NOTorm Macdonald, this canadian comic who passed away this month at the age of 61, showed us how to react with humor and humanity in the current era of identity politics, signaling virtue, political posture and polarization.
Norm showed us how to be normal, and it was hilarious.
A comic book with a singular vision and brilliance, his signature was a punchline as simple as it was true: a pure statement of the hilarity of life.
In a non-foreign way, Norm was also a committed Christian believer, a fact significant enough at the time to be commented on in the pages of the New York Times.
After dropping out of high school in Quebec in the 1970s, Norm traveled to New York and rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.
He has become one of the most influential comedians of his generation. A stand-up comedian who never wanted to do anything else – no late-night show, sitcom, or movie career for Norm.
His brand of stand-and-deliver, no apologies and no punches has never changed either, even though the world around him has become almost unrecognizable.
Warned by an NBC executive to stop making jokes about OJ Simpson (the former NFL star acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife in 1995, but later convicted in a civil trial), Norm is returned straight to her regular gig on Saturday Night Live and delivered a series of OJ Simpson jokes.
He was fired on the spot.
Later in the week he said his friend David Letterman, on another network:
“This executive told me that I was fired from the show, and I said ‘oh no, that’s not good – why is it now?’ and he said ‘well you’re not funny’ and i said ‘oh that’s even worse!’ ”
Several years later, with the tanking notes from Saturday Night Live, Norm agreed to return to the program.
Like a space cadet from the future, fired to make us all laugh, Norm often seemed lost in delivering a long anecdote, only to pull the threads together at the end and deliver a simple, true deadline to the effect. devastating.
For example, the now famous Moth Joke, told in an extended form, with flourishes of Russian literature, to cover a seven-minute gap that opened in the schedule of the last show of his friend and comedic colleague, Conan O ‘Brien.
At other times, the deadline jumped out at you out of nowhere, shocking at its simplicity.
For example, its place on The Late Show with David Letterman, about this usually not very funny subject: the world wars:
“The only country that really worries me is the country of Germany. I don’t know if you are all history buffs or not, but… ”
There followed a hilarious history lesson about Germany going to war with “the world” and almost winning. It was funny and true – Norm’s kind of comedy.
In the 2000s, Norm fell out of the public eye, assumed by many to struggle with alcohol and gambling, which had taken their toll at certain times in his life.
But he never completely fell out of sight, with his online program, Norm Macdonald Live, featuring round tables with his friends and associates from the world of comedy. More recently, Norm’s public presence morphed into a YouTube channel, intriguingly titled I’m not Norm showing and re-showing compilations of Norm’s many TV, online and radio spots over the years.
Norm made a virtue of being normal – a striking achievement in our time.
Normality turns out to be a hilarious counterpoint to our rainbow age, weighed down by a million fragile and diverse identities.
Norm, on the other hand, made fun of himself and the world.
This attitude was informed by his Christian faith, about which he became more open, late in his life, by tweeting in 2018:
“Sometimes the joy with which life attacks me is unbearable and leads to hysterical gasping laughter. How could a man be cynical – it’s a sin. ”
This very intelligent and learned man had obviously given a lot of thought to the human condition and what might lie beyond this life.
In a fairly Catholic statement, for this non-Catholic, Norm said that faith is not just a matter of luck or chance – you have to make an active choice to believe.
Norm had chosen to believe and, at the end of his days, his faith in Jesus Christ, the “suffering servant” who “was grieved but did not open his mouth”, may have influenced his decision not to speak. publicly about his illness. . A priest speculated as much.
May I suggest that Norm, however, perhaps had something else on his mind?
Norm had this joke he used to tell: When a famous celebrity passed away he would joke, “Dude, I didn’t even know he was sick!” ”
The standard is now adopted and his decision to choose faith in the Christian God was correct or not, as he has already very clearly pointed out, echoing Pascal’s wager.
But his journey through suffering has also borne fruit, as he suggested in 2018: “I am of course looking for true faith. It has been quite a long and difficult journey, at least for me.
And we didn’t even know he was sick.