why. They create life. Think about that. You know what I mean? What do men do? Maybe they eat sour cream and onion chips or something. Women create life for God’s sakes. It’s amazing. You know what I’m saying?
If I was a woman, that’s all I’d do, just create life. I’d go to parties and go, “Hey, Fred. What do you do? I can’t remember.” And Fred would go, “I’ll tell you what I do, Loretta.” That’s my name in the story. He’d go, “I’ll tell you what I do, Loretta. I think you know I work down at the bank for Mr. Abernathy. And… I, well, what… my main job is Abernathy will give me a stack of papers about this big. By the end of the day, if I get them down to about this big, that’s a good–“
I go, “Wait a second there. I’m sorry. I got to stop you there. Remember how I was telling you how I create life? Human life. The highest form of life. I just got to tell you this. That life just kicked me. Can you possibly wrap your head around that?” And he’ll go, “Ah! Well, I… Look. Abernathy’s never given me that corner office like he promised. And there was plenty of lunches where he brought it up. Ah! But then Henderson showed up. That all changed. Who am I kidding? I should just quit.”
Anyways, what have we learned from this little fable?
It’s funny now, here’s what I was thinking of… You know how everybody’s got a name now? Everybody has an identity, you know? Like, let’s say, your sexuality. Let’s say a guy likes a guy. That’s a homosexual. If you are attracted to a member of your own gender. If you’re attracted to a member of the opposite sex then you’re a heterosexual. But what about a guy like me? Just whacks off all the time? What am I? I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve got a word.
This is why I was thinking about whacking off. Think about this. It’s kind of like a psychotic break you got to do. You know? Like, in your mind, in your picture, you have to have a picture there of you with a lady and you got to believe it so much that you don’t even believe what’s really happening. You know what I’m getting at?
I don’t know, like, a lot of guys… I don’t have a great imagination. A lot of guys will do it with a… Playboy magazine, say. Or maybe a Victoria’s Secret, or something like that. But I ain’t got the imagination for that, you know what I mean? Like, I try, you know, but then I’ll go, “Okay, you come over here with your ‘Victoria Secrets.’ Huh? I’ll show you your underwear.” I don’t know why I’m mean to them, but… I’ll go, “Why don’t you come over and take off your underwear?” They go, “No, I’m not doing that.” And I go, “No, I… goodbye! I didn’t think you would. Sorry about that crack about asking you to take your underwear off.”
But… I don’t have the imagination for that. However, there is this lady that works down the street from me at 7-11. She’s not much to look at, but she likes me. That’s the important thing. In that way, in that certain way that women like men. And I know she likes me on account of one time I was buying sour cream and onion chips and Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream, and I’m getting it, right, and she goes, “I like sour cream and onion chips, too.” I go, “Yeah, that’s interesting.” She goes, “No, I really like them.” Now I look up, I’m like… Because sometimes the shadow of the thing is bigger than the…
Anyways… I knew that she liked me. So then, for the next two months I’m whacking off. Oh, my God. Now, in my head is me and the girl… I don’t think any guy could just, in his head, have himself whacking off. That wouldn’t work. I’m only talking about men. ‘Cause I’ve asked women. I’ve said, “What do you do when you lie with yourself and make your finger a blur like a hummingbird’s wing? What do you think of in your head?” And then they go, “Oh, a hammock.” And I’m like, “Oh!”
So anyways, they’re a little more advanced. But we have to think of a specific scenario. So my scenario is the lady from 7-11, I go, “Hey! They’re giving you a break. I’ll show you a break. Come on over here.”
My jokes don’t even make sense. Anyways, I get ’em… What I’m interested in is in the moment when the fever breaks. You know what I mean? When that four seconds of issue that you spent so much time going after, it ends. You know what I mean? You’re thinking of all these things in your head. You just got a psychotic break going that would rival a paranoid schizophrenic. All of a sudden it stops and you’re like, “Ah!” It’s just me. There are no ladies at all. It’s just me. [panting] I got to get a hold of myself. What’ll I do here? I know. I’ll go downstairs. I’ll get a cheese sandwich. [chuckles] Yeah. I’ll never think about this again. [chuckles] That’s right. [chuckles]
I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes I feel bad about doing that. Self-abuse, you know, lying down with myself. On account of… because I’m a Christian. You know? But, I’ll tell you this, a lot of people think Christians are self-righteous. But we’re not, we’re sinning all the time. All the time. For instance… I eat apples. Think about that for a second. It’s on page one. Worst thing you can do in the world. I’m munching down on an apple. Ah! You know? Sure, I love apples, but… is it worth getting raped by the Devil for all of time? I say no!
Anyways… I know there’s a God. People go, “Well, you’re only a Christian because you grew up in a Christian–” And I understand that and that’s one of my biggest fears. That I picked the wrong religion, you know? That I believed, but then I died and I go, “Ah! It’s you! I thought it was the other fella. Ah!” I should have been slaying apostates the entire time. Oh well, what are you going to do?
Hey! Did you know this? They finally figured out that Jesus Christ, whether you’re religious or not, that Jesus Christ was actually a historical figure. Probably a historical figure. I don’t think that’s that interesting because it’s only whether he was divine or not that matters.
But they also found, I found this very interesting, they found a new Dead Sea Scroll. And it was a gospel about Jesus H. Christ. It turned out that he was a real guy, you know? He grew up in the town right next to Jesus Christ. So, often he was– he had a bad life because people would come up to him and go, “Hey!” “Master, can we touch your hand?” And he’d go, “I’m not the guy! I’m a plumber for God’s sake. You’re looking for the cabinet maker. Ah!” And they’d go, “Please, Master, let us touch your hand.” And he’d go, “You can touch it if you want, but I’m telling you nothing’s going to happen. I should have just gone with Howard. I don’t like this one bit.”
Anyways, I thought that was interesting.
But, listen, folks, I don’t want to get depressing, you know? But you got to get a living will, I’ll tell you that right now. It’s very important, I’ll tell you why. Because if you don’t– I’ll tell you what a living will is. It’s if you happen to go into a coma, something like that, the living will tells the doctor what to do. And it’s usually about a plug. A plug in the wall. I hate to bring everybody down, but a lot of you will end up plugged into the wall. Sounds odd, but… And I’m not going to say which one of you because I don’t think that’s fair. But I made out a very simple one. You know? All it… See, here’s the thing. If you do not make out a living will, you know what happens? You know who decides? Your family. And guess what they’ll decide? Maybe what they always decide. No, they always decide the same thing. You know? At first they don’t. Because, you know, it’s kind of fun bringing your friends in. There’s something lying there, you go, “Look at that, huh? Used to have dreams. Now it’s just a gray thing. Oh, well. Used to make apple pies for me.”
But anyways, the novelty runs out of anything and after a while, you know, of course the family is going to go– and I know it’s going to be my sister, she’ll go, “Oh, yeah, Doc, remember when you were saying, ‘Did Norm ever discuss what he’d want if he was plugged into a wall?’ Well, I don’t know if this counts, but one time I remember we were having lunch and Norm said to me, ‘You know, if I was ever plugged into a wall then I think that you should, you know… kill me.'”
And then everybody else in the room goes, “I remember him saying that too!” And then what if you were in the coma, you can still hear, you’re like, “Oh, no!” But you can’t even get to them. Anyways, what I was going to say is, I don’t even have a plug. I got a whole Byzantine, you know, bunch of different plugs. Surge protectors, all sorts– because I don’t want some janitor with a wide broom hitting my plug. You know? And then my sister slipping a five to him out in the hallway. I know how things work, I’ll tell you that. Also, what happens if they go, “Okay, let’s pull the plug.” Then a guy runs in, “I got some great news! Oh… did you guys pull the plug?” They go, “Yeah, what’s the great news?” He goes, “Nothing. No. Nothing at all. It’s just LeBron James might go to the hall of fame, they say. [laughs] But anyways, you better go home and grieve. You know what one of the best ways of grieving is, they say. Don’t read the newspaper, or look at the internet, or anything. That’s what they say.”
I don’t know, man. There’s more in this world than anybody can understand.
Psychology. I don’t understand psychology, I’ll tell you. I don’t even know if it’s real. They say some people got recovered memories. A memory will just come to them, you know? From 30, 40 years ago. It’s never a good memory. It’s never like they go, “Goddamn, I used to like peach pie. I got to get me a piece of peach pie.” It’s always the most violent, sexual, horrifying incident. You know what I mean? And I don’t like it. I don’t like it.
Because, here’s the thing with recovered memory. You can’t be sure anymore of what happened. You know? I used to be at parties, and say it with great pride, people would come up to me and go, “Hey, Norm, did your uncle ever fuck your ass?” And I’d go, “No.” And I’d be happy. I took great pride in that, you know? But now I can’t say that anymore, you know? Because there’s two possibilities. Either my uncle fucked my ass and I forgot, or he didn’t fuck my ass. So, when people come up to me now and ask me, “Did your uncle fuck your ass?” All I can say is, “I don’t know. Fifty-fifty, I guess.” If I understand my advanced math, it’s 50-50.
But I don’t even know if I believe in psychology. You know what I mean? And I’ll tell you why. Because my friend, everything to this guy has two meanings. You know what I mean? He says, “You know how you have your conscience and your subco–“
Anyways, one time I’m with this guy, we’re having dinner, and I take a glass of milk. I’m drinking the milk. The guy says, “Hey! You know why you’re drinking that milk, Norm?” I go, “No, why?” I know something’s coming. He goes, “That’s because you miss sucking on your mother’s breast.” And I’m like, “Ah!” “What did you have to say that for?” And I’m stuck, you know? What am I gonna guzzle the milk? There’s a delicious cold milk there. You know? And you guys don’t know my mother, but she’s 84 years old, for God sakes. She’s a sweet lady and everything, but…
You know what? I was thinking about my mother the other day because, you know the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up movement and all that? This is a move– I’ve never seen– I’ve never been through a revolution like this. It’s very exciting, you know, to see women get what they’ve always deserved in the first place, you know? But every revolution has its casualties. And for me, it’s people like my mother. Or maybe you have a mother or a grandmother. It’s those people. I remember growing up with my mother. She’d be cooking, she’d be in the kitchen. “Do you have enough gravy? Oh! There’s some more turkey. Oh, the turnips! The turnips!” She’d get the turnips out. Then I’d go, “Ma, you got enough to eat?” She’d go, “Oh, yes.” But she’d just be eating what was left from us, you know what I mean? And we’d go, “Can we help with the dishes?” “No, no, watch your football games.”
I love my mother, you know. She lives right beside me here. She’s great. I don’t think my mother has ever spoken a word that had any irony in it. You know what I mean? She’s just earnest, she’s just happy. She knows how to love, she doesn’t judge.
I don’t think… She’ll go sometimes to the grocery store and come back, the other day she did this. She’d come back, she’d say, “A funny thing happened at the grocery store.” I said, “What happened, Mom?” She said, “A woman came in and bought a grapefruit and it cost $1.69 and last week it cost $1.19.” And then I said, “That’s not a story, let alone a funny story. I don’t even think that would be considered a story.”
Anyways, my point is that I would trade my… I don’t know what my point is, really.
Oh, yeah! I know! I don’t want to suck her tits! That’s what my point was. Maybe that makes me shallow. I don’t know.
Stay safe, folks. I love you.
I would drop the mic, but I paid for it.
* * *
That was sweet, man.
Yup. I thought of two things. The first thing I thought of was, I might owe Drew Michaels an apology. Because he made a special with no audience and I hated it.
Because I looked at it like a swimming meet with no water. Like that’s the whole thing. But this… was very endearing. It was amazing. This… [grumbles]
[Letterman] The form is different. It’s not strictly speaking stand-up. It’s something else. And the great gift could have been to be in a room full of people when Norm did that for those people. Because that would have evaluated, measured, and directed what he’s talking about. And for us to sit here and look at it is not a true test of anything really other than we all love Norm and, my God, he is certainly prolific. Certainly energetic. But we weren’t watching stand-up comedy because it was impossible. But there’s something there, for sure.
There’s no question.
[Chappelle] I also forget how poetic he is.
With Norm, I didn’t know him that well in the ’90s. Then when my dad died, I had to do a movie with Norm, and I tried everything to get out of that movie because I was inconsolable. I couldn’t get out of it. And working with him was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It was like, he was the right guy at the right time. I was inconsolable.
Did he talk to you about your dad a lot? What did he do?
Never came up. He just made me laugh.
[Sandler] Yeah, right, right.
He just, you know, it was wistful, and amusing. You know how Norm is. You never knew if he was setting something up or not. We were just hanging out, all of a sudden it’d be like this punchline out of nowhere, but… it started to become like a… work was like a church I go to. I couldn’t wait to get to work and hang around this guy.
[Chappelle] And I knew he was special.
And… I’ve known people for years and years that didn’t make me laugh as much as he did in that eight or ten weeks. He’s like a real special person to me. And the way he’s funny, I just never seen someone get at it like that.
The element that I always admired was the connection to the audience. And his asides, and his looks and his pauses were interpreted exactly the way he knew they would be interpreted and that fueled the ridiculous nature of some of the presentation. And without that audience, you don’t get the full measure of Norm.
It was like the audience was his partner. Everybody was in this together with Norm.
I agree. I like the way you said it. The audience was his partner.
That kind of felt like the gentle Norm that when you would sit and hang out after our shows on the road or we’d be on the bus with him. He’d still be being funny. He would kind of perform like that. Like, he’d say his material to you, he’d kind of commit to it, but he just kept going and going and going. It looked like he was just like, “I want to get everything out. Everything I’ve been thinking about.” Anyways…
He had, I think, the best word choice of maybe any comedian I’ve ever seen. He intentionally mispronounces words.
[Sandler] That’s right.
[O’Brien] When he knows… he knows how to say “TV”, he says it’s “the TV”. He came on our show, I think it was his first appearance, he was talking about a Doberman, and he said it’s a “Dober-man”.
And he knows!
But he’s constantly screwing with you on every level.
But his word choice, he was like Mark Twain. He had this folksy, completely out-of-time… I don’t know if he was born 300 years too late or 300 years too early, but he’s talking in a way… no one speaks like that. And you really appreciate the way he says things. And his timing.
He talks like a 1930s Canadian dock worker.
Does it remind you a bit of Face In The Crowd? Some of the early stuff where he’s just communicating from himself to a radio audience? That’s what I thought of early on in this.
[O’Brien] Yeah. You know, it’s funny because the way I experienced him, as you did, Dave, was really on the talk show format. And later on, when I would look at the clips of him on my show, I would think– I don’t even know that I needed to– I was there just laughing. But I was in no way… He’s totally self-fueled. Yes, it’s nice when you hear the audience there, but he’s also… you know, what he’s doing is so absurd and ridiculous. This was an exercise in… I couldn’t do that if you just put a camera there…
…and said you’ve got 50 minutes and go. I would become, I would lose my train of thought, or I would– I need other people there for me to find the next thing. He’s completely… When I look at his appearances that he did with me, I think, I didn’t need to be there. I mean, I’m glad I was there. I’m selfishly glad I was there.
[Spade] You need a second to think. I don’t know if he’s got a set list. There’s no really looking down, there’s no fumbling, there’s no think– it was just kind of go, go, go. I didn’t see where that would be and to remember all that?
The presentation, considering the circumstance, the presentation was robust for God’s sake.
I like the messiness. I like the dog.
The dog and that phone call.
You were saying the guy without the audience. This is just more, there was no choice. It’s different when he just has to do it. The other guy picked not to have an audience.
That’s absolutely right. I didn’t even think it was possible.
I feel like he landed the trick.
His timing is like a drummer’s.
It’s like a jazz drummer.
What would the timing have been with an audience? Still perfect?
I can’t tell, you know. He’s so nice with it, I feel like it looked like it was supposed to be that. It’s hard to explain.
[Sandler] Right, yeah.
This is like listening to a good book on tape.
Yeah. It’s really…
Yeah, yeah, that’s good.
It reminds me of what I liked about him. He’s a soothing person to be around.
[Sandler] Yeah, gentle, gentle.
My favorite comedy makes– is kind of intuitive. It makes people feel safe, like everything’s going to be all right.
This guy was in a weird way reconciling his mortality.
Hilariously in front of us. Ironically, he’s no longer with us.
We’re sitting in the aftermath of the life of Norm Macdonald, watching him be incredibly alive.
[Letterman] But, he… his circumstance, he nudged into it several times…
…but didn’t linger. And to us, from this perspective, powerfully meaningful.
He definitely wanted– I’m sorry, Molly.
No, you go, Adam.
I was just going to say he definitely wanted to make the point he loves his mom.
That’s what I was going to say! There was a moment where you just have this glimpse where he takes a pause and he’s like, “She’s great.”
It was so touching.
He’s talking a lot about mortality. He’s talking a lot about death. Obviously, now that people, you know, comics talk about that all the time, but… it has this…
How would those have registered in front of a live audience, do you think?
“Not wanting to suck his mother’s tits” would kill.
That was murder! He went all the way around the barn for that one.
That’s right! He went all the way around the barn. He had this great way of making you… he’d plant the seed, walk all over the hill, around the silo, down to the brook. You’ve forgotten about it, and then he lands that again and it’s joyous. It’s just joyous, but I, you know, this form makes me so appreciate what I always knew. His face, his eyes, and his eyebrows. There’s something almost like a jack-o’-lantern. He’s got such a great… his expressions when he’s talking about after someone’s completed the act, when he becomes, “What am I going to do now?” “I’ll have a cheese sandwich.” He’s such a terrific performer. He’s really just got this. And he’s telling the whole story like, I don’t know, a great 1920s silent film comic.
When he smiled, I could picture him as a child.
He has a… you know, he’s my senior, but he’s got a boyish charm. When he laughs at his own jokes.
Man, him laughing is amazing.
There’s something just joyful about watching it.
Does anybody know the length of time it would take him to compile an hour of material? Would that be six months, a year?
He had more material. We were on the road one time and he would swap sets out of nowhere. He’d be like, “I’m gonna try something.” He didn’t really talk about it. We’d say, “You doing this joke?” He’d be like, “I don’t know about that.”
[Spade] He’d flip a whole set.
He’d flip– yeah. One time, in some conversation, he goes, “I got a good eight hours now.” Or something like that. Eight hours.
You remember that Star Search bit he used to do? The scaffolding in the bit was always the same, but I’ve never seen him do it the same twice. He would just make up these crazy Star Search intros.
Oh, Star Search.
[Chappelle] Star Search… “This next band has been kicking around the Miami area for the last 15 years. Give it up for ‘Overnight Sensation,'” he’d say. He would do that. He had a million of them. And I’ve seen him do the bit a bunch of times, never the same. The scaffolding was the same, the lyrics always change.
He also had an infinite collection of old stories. I think probably from rural Canada or traveling salesman stories. And I would be delighted because he’d come out and I’d be laughing, only person I could say this about, I’d be laughing before he did anything. He’d come out from behind the curtain and he’s got those cheeks and those eyes. And I’m… I’ve looked at the tape, I’m just laughing. He hasn’t done anything yet. Then I… “Norm, how are you?” He’s like… [mumbles] “Bought a farm.” And I know immediately this is complete bullshit. You know, the whole thing is a complete waste of everyone’s time and it’s joyous.
[Letterman] Right. He’s reveling in it.
He’s reveling in every second of it.
This wife Ruth he was speaking of…
Yeah. Agnes at the desk.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
I can remember reading his autobiography and enjoying it, but being greatly disappointed about ten pages in when I realized it was all fantasy.
I want to know about Norm’s life, but this was other solar system.
We were on the road. It was Adam and Rob Schneider, Norm and a bunch of us. Some nights he would flip the whole set. But some nights he would do like the bomb set. And he would just walk people. He would do it almost on purpose. You know? Some nights he would say, “This is the set you’re getting…”
He did– this is courtesy of Jim Downey who did “Update” with Norm. The thing that stuns me is he used to… there’s drafts for Saturday Night Live and then there’s air. And Norm would do his set for “Update” in front of the dress crowd. There’d be certain jokes that got absolutely nothing. Now, a sketch can maybe do better on air than it did– but a joke, if it bombs at dress in that format, it will bomb on air. It just will. So he had undisputed proof that his joke was going to bomb. But he liked the joke. He’d turn to Downey and say, “We’re doing it.” And Downey would say, “That’s a great joke.” “Yeah, we’re doing it.” Now, that… I like to do well. And if I’m handed absolute proof that I will fail, I will change course. I will admit it. I’m not– that guy, there’s something in him that’s unbelievably fearless.
What you’re describing there, when I would watch those segments, they were delightful. There was something more exciting and interesting about the silence and Norm’s joy at having landed the dud.
Holding his smile.
It was thrilling. It was heroic.
He was telling us, “This is a good joke and I’m sticking with it.” His eyes would just light up when he was getting nothing. “You’ve got what I’m serving tonight. This is what we’re serving at the restaurant. This is what you’re eating. There you go.” Yeah.
That’s a perfect way to put it. It’s like a master chef. “What do you know? Fuck your taste buds.”
The sushi restaurant where they go, “We don’t do California Rolls here.”
I just like that that guy is certain… in his sensibility. It’s fun to watch.
You get more than a joke and a laugh. You get that tone, you get that attitude. There is that invisible connection. We know what you’re up to, Norm. This is what we love.
It’s like why rock and roll is cool. The swag of, like, he’s just doing it. It’s ’80s hip, bro. It was great.
He came on our show one time, your old studio, The Late Night Show. And he– I went in just to say hi before the segment. He’s in the dressing room right outside the double doors. Inconsolable because he had bet on a big game that had just ended.
Oh, yeah! He would get mad.
I’m there to try and make sure that the guest is in a good mood. We’re going to have a good ramp up. And I remembered him: “That’s a lot of money!”
And I hear the band outside. [mimics band playing] It’s going to be good time show business with a man that just lost 55 thousand– Who knows what he lost, you know?
Recently destitute Norm Macdonald.
[O’Brien] Exactly, yeah.
Did he give that up, do we know?
I don’t know.
I don’t– I don’t know a hundred percent.
Whenever it was him reading an excerpt from his book or his book on tape, where he describes his gambling addiction so poetically.
He talks about roulette.
It’s a book on tape.
How hopeful it is to be…
He’s addicted to the hope of it.
And there’s no way you can talk about Norm and not, because we all know that gambling was part of his life.
And he, you can just– in his comedy, he’s just always putting everything on 17 red, or 35 black.
It’s really the same, whatever, the same thrill.
You’re right, that’s interesting.
“I’m not taking that.” You know?
I have a funny Norm gambling one.
And this is… everything is true because some of it doesn’t make sense.
But we lived in the same building.
I went up to visit him in his room.
We come over to his apartment, that was… going into his apartment was bananas as it is.
But we’re having a nice time and I say, “You got any soda?”
And I open up his fridge and, I swear to God, Twenty-five thousand dollars worth of chips.
Atlantic City chips are in his fridge. I go, “What’s this?”
And he goes, “I won big. I won big on Friday.”
I said, “Why didn’t you cash it in, buddy?”
He goes, “I brought it here so I can talk to Bernie Brillstein to see how I don’t have to pay taxes on it.”
So I go, “Oh.”
He goes, “So I bring it back Monday.
He told me no matter what, I gotta pay taxes so it didn’t work out.”
So, whatever, I go, “Oh, that sucks.”
Anyways, I see him on Saturday Night Live on Monday, I go, “Did you cash it in?” He goes, “I lost it all.”
We’d go down the elevators.
They have limos for us for the SNL to go to the after-party.
So, we get in them and Max, the guy, goes, “Norm sometimes takes us to Atlantic City.”
He skips the party to go right there and that Monday he comes back, he said the same thing, “He keeps chips in his refrigerator because no one looks in the fridge if they’re robbing him.”
Oh, that’s funny!
Better than the Bernie.
That’s what I’m doing.
You guys are lucky to get to work with him that way.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
There’s a few people in my career…
It’s like why I go to the fights if I know Mayweather is fighting.
Because I know this guy is great and he’s only got so many fights in him.
[Shannon] I was going to say I really liked him right away.
I just saw him… I felt like I understood him a different way.
I felt deep down he was actually very, very shy.
[Sandler] Oh, yeah.
[Shannon] Don’t you think?
[Shannon] And so sweet.
He talked about your parents a lot.
He loved his dad more than anything.
He talked about his dad a lot.
He loved his mom, his brother… and his boy.
Deeply, so sensitive.
When you lost your dad, Dave, and you were talking about that, I’m sure he really wanted to make you feel so good.
So sweet and thoughtful, probably thought deeply about that that’s how he would approach it.
It was very, it seemed very thoughtful.
And wildly, disarmingly empathetic.
It’s very rare that I’d meet somebody in a professional situation that made me put my dukes down like that.
This guy doesn’t have an ounce of judgment in him unless it’s hilarious.
And Dave, when does that movie come out?
I remember when you did that movie.
I remember that.
The irony, I really did try to get out of it.
But I couldn’t imagine my life without having done it or getting to spend that time with him.
Do we know if he did any of this material in front of an audience?
We knew some from that tour. That tour was right before Corona, I think…
Remember the day before the lockdown, Norm had some set that went viral.
It was a cookie jar dunk.
It was, it was…
I remember me and my buddies in Ohio were all like, “Yo, did you see this Norm Macdonald set?” It was on YouTube.
Probably still on there.
Right. At the Improv.
When he talked about the pandemic.
It was incredible.
It was a cookie jar dunk.
And you could tell it was off the rip.
It was all the anxiety the day before the whole world goes into lockdown.
And he was just on some…
“Fuck it.” It felt so good.
Again, it made me feel like everything’s going to be fine.
If he were alive and were doing this show that we watched tonight somewhere in front of two, three hundred, four hundred people…
killer, standing O?
What would be the impact?
The question to me is he’s clearly touching on some third rail stuff.
And it really depends on its…
Yeah, he didn’t have to leave on a big laugh.
He would go on, some of his shit would murder.
Some of his shit would eat it, some people would get annoyed, upset that he said it.
Then, like most of us, you go, “Let me get out of this fucking hole and come up with a big joke because I’m about to get off.”
He’d go, “All right. Let’s keep going down.
We’ll get out on that.”
I’m certain that twenty-five minutes of this would kill.
This would probably be about, with laughs,
it would have… 35, 38 minutes. Easy.
You’d have notes… you’d have people saying–
[Spade] Yeah, if you tried it, practiced it.
Plus that cannibal stuff.
When he says, “It gets on red, I go, ‘Fuck, so close!'”
There’s some stuff that’s for sure laugh lines.
It would work anywhere.
Then he pulls you away from it for a while.
And they’re trickier stuff.
It’s trickier to figure it out.
And he would lose some people.
It’s hard to separate… I’d buy it.
You know what I mean? I’m in.
[Letterman] That’s right.
It’s like watching a four-hour Mooney set.
At a certain point it’s like, I’m just invested in this
as an experience.
And it’s really hard to separate myself from it.
It’s fun to watch him acknowledge what would be the silence.
-I can see.
And enjoy it.
I can see the… In his mind there was a crowd there.
He was anticipating his crowd.
Which reminds me again, this guy was very deliberate in how he approached this.
‘Cause it does seem like jazz.
It was very methodical.
It’s funny because he’s… you know.
All I’ve ever heard about Norm is that he was the most widely read comedian.
Very widely read.
I think a great, you know, mathematician. Things that you would never think.
He was talented in all these areas
and choosing, “What’s my diction, what’s my word going to be?”
“What’s the right word here?
What’s it exactly going to be?”
So you get this…
Because he seems reckless,
but he’s also ruthlessly planned everything out
and thought it through.
They don’t seem to go together.
But with him, they do.
But was his… I’m sorry, Molly.
I was going to say before… in the last, whatever, 13, 14 years,
he got, as you say, Conan, he was reading four or five books at a time.
Mark Twain was his favorite author.
He loved Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
But he got really into reading about God and Christianity.
Really wanting to understand God.
Where he’s headed?
And feeling maybe close to death.
Or thinking about death,
but really, really wanting to understand God.
I don’t know how everyone else felt here,
but Norm got sick for quite a while
and he got sicker
and I didn’t know.
I talked to so many people who I was sure knew.
I thought, maybe I’m the only one that doesn’t know.
So many… He didn’t want anybody to know.
I didn’t know.
so, you know, being the self-absorbed person I am,
I think a lot of us, we thought, “Is he mad at me?”
“Is there something I did?”
Because we kept trying to get him to come back on
and we couldn’t. He couldn’t do it.
‘Cause I don’t think he was up for it.
And he didn’t want to answer questions about maybe his appearance, but I remembered…
…when he went, everybody in the community was…
we all thought we were the only one that didn’t know.
We were so upset that we didn’t get a chance to tell him what he meant to us.
I very quickly realized he would not have tolerated that.
He didn’t want any of us to tell him…
-He’d get grossed out.
He’d get very unhappy.
Treat him different or laugh at his jokes.
You reflect on experiences you had with him
during the time he was ill
and wondered if that had manifest itself because of the illness.
I’m curious as to what his process was, if you knew how he wrote.
My experience was so chaotic.
You know, I thought this guy is Evel Knievel.
He’s going to jump Snake River Canyon, he doesn’t care.
But he put a ton of work into what he was doing.
And worked it out a lot of the time.
So, I don’t know what that process was,
but this really impressed me with how self-contained it is.
He scribbled a lot of stuff down all the time.
He was just like most comedians.
He was constantly writing his jokes down.
[Letterman] It’s a lot of work.
No laughs. A lot of work.
You said something that reminded me of…
I don’t know what story he was telling.
But the story was, in the beginning of the story
he’s telling, he used to go to this Christian Revival Church.
He goes, “I don’t really believe any of this stuff.”
I go, “Then why’d you go?”
I love what he said, I don’t remember what he was talking about.
He goes, “Because it made me feel good.”
And the last time I saw him was at The Comedy Store.
And he was uncharacteristically emotional.
And like he…
when we parted company, he was.
There’s a picture of me and him.
And the back of Chris Rock’s head.
I put it in my special.
That picture, it’s at the end of The Closer,
was the last time that I saw him.
And he stood there.
He came up, he stood behind me, I looked, hey, looked up.
And I realized he was posing for the picture, in hindsight.
Like a gift.
It was a very fitting goodbye.
That is so sweet, Dave.
Hey, man, what about when he was emotional saying goodbye to you on the show?
At the time, like Conan suggests,
I didn’t know he was ill. So, surprised.
In thinking about that moment,
he must have known a great deal about what his future was
and how long it might have been.
I always took it as an enormous compliment
that my emotional situation had affected him.
But now, to be fair,
this guy knew more than just I was leaving.
Well, he was crazy about you. I mean…
That’s very sweet.
I saw him on your show once and he said,
“I’ve seen more sunsets than I will ever see.”
He said that to you on the show.
In case you hear different.
I’m sorry to interrupt, though.
[O’Brien] No, that’s okay.
I probably cut him off and said, “We got to get to Al Roker now.”
He probably was about to say something very profound.
I’m like, “That’s great, Norm.
Al Roker’s here. He came up three floors to be with us tonight.
And he’s got nothing. Al Roker.”
I saw him at the SNL 40th.
I didn’t know he had cancer or anything, but I remember as soon as he told me, he was like,
“I love you, Molly.” He blurted it out right away.
I think I was like… I just had a sense of like,
I could feel that he had this kind of urgency
to say exactly what was on his mind in the moment.
Because maybe he’ll never have that moment again.
I was like, “Something’s different with Norm.”
The last time I saw him with any regularity was
we all went on a tour to do stand-up.
The three of you guys?
[Sandler] And a couple of other guys.
We had a text chain of a bunch of us.
We had a text chain.
We’d all fuck around.
And then one time he was arguing with Schneider about something
about stand-up and he goes,
“I’m the best comic out of all of us.”
And everyone went… “Yeah.”
Yeah. That’s true.
No one fought back.
They go, “Okay.”
I think that’s fair, honestly.
And we go, “Sure.”
But he was…
the nice thing is we were flying around or on the bus or backstage,
he would come in and do bits.
He wanted to keep– I like that, you know?
People are still funny, and he’s a good laugher.
And that’s always nice when a comic is a good laugher too,
instead of just only going one way with it.
They like to crack up with people, and it was… that was a fucking blast.
Didn’t he wear a cowboy hat the whole time?
He bought a cowboy hat. Norm all of a sudden with a cowboy hat.
It was so weird.
On stage he would sit sometimes.
He sometimes would sit.
Sometimes he’d be late in the morning,
because we’re all taking off and I’d go,
“I would just go ahead. Norm, man, we got to get to this place.”
And he’d give me a look.
Then after he passed away I realized
he was giving me a look like,
“What the fuck do you want from me? I’m going through some shit.”
He’d be like, “Yeah, all right.”
But never any deeper knowledge of it?
He did get emotional a lot, though.
On the whole tour, he would just all of a sudden
get really teary-eyed and stuff
and he’d be like, “This is wonderful.”
The tour itself. And hanging out.
We’d have dinners and breakfast.
And he was more… He’d just be so fun to see.
He had so much energy to hang.
The hard part about not telling people, which, it would worry me a little bit, is…
I got slightly angry because during the thing, he would set up dinners with me and he would keep canceling.
I didn’t know if it was a bit or… but it got frustrating because I go, “If you’re scared of Corona, just come over to the house. It will just be me and you, we’ll sit across or whatever.”
“Yeah, that’s what I want.
I’d like just a good night with Davey.”
And then he goes…
That night I go, “Where are you?” He goes,
“I can’t, it’s COVID.”
I go, “I know, we just talked about this.”
And then a week later: “Do you want to have dinner?”
And I go… fighting to fuck him up.
But I don’t even know if it was–
I think he would maybe think about it
and then he’d go, “I don’t feel good,” or something.
But later I was getting irritated because I’m like,
“You can come over.” I didn’t know what was going on,
but if I did, of course, I’d go, “Whatever you want.”
I’m a little like that because I would love to have dinner
with each of you but it will never happen.
We’ve all tried, Dave.
We’ve all tried. [laughs]
♪ I’m just an old chunk of coal ♪
♪ But I’m gonna be a diamond some day ♪
♪ I’m gonna grow and glow Till I’m so blue ♪
♪ Perfect ♪
♪ I’m gonna put a smile on Everybody’s face ♪
♪ I’m gonna kneel and pray every day ♪
♪ Lest I should become vain Along the way ♪
♪ I’m just an old chunk of coal now, Lord ♪
♪ But I’m gonna be a diamond some day ♪