Regarding Norm Macdonald and the moth joke
March 6, 2015 1:28 PM   Subscribe

"The infamous moth joke is an example of how particular and particularly misunderstood Macdonald’s sensibility can be. I do not believe Macdonald is a meta- or anti-comic. Like his delivery, the structure of the moth joke violates several deeply held principles of performed comedy, but it does so in pursuit of a genuine laugh."

"Macdonald may be avant-garde in his stage presence, but from a content perspective he is a classicist. His blunt punchlines and stilted delivery are the mark of a comedian who recognizes humor where we do not—not someone trying to create it where none exists. Like all formally daring artists, he has a keen sense of the old rules."
posted by MrJM (134 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
 
Am I the only one getting a server not found on that link?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:36 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love me some Norm McDonald,
posted by y2karl at 1:37 PM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


From the article:
If you can’t watch the video for some reason: The premise of the joke is that a moth goes into a podiatrist’s office. The podiatrist asks him how he’s feeling, and the moth says he feels terrible. He launches into a series of complaints that go from mundane to tragic to existential. Macdonald emphasizes the parallels to Russian literature by giving all of the moth’s friends and family members Russian names.
...
Finally, after a few more of the moth’s absurdly depressing complaints, the podiatrist breaks in. He says that the moth’s situation sounds awful, but he’s only a podiatrist. What the moth needs is a psychiatrist. Why did he even come in here?

“The light was on,” the moth says.
posted by Fizz at 1:37 PM on March 6, 2015 [34 favorites]


Yeah, and Dan Brooks (the author of the linked piece, who should be credited in the post, he added wearily) is absolutely correct to call it a classic joke with a great setup and perfect punchline. You would have to be comedically illiterate to call it "anti-humor" or whatever. It's a joke!
posted by languagehat at 1:41 PM on March 6, 2015 [45 favorites]


so... a shaggy dog story then?
posted by edgeways at 1:42 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I kinda love Norm MacDonald, and I consider him easily the funniest anchor SNL's Weekend Update ever had.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:42 PM on March 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of those Comedy Central roasts, but Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect.
posted by xqwzts at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2015 [28 favorites]


so... a shaggy dog story then?

From the post: "The moth joke is not a shaggy-dog story."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


That joke was glorious.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


You could imagine Macdonald going on and on with this joke, like a shaggy-dog story, but as the article points out, there's a real punchline and that's what makes the difference.
posted by in278s at 1:47 PM on March 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


"His blunt punchlines and stilted delivery are the mark of a comedian who recognizes humor where we do not—not someone trying to create it where none exists."
I read TFA and it seems likes he's trying to force a new insight into Norm MacDonald just to back up his disagreement with wikipedia calling the joke "an example anti-humor." I think he got the first part right: "His blunt punchlines and stilted delivery are the mark of a comedian..."

Here is Norm MacDonald roasting Bob Saget and guests, with the most banal jokes ever. But I think it's pee-your-pants-funny not because he has some deep or quirky insight into the jokes but because Norm MacDonald is telling them: "Your face...looks...like...a cauliflower."
posted by Room 641-A at 1:47 PM on March 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


Does anyone else here find it impossible to resist breaking out a Norm Macdonald voice when, say, a moth or someone named Janice comes up in conversation?
posted by in278s at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


c'est n'est pas un caniche ?

From the write up, it smells like one. Shaggy dog stories CAN have (kind of pointless) punchlines
posted by edgeways at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect.

Dying. Jesus, that's amazing.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's an actual punchline unlike a shaggy dog story.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2015


Here's the moth joke on Conan.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I stumbled onto the "Mike Tyson Mysteries" recently and the second it registered that the wiseass pigeon was voiced by Norm MacDonald, I immediately began laughing and continued for the duration of the show. Not sure what it is about the guy, but he makes me laugh. Hard.
posted by kinnakeet at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shaggy dog stories CAN have (kind of pointless) punchlines

But the moth joke punchline is a decent punchline.
posted by GuyZero at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


What I want to know if who Macdonald is looking at as he delivers the joke on Conan. He's staring into the middle distance or something.
posted by GuyZero at 1:50 PM on March 6, 2015


It's a simple joke that uses misdirection to enhance it. The listener spends his time trying to guess where the joke is headed or where the humor is going to come from. The more details and tangents that MacDonald presents, the deeper the listener goes into trying to figure out what is going on. Once the listener has become so vested in guessing where things are headed that he no longer even really remembers the setup, MacDonald hits the listener with the punch line.
posted by flarbuse at 1:51 PM on March 6, 2015 [26 favorites]


I love the moth joke and have never been able to tell it as well as Norm. It reminds me of the longest joke in the world.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the post: "The moth joke is not a shaggy-dog story."

It's exactly the sort of thing that would appear on the classification of shaggy dog stories of 1963 (though to be fair lots of those aren't what I'd consider classic shaggy dog stories).
posted by kenko at 1:55 PM on March 6, 2015


I can't believe the author wrote this entire thing and didn't draw any parallels to an Aristocrats joke.

This joke is best understood like live jazz music. Just like live jazz isn't about a song, this joke isn't about the punchline. It's about the setup and the details and the improvisation and reading the room and all the little things -- which will change from performance to performance -- that happen before you get to the punchline.

Just like doing the Aristocrats, the punchline is the least important thing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2015 [22 favorites]


Consider: "B657. The Man who got Sick Riding Backwards. A man complains that riding backwards on a train has made him sick. He says he couldn't change with the person opposite because, There was no one sitting opposite me.", or "B810. The Man who Bit Himself on the Ear. A man explains to his doctor that the wound on his ear (or forehead) is where he bit himself. He explains, 'I stood on a chair'."

Same kind of thing.
posted by kenko at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's kind of shaggy dog, but the punchline is much funnier than in your usual shaggy dog story, and also it's a little more towards The Aristocrats in that he's clearly riffing and playing the audience for where to go with the details so that it's hilarious all the way along.

God damn Norm MacDonald is a treasure.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had tears coming out of my eyes by the end of the video. I hate awkward comedy and wanted to shut that off. I literally thought McDonald was having a stroke or something. It was like he had no idea he was bombing. It was beyond painful to watch. Then that punchline and I started crying.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:59 PM on March 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I recommend watching the video and skipping the analysis, which I found both over-explainy and point-missing. (If we have to ruin it by talking about it, the humor is indeed derived from explicitly drawing attention to the way the joke is told. That's meta-comedy.) (The writer is also omitting a crucial part of it, which is the framing about the driver telling the joke.)
posted by naju at 2:03 PM on March 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


So this horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" The horse says, "I've got cancer."

[do not smile, stare blankly at your target until they react]

Does that count as anti-humor?
posted by echo target at 2:03 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


dirtdirt: "Here's the moth joke on Conan."

This video is literally at the very top of Dan Brooks' article, the article which MrJM has linked to here, at metafilter, for your enjoyment and consumption.
posted by boo_radley at 2:03 PM on March 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


I was not familiar with the meaning of "shaggy dog story" until just now. So - that really long joke about circuses and clowns and the guy who goes to insult-school and whatnot - THAT is a shaggy dog story, right?

And CPB just mentioned the aristocrats - to me that is right on the border of shaggy dog story too. Obviously there is a "real" punchline in the sense that "hey, that family sure doesn't ACT like aristocrats!" - but the way the joke is told, that is often almost beside the point. The family is barely human by the time you get to the end of the act, and calling them aristocrats is kind of a sad-trombone incoherent ending not unlike "fuck you, clown!"

And the thing is, comics revere the aristocrats joke, to the point where a bunch of them made a whole damn documentary about it. So I find it hard to believe that telling shaggy-dog jokes can make you an "anti-comic" who "hates comedians" or whatever. The borders are not that clear, and if you get a laugh, you get a laugh. Why get defensive about it?
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:06 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not a big fan of those Comedy Central roasts, but Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect.

This is by far my favorite Comedy Central Roast performance. I think what makes MacDonald's set work so well is the exact thing that makes the moth joke so funny - it subverts expectations. Historically, CC Roast jokes are all about continuing to up the ante with the absolute most filthy, disgusting, raunchy, offensive jokes possible. The last thing anyone would expect is a series of corny, G-rated joke book jokes.
posted by The Gooch at 2:08 PM on March 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Boxoffice Poison."
posted by phaedon at 2:08 PM on March 6, 2015 [36 favorites]


The Aristocrats never made sense as a joke to me. There are people who don't automatically associate aristocracy with senseless depravity?
posted by ckape at 2:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


Historically, CC Roast jokes are all about continuing to up the ante with the absolute most filthy, disgusting, raunchy, offensive jokes possible. The last thing anyone would expect is a series of corny, G-rated joke book jokes.
posted by The Gooch at 5:08 PM on March 6 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Andy Samberg's roast of James Franco is also worth watching. A great example of taking a simple idea and just drawing it out and out and out, until you're on the floor crying.

"Nailed it."
posted by Fizz at 2:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


Norm macdonald on carrot top. Much more incisive but his wit is pretty quick here.
posted by Karaage at 2:11 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think the trick is to get away from the Shaggy-or-not binarism and recognize "shagginess" and "solid punchline" as two independent characteristics that can attach or not to any given joke. The moth joke exhibits, in Norm's telling, a recognizable aspect of shagginess and also a solid punchline; it would still function structurally without the shagginess (cut it down to a quick moth/doc/moth/doc/moth exchange and get it done in 15 seconds) though the feel would be a lot different.

Basically, if I know anything about humor, it's that it's best understood through a process of dispassionate analysis using Venn diagrams.
posted by cortex at 2:13 PM on March 6, 2015 [29 favorites]


That video was fabulous.
posted by univac at 2:15 PM on March 6, 2015


The last thing anyone would expect is a series of corny, G-rated joke book jokes.

Yeah, the Bob Saget roast was MacDonald playing specifically to Saget and the other comedians (who got it, and were laughing) at the expensive of the audience (who were mostly just confused). Comedy Central was reportedly pretty displeased by the whole thing.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:15 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article misunderstands the notion of anti-comedy, as does Norm himself. It's not supposed to be not-funny — it's supposed to toy with expectations, delivering humor by means of subverting anticipation.

Quoth the Wikipedia article that Norm disparages:
A common example of anti-joke is "Why did the chicken cross the road?" with the answer, "To get to the other side." The punchline is intentionally mundane.
There's a punchline there, sure. But the punchline is not there to be funny in the sense that it's shocking or unexpected — or rather, its shocking unexpectedness is that, before it's delivered, you're anticipating a punchline that's much different from the one you receive. Hence the humor in one of my favorite jokes of all time:
Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick!
The argument given by the blogger here, that Norm adds complexity and character to the moth before undercutting it with the punchline, is a) absolutely the structure of an anti-joke, and b) not even the funny part of the joke. The humor is in the anticipation, the build-up, the realization that there is no possible fucking way that any of these details are going to lead in any meaningful sense to the conclusion of its delivery.

Similarly, his Bob Saget routine isn't funny because the jokes Norm read were any good. In fact, as one user pointed out in the thread I made about the Moth Joke four years ago:
The "old-fashioned" jokes Norm MacDonald told at the roast weren't just old-fashioned, they were the (then-) top search engine hits for "roast jokes". (I got curious and searched back when I saw the roast.) He literally Googled for the jokes and used whatever lame, least-common-denominator crap floated to the surface. And KILLED.
The lameness of the jokes as-written are a major part of what make them so funny as Norm delivers them. "He's got a face like a flower — yeah, cauliflower!" is a piece-of-shit joke on like three levels at once. "Face like a flower" isn't a sane, normal thing to say in the first place, cauliflower is a hideous comeback to the original hideous set-up, and the utter artificiality of every part of this (the fact that you NEED the terrible set-up just to build yourself to the utterly unworth-it punchline) is made utterly hilarious by the earnestness with which Norm reads the joke, and the slow, dreadful pace with which he attempts to explain it.

I'd classify the moth joke as shaggy dog, and my favorite shaggy dog jokes do, in fact, have pretty ordinary punchlines. The monk joke, the "better Nate than lever!", and a number of the other classics of the form all have punchlines that adhere to the conventions of normal humor. Admittedly, the punchlines aren't especially good, but again that's the point of a shaggy dog joke in the first place — to put as many layers of detail onto a joke as possible, and place as much pressure on that punchline as possible, usually more than the punchline could possibly stand.

(I'm especially defensive of the shaggy dog form myself, having once written and published a 200-page single-sentence-long variant on the the one I've always thought was the single most formally monotonous, the one involving the boy and the pink ping pong balls. The first time I ever heard a shaggy dog joke, its teller stretched it out to a week between theatre rehearsals, and it remains one of my most vivid memories. They're one of the most sophisticated sorts of humor when they're done well, and they are absolutely at the heart of anti-humor as a whole, which I generally think is among the more refined and intriguing sorts of humor out there.)

In conclusion, fuck this guy for being wrong about everything. Norm is allowed to be wrong about everything, because when he's wrong about everything it's hilarious. This guy's both pedantic AND wrong, which is a lethal combination in a would-be humor critic.
posted by rorgy at 2:16 PM on March 6, 2015 [51 favorites]


You got me, Bob. You got me here. Is my face red or what here? I got my family in a duffle bag over here.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:16 PM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was not familiar with the meaning of "shaggy dog story" until just now. So - that really long joke about circuses and clowns and the guy who goes to insult-school and whatnot - THAT is a shaggy dog story, right?

I'd say "fuck you, clown" and "the golden phillips head screwdriver" both have actually funny punchlines (which a shaggy dog story doesn't require, to be sure) but in both cases the point is in the slamming subversion of the anti-climax in the "punchline." In both cases (and this might be key in shaggy dog) the telling is pitched at the epic level. This is a story that demands a grand ending because we've been set up for grandeur. The moth joke is literary but distinctly non-epic. If that makes a difference, which I think it does.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2015


Rogyisright.jorpg
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:20 PM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


This video is literally at the very top of Dan Brooks' article

> Am I the only one getting a server not found on that link?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:23 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have never heard that joke, but the description of it in the article made me laugh and laugh.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:27 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interesting trivia about life: Dirty Work is one of the funniest movies ever.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Your face...looks...like...a cauliflower."

I should not...have watched...this...at work.
posted by The Minotaur at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I like to watch"
posted by clavdivs at 2:39 PM on March 6, 2015


it's also ethnic humor: he's making fun of russians... a lot of his jokes seem to be basically ethnic humor.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:49 PM on March 6, 2015


Okay, navelgazer, the only google hit for "the golden phillips head screwdriver" is this thread. Cough up.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:51 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


You got me, Bob. You got me here. Is my face red or what here? I got my family in a duffle bag over here.

I loved that joke when I first heard it. It was years before I realized it was Norm Macdonald who told it.
posted by drezdn at 2:51 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Aristocrats never made sense as a joke to me. There are people who don't automatically associate aristocracy with senseless depravity?

It is no coincidence that British versions of this joke usually have the punchline "the Debonairs". Familiarity breeds contempt, frequently justifiably.
posted by howfar at 2:57 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that Norm's jokes barely stack up, is the joke.

Personally, I think this has to do with the format, namely live television, and the monolithic universality of comedy as it is delivered in said format. The idea that somebody could burn up two minutes of airtime on a terrible set-up that goes nowhere, and the executives are choking each other in the green room, goes against our basic expectations, and is just as funny as any other premise we're asked to buy into. I would go so far as to call him anti-consumerist. His jokes aren't packaged in a shiny box, in a new size with 30% more product inside, with a new formula; they are intentionally rough, and don't go down easily. They're bad for you.

It's true, everyone and their mom was funnier than Norm on SNL. But I'll be damned if Norm's older bits haven't gotten funnier over time. He stands out as an exceptional joke-teller.
posted by phaedon at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Infamous?"
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:00 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


We got only a few months of Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show. One big reason I’m still bitter about that is that we missed out on years of “friend of the show Norm MacDonald” coming by to plug nothing in particular, sitting down and telling old Alan King-esque jokes about moths in podiatrists’ offices or Andy Richter and his exploits as a cut-rate gigolo, and slaying every single time.

(No, Conan on TBS is not the same.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:01 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Aristocrats never made sense as a joke to me. There are people who don't automatically associate aristocracy with senseless depravity?

Another element of this joke is it's usually fairly meta. It was a joke for comedians to present to other comedians. It was never intended for an audience. It was sort of a comedic competition. Sort of a way to see who had the chops. To tell a joke wasn't difficult. Telling one to comedians is often an exercise in idiocy. You will hear about timing and comedic beats and reversals and audience expectations and a bunch of critical inside baseball. With the Aristocrats it's a way to shut off all that crap and say, "This is my take. Have fun." No one dissects the joke after.

About the only thing worse than telling a joke to comedians is work shopping poetry.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:08 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


MacDonald playing specifically to Saget and the other comedians (who got it, and were laughing) at the expensive of the audience (who were mostly just confused).

I disagree. I think the opposite, that he knows the audience is with him for the ride and will appreciate it, and it to me it looks like they did. I certainly don't ever feel Norm MacDonald is talking down to me. In the roast video you can see it took everyone a few jokes to get that this was really one long joke. Some, like his good friends got it a joke or two sooner. And some on- and off-stage probably just didn't think it was that funny because there's no pleasing everyone.

But I loved when Sagat genuinely seemed to miss the joke: "You're a fuckin' dog face. How could you not get that?"
posted by Room 641-A at 3:09 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


MacDonald once did the "women drivers" joke on Weekend Update to end all "women drivers" jokes.

Given SNL's history there's some element of "how much is he joking?" here. Norm's history starting out in television by writing for Roseanne's show informs this joke a lot I think, with the way he tap-dances through the land mines before intentionally, and hilariously, stomping one.
posted by striatic at 3:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


> Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect .

That's amazing. Basically, he's ignoring the guest of honor and instead goes after the premise of celebrity roasts.
posted by ardgedee at 3:17 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I may be permitted to quote myself on the subject of Norm's roast jokes:
The "old-fashioned" jokes Norm MacDonald told at the roast weren't just old-fashioned, they were the (then-) top search engine hits for "roast jokes". (I got curious and searched back when I saw the roast.) He literally Googled for the jokes and used whatever lame, least-common-denominator crap floated to the surface. And KILLED.
posted by The Tensor at 3:17 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


(The writer is also omitting a crucial part of it, which is the framing about the driver telling the joke.)

That's a pretty spot on comment. I got to the end and I was wondering, Did the driver tell him this? If so, how faithful was he? How much of this is Norm, and how much the driver? Then I thought, This is probably one of those "based on a true story" sort of things, where the driver told the moth joke and Norm ran with it.

Also, the analysis that Conan broke the rules and asked if there was a a punchline is contradicted by the video. He asked how long the car ride was, not if there was a punchline. I also think Conan was in on it from the start. The set up is too clumsy for this to have been a totally spontaneous telling. Conan was in on it.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:21 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"sometimes I feel like a spider, instead of a moth."

Don't we all, buddy.
posted by redsparkler at 3:22 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Alluding to the tones of Russian literature seems a far cry from making fun of Russians, but people see different things.

Anyway, the screwdriver joke, as I heard it told to me in 8th Grade, but supremely abridged because the version I heard went on for over 20 minutes.

*******

Edwin Murphy was just like the other boys his age, except for one thing: right in the middle of his stomach, where other little boys had a belly-button, Edwin Murphy had a bright, shining, golden Phillip's-head screw. In life, though, sometimes those little things can make all the difference in the world in terms of the paths we take. This was certainly the case for Edwin Murphy.

Of course when he was very, very young, his poor parents had attempted to have it removed. They didn't have much, but they for certain loved their boy, and any such abnormality was not what they wished for him, benign though it might have appeared.

The poor family had no luck, however. the carpenters' tools were useless, the surgeons befuddled, and their prayers cruelly answered with silence. Eventually the Murphys had to accept that there were things they could neither understand nor change in this world, and soldier on, bemused, but strong.

It was one day when at the local swimming hole with some of his peers that a twelve-year-old Edwin Murphy was attacked from the shadows of the willow trees. A vagabond had caught a glint of the gold, you see, and a young stranger's life is worth less than a soft bed and a hot meal, when one has been without either for so long. Edwin Murphy shrieked with terror as he saw the animal hunger in the drifter's eyes, knowing his end was near, before a loud THWACK! out of nowhere knocked his assailant out cold.

It was another tramp, this one older, larger, and far more wizened than the first. Edwin Murphy had no intention of being fought over like a piece of meat between two dogs, but as he scrambled to his bare feet, the sage old man was upon him already.

"Have no fear, young'un," he muttered, his words traveling on a waft of halitosis and Old Crow. "I'm not gunna rob ya - I couldn't get that thing out of yer gut with anything seen by my eyes anyway, and the only tool I gots is a corkscrew. I'm hear to tell you what I know."

Edwin Murphy was quick to pay attention.

"You gots ter ask yerself, what do ya use ter unscrew somethin'?"

"Well, a screwdriver, but we've already-"

"Ahh, but it's more complercated than that, right? What you've got there is a Phillip's-head screw. What do you need then?"

"A Phillip's-head screwdriver! But we've already-"

"More complercated still! So what do you use on a golden Phillip's-head screw?"

Their answer came in unison: "A Golden Phillip's-Head Screwdriver!" It had been so simple all along - but not so simple as all that.

As the vagrant explained to him, he couldn't just have one crafted - even if the Murphys could afford it, which they most surely could not. No, he'd have to find the mythical golden Phillip's-head screwdriver of Atlantis, and his quest could start with-

**And this is where I cut to the chase because what follows is basically one long wild goose chase with constant repetition and doubling-back after quest-items like one is in a particularly long and tedious Legend of Zelda side quest. Like one of the ones where you exchange masks. After an eternity of this- **

Edwin Murphy, no longer young as he once was, but wise with world travel and the experiences that would forever separate him from his mates at school, reached the inner sanctum of the Crypt of the Golden Lotus Clan of Ancient Atlantean Monks. The sanctum was actually shot-through with gorgeous, living light, filtered down through the many skylights underneath the billowing ocean. It was the place of destiny, never seen by that old, wise boxcar-rider, nor any other living human being.

On a sturdy, stone pedestal in the center of the sanctum was places a simple, beautiful, silk pillow. And on that pillow sat the object of his dreams. He reached out for it. He felt its weight in his joyous, grateful hands. He inspected the head - just to make sure. Phillips, just has he was promised. Trembling, at first, Edwin Murphy brought the glimmering apparatus down to that White Whale of his midsection, and slowly turned.

And then his butt fell off.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:23 PM on March 6, 2015 [62 favorites]


(Also, it took a great deal of self-control to keep me from changing the punchline to something about it actually being a black screwdriver that just looked gold because of all the blue lighting.)
posted by Navelgazer at 3:25 PM on March 6, 2015 [33 favorites]


Oh, and that's also totally a reference to Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in there, too, what with the:

"...sometimes I feel like a spider, even though I’m a moth, just barely hanging onto my web of everlasting fire underneath me. " - Norm McDonald

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked." -Jonathan Edwards
posted by redsparkler at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Interesting trivia about life: Dirty Work is one of the funniest movies ever.

Dirty Work was the first movie I saw without permission from my parents. We knew they wouldn't let us see a movie with that many dirty jokes, so we lied and told our parents we were seeing the Matthew Broderick Godzilla, which was out at the same time. When asked to describe the movie, I said that Godzilla attacked New York and knocked down a lot of buildings, but then they beat him. Good times.
posted by officer_fred at 3:29 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


(The writer is also omitting a crucial part of it, which is the framing about the driver telling the joke.)

That's a pretty spot on comment. I got to the end and I was wondering, Did the driver tell him this? If so, how faithful was he? How much of this is Norm, and how much the driver? Then I thought, This is probably one of those "based on a true story" sort of things, where the driver told the moth joke and Norm ran with it.


Right, part of the fun is you can reconstruct the joke-as-told-by-driver after the fact. Which is told in a conventional way, with the usual beats. It goes something like this: a moth goes into a podiatrist’s office. The podiatrist asks him what's the problem. The moth says "I'll tell you what the problem is. I work long hours and my job is horrible, my wife left me, life is horrible." The podiatrist says, "You should be seeing a psychiatrist, why on earth did you come here." The moth says, "Because the light was on."

Totally conventional, normal joke one person would tell another person. But this is framed with Conan saying, "Why don't we just have the driver come on the show?" And Norm says, "Oh, well you should hear me telling the joke." So the framing is all about how the conventional joke is told by Norm, this total nesting of the joke format. It's all very funny and thrilling in a kinda lofty and meta way, the punchline really being about this exploration of boundaries in a traditional format, but viscerally you don't have to analyze any of that. It's just hilarious anyway, even if you can't put your finger on precisely why.
posted by naju at 3:35 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Basically, he's ignoring the guest of honor and instead goes after the premise of celebrity roasts.

This is the way I read it as well, Googling just being the mechanism. If it indeed was the result of Googling, that makes the point even more, since roasting should be relevant to the person being roasted so the concept of generic "best roast jokes" ignores even that. What makes Norm's performance of those jokes so glorious is in taking the commonality of a best-roast-joke and just slotting Saget into the role of the target.

Norm has forgotten more about the craft of comedy than I'll ever know.
posted by rhizome at 3:36 PM on March 6, 2015


It's just hilarious anyway, even if you can't put your finger on precisely why.

That's delivery. At its base, a joke is a setup and a punchline, and as we saw with the Aristocrats, anybody can change the setup and the way they change it has everything to do with the teller's talent. It's a tenet of comedy that little jokes can be turned into bigger ones.
posted by rhizome at 3:39 PM on March 6, 2015


It also helps that Norm brings Sagat to tears with his sincerity at the end of the bit.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is the way I read it as well, Googling just being the mechanism.

Yeah, Googling the jokes was more of an added degree of difficulty rather than part of the larger joke—he didn't tell he audience, "Hey, here's some jokes I Googled," he just made them work.
posted by The Tensor at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2015


I think the most important part of Norm MacDonald's comedy is really his jokes.
posted by clockzero at 3:46 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect .

That's amazing. Basically, he's ignoring the guest of honor and instead goes after the premise of celebrity roasts.


Really? Are you familiar with Bob Saget's career?
posted by ennui.bz at 3:53 PM on March 6, 2015


Norm's bit on Bob Saget's roast is great, but it's not complete without his retort to Jim Norton's criticism of his performance.
posted by mokin at 3:55 PM on March 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm especially defensive of the shaggy dog form myself, having once written and published a 200-page single-sentence-long variant on the the one I've always thought was the single most formally monotonous, the one involving the boy and the pink ping pong balls.
Can... can I buy this?
posted by books for weapons at 3:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer, that golden screw joke is amazing and reminds me a bit of the Great Bull Moose shaggy dog joke.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:00 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm Macdonald is a funny guy but I still despise him for some of his really awful transphobic remarks and it sours me on his comedy. I just can't separate the two.
posted by entropone at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm's bit on Bob Saget's roast is great, but it's not complete without his retort to Jim Norton's criticism of his performance.

And, best of all, he completely breaks Norton.

I didn't care for McDonald on SNL at the time, but I've come to think he's one of our greatest comedians - and when I go back and watch his SNL anchor bits, fuck me if I don't lose my shit at least one out of three jokes.

"Last year's number one song was by Better Than Ezra. The number two song was by Ezra."

That's not funny. That's totally not funny. When he says it, its funny. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:03 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


"You know what I bet Ronald Goldman's last words were? 'HEY! You're OJ SImpson!'"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:04 PM on March 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


That's not funny. That's totally not funny. When he says it, its funny. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?

Because he's insanely charming and has mastered the art of the near-total-corpsing deadpan. Everything about his delivery of every joke sets up the expectation that we're about to hear the funniest thing ever, so even when it fails (and I loved the Ezra joke at the time) it's still funny.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


He literally Googled for the jokes and used whatever lame, least-common-denominator crap floated to the surface. And KILLED.

Possibly being pedantic here, but the man himself claims they came from a joke book his dad got him as a kid:
Yeah, like the Saget Roast. That was just a little bit of an experiment. I can’t insult people. I don’t know how to insult people and call them names and stuff. Because I would feel really bad because everything you say, it has to be like true, you know, or it doesn’t make any sense. So I couldn’t do that. I could never do it to a great actor or somebody I didn’t really know. I couldn’t say, “Oh, Betty White, what’s wrong with your vagina?” Whatever the fuck they say. I couldn’t even look at, I couldn’t even think of doing it. So Saget kept bugging me to do it. And then I thought of this idea on the last day. I said, alright, I’ll do it. And then that day, I was going to do it I was thinking what the fuck am I going to do? And then I thought it would be a fun experiment to try to do – ‘Cuz comedy is like a number of things and one is the joke, it has to be funny.

So I thought I would do jokes that aren’t funny. Another thing is delivery. So what if I did the delivery wrong also. All that would be left would be context. Just the idea of someone doing bad jokes. I got the idea because the guy told me, you’ve got to be shocking. The producer of the show, “Just try to be shocking!” So I thought, well, that would be the most shocking thing to do would be… I found the jokes in a book my dad gave me when I was a kid called Jokes For Retirement Parties. When I started stand up, that’s when he gave it to me. It was really sweet of him. Like he had this stupid, fucking corny book, “Hey maybe this will help.” And its all these jokes for a guy’s retirement party. I’ll just take the jokes out of there. There are all these super old references. But that was just a little experiment. It angered a lot of people
posted by The Gooch at 4:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [30 favorites]


Your momma'a version of the Aristocrats is hilarious.
posted by humanfont at 4:23 PM on March 6, 2015


> Norm MacDonald at Bob Saget's roast was just perfect .

That's amazing. Basically, he's ignoring the guest of honor and instead goes after the premise of celebrity roasts.


As I recall, that's explicitly what it was. Norm was tired of all the roasts of the era because he thought that they uniformly devolved into prejudicial and blue jokes with the excuse, "it's a roast!" and just wasn't good comedy. So he did this.

The moth joke is not a shaggy dog. It's not (or doesn't have to be) long enough, and the punch line has everything to do with the setup. This is my analysis:

The "secondhand joke" meta-setup is something that Mark Twain would do with regularity in his tall tale type stories. Not only does that setup absolve the teller of any responsibility for the joke, that it's "not Norm's joke" sets up tension for the second critical thing about the joke. In the process of telling how depressing and awful the moth's life is, a proper telling should have the audience begin to wonder where all of this is coming from. That is, they should start to worry about the inner life of the joke teller, sort of almost losing the audience with a supposed departure from the joke to a sad and personal confession. Then the punch line has an initial shock as a shaggy-dog type (he IS a moth, after all), but it's also about the moth looking for hope in the depths of his depression.

So, it's not only a joke about a depressed moth, but a joke about depression itself, and by extension a joke about Norm's persona. It's one of the greatest of all time.
posted by cmoj at 4:36 PM on March 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


Norm Macdonald discussing the then-recent death of Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter).

I was a huge Steve Irwin fan, as were my kids, and I felt like this was extremely disrespectful and in very poor taste.

But it was very, very funny.

Also, John Stewart's reaction. "Please don't make me laugh at this."
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:49 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


That's not funny. That's totally not funny. When he says it, its funny. HOW DOES HE

Timing.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:51 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope we're to the point of the thread where we're just posting old Norm MacDonald bits. One of my favs from Weekend Update...
Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn has announced plans for a new hotel forty-six stories high set on a seventeen acre island in the middle of a fifty acre artificial lake on the Las Vegas strip. In a related story, Motel 6 now has shampoo.
posted by hwyengr at 4:57 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Norm Macdonald is a funny guy but I still despise him for some of his really awful transphobic remarks and it sours me on his comedy.

You're certainly free to despise him for what you may fairly consider to be his really awful transphobic jokes, but to characterize them as non-joke remarks seems wrong.

(Unless there were, in fact, non-joke remarks that I missed, in which case, carry on. But the kerfuffles I'm aware of involved things said on SNL's Weekend Update. You might consider them bad jokes, you might consider them failed jokes, but "remarks" they weren't.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 5:23 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Comedy Central was reportedly pretty displeased by the whole thing.

Yeah, well, CC can go pound sand. The Saget roast was probably the best of those roasts they put on. I'm not a huge fan of Norm, but I laughed my ass off at his performance.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:02 PM on March 6, 2015


Comedy Central was reportedly pretty displeased by the whole thing.

Yeah, they were so displeased that they gave him a weekly show.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:16 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


So this horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" The horse says, "I've got cancer."

This is the best joke ever in the history of jokes.
posted by winna at 6:29 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


The "secondhand joke" meta-setup is something that Mark Twain would do with regularity in his tall tale type stories. Not only does that setup absolve the teller of any responsibility for the joke...

My favorite version of the absolving setup was Mike Royko's -- "I heard a very offensive joke the other day, and I'll tell it to you so that you aren't shocked if you encounter it in public..."
posted by mr. digits at 6:59 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Two words

Michael O'Donoghue

ok, three words.
posted by clavdivs at 7:12 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is my favorite Norm moment. It is when he calls out SNL for firing him but having him back to host the show.
posted by 4ster at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


The moth joke is pretty good, but Norm Macdonald is extremely overrated. For me, "meta" and "anti" are codewords for not that funny. He had his moments, some individual jokes when he was SNL anchor, but overall it always came off as trying too hard.
posted by anothermug at 7:31 PM on March 6, 2015


So this horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" The horse says, "I've got cancer."

This is the best joke ever in the history of jokes.


No, this is the best ever joke in the history of jokes:

A woman asks the bartender for a double entendre, and he gives it to her.
posted by anothermug at 7:36 PM on March 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


It might be better if next time Conan invited the chauffeur on to tell the joke.
posted by jerrywrite at 7:37 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite Norm MacDonald is after Steve Irwin died, and I'll bet lots of comedians would have loved to tell jokes, but no one dared too soon. Norm pulled it off in a way that probably had Steve laughing in his grave.
posted by eye of newt at 7:44 PM on March 6, 2015


Norm is one of the funniest men alive, comedically brave and uncompromising. And frankly, I don't care if he murdered a cadre of Cub Scouts on the White House lawn on national television. It would not make him one iota less funny. Odious artists can create magnificent art. I do not get the reverse attitude at all. God. The Steve Irwin bit. I had forgotten. A lot of people felt that way, but Norm said it.
posted by umberto at 7:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I liked the way South Park handled it, with Steve Irwin with a manta ray through his chest showing up at Satan's super sweet sixteen costume party. Satan is offended, saying it's way too soon to make that reference. Steve Irwin replies that it's really him. Satan responds that, oh, well you can't get in without a costume.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:46 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Shaggy Dog in Short Film Form (self link)
posted by Navelgazer at 8:53 PM on March 6, 2015


I missed the Steve Irwin bit when it happened, but I'm pretty sure I'll be laughing at "that's a ripe old age for a crocodile hunter" off and on for at least a week.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interesting trivia about life: Dirty Work is one of the funniest movies ever.

You didn't count on my loyal army of prostitutes, did you?
posted by murphy slaw at 9:32 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm McDonald is not one of the least funny people on SNL. I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a skit as much as when he played one of Satan's underlings who could not take Satan seriously anymore because he momentarily choked on a grape.

I quote it here in length, because it's pretty great. Satan is played by Patrick Stewart, the underlings by Norm MacDonald, Rob Sneider, David Spade.
[ open in Hell, fiery background music playing ]

Satan: I swear by all that is evil, vengeance shall be mine! The hosts of Heaven will kneel before me and lick my boots!

Underling 1: How will you do it, sire?

Satan: You puny spawn of monkey sweat! You miserable bucket of pus fluids! You dare to question me?!

Underling 1: No, sire.. I only..

Satan: Silence, you fetted pile of insect saliva! How will I reap vengeance?! I will unleash the hordes of Hell on God's earth, and all will bow down before me, their true King! I will devour them as I do.. this grape! [ laughs evilly while chewing the grape, but starts to choke on it ] Oh, God..! I can't breathe..! The grape is stuck..! [ coughs it up ]

Underling 1: Master, are you alright?

Satan: Silence!! [ gasps ] The juice.. the juice from the grape hit the wrong pipe.. the wrong pipe.. somebody, please help..! [ recovers ]

Underling 2: Don't feel embarrassed, sire, that happens to everybody - even the Lord of Hades.

Satan: Silence, you whining welch! You dare address me as an equal!

Underling 2: But, Master, I was worried about you.

Satan: Worried?! Worried?! Better to worry that I will change your blood to fire! That I will.. I will hit you.. you know.. on your head!

[ fiery background music trails off ]

Underling 1: Okay, that one started out strong, but kind of trailed off. Plus, earlier.. the fetted pile of insect saliva? How exactly would you pile saliva?

Underling 3: Yeah, that one kind of threw me, too, you know? I mean, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, you know, because you're the master of the whory netherworld there, but, uh.. now, after that grape thing..

Satan: You dare mock me?!

Underling 2: You know, in the future, any one of us would be happy to prechew your grapes.

Satan: Are you mad?! Do you know what you are flirting with?! I will feed your steaming organs to all the hounds of Hell! I will watch your eyes burn.. til the cows come home!

Underling 3: Til the cows come home?

Satan: Sweet Lucifer! Do my ears deceive me, or did you just question my word of choice?

Underling 3: Oh, alright, sorry.. go on.

Satan: Go on?! Go on?! As if I was some prattling schoolboy?! You tell me to go on?! The serpents of Hell will urge me to go on as they watch me feast on your bloody entrails!

Underling 3: Oh, will you feast on my bloody entrails until, uh.. the cows come home?

Underling 2: You know, I, personally, would not move on to chewing bloody entrails until I mastered grapes!

Satan: This just cannot be! You monkey warts! You.. you maggot monkeys! I will slice open your monkey bellies, and your blood will spill from your monkey bowels!

Underling 1: You know what occurred to me? Just think how empty that sentence would have been without the word "monkey".

Satan: [ angry ] What?!

Underling 2: Easy, big fellow!

Satan: Big fellow?! You dare address me as anything but Lord of Evil, or, at the very least, Master of Darkness?!

Underling 1: Or, how about, Lover of the Word Monkey?

Satan: What?! [ at a sudden loss of words, struggles to express his thoughts coherently ]

Underling 2: [ mimics Satan ] Sputter! Sputter! Sputter! What's the deal! Say it, don't spray it, Chief!

Satan: [ aghast ] Am I dreaming, or did somebody just say to the Magnificent Hellbeast, the all-powerful Lord of Darkness, "Say it, don't spray it?!"

Underling 3: Hey, is it just me, or does the big guy here essentially just repeat everything we say, except all incredulous?

Satan: [ stunned ] Well, this is something.. I am speechless. No, seriously! I am in awe! I snap my fingers, and you are.. monkeys! [ snaps fingers ]

[ underlings now appear as three monkeys, who continue to laugh at Satan ]

Underling 1: What a surprise, we're monkeys.

Underling 2: Oh, this is terrible. Instead of people burning in Hell, we're monkeys burning in Hell. What a step down.

Underling 3: Smart move not turning us into grapes!

[ the monkeys laugh as scene fades ]
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:09 PM on March 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


A moth joke, you say?
posted by zookeeper at 10:20 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


When asked to describe the movie, I said that Godzilla attacked New York and knocked down a lot of buildings, but then they beat him. Good times.

Wow. That is... It's just uncanny.
posted by Naberius at 11:27 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I liken the moth joke to Super Dave's favorite Doggie Good-Nights joke. I really did piss myself when Super Dave delivered the punchline for this joke.
posted by Lukenlogs at 2:03 AM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Whatever else the joke is, it is funny.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:10 AM on March 7, 2015


After spending a couple of hours down the Norm MacDonald rabbit hole, this exchange, from why Norm hates Oscar Pistorius, keeps cracking me up:

Conan: A lot of people don't like [Pistorius] now, that he, uh, murdered somebody.
Norm: Allegedly, allegedly. But, uh, also really.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


With the caveat that it describes violence against women, this routine from a recent special has another excellent longform joke from McDonald.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that's actually just the set-up to the story I was thinking of.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2015


This article misunderstands the notion of anti-comedy, as does Norm himself. It's not supposed to be not-funny — it's supposed to toy with expectations, delivering humor by means of subverting anticipation.

You just described regular comedy
posted by Greg Nog at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


> Just like doing the Aristocrats, the punchline is the least important thing.

Parallels to the Aristocrats jumped out at me immediately, but I think the punchline was actually important here. Because you are so invested in trying to figure out the complicated narrative (and wondering if it's something that will fail to have a punchline), finding out that the moth is still driven by very simple moth needs really pulls you between two worlds: one in which you set aside some disbelief to allow for a pretty smart talking moth, and one in which a moth is still being a moth. It's the contrast that makes it pretty funny. It reminds me a bit of Far Side cartoons in which you have animals living like people, but still driven by weird biological imperatives as a fundamental non-negotiable. There is one Far Side cartoon where a bunch of flies are sitting in a movie theater, made just for flies (let that sink in for a second), but the movie they are watching is called Dumps of the World. Flies love garbage and will always love garbage, even though they are sophisticated enough to have movie theatres. The movie they are watching is a similar punch-line to this joke.

What I also think it pretty brilliant about this is that many people are pretty familiar with the Aristocrats and shaggy dog jokes, so in the back of you mind you wonder if you are being wound up for something. It actually having a punchline is pretty delightful, in part based on that expectation of a set-up.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


delivering humor by means of subverting anticipation

Stewart Lee takes a night on the town with Jesus to places it probably shouldn't go
posted by flabdablet at 11:45 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Surely the only reason he punchline's not important in the Aristocrats joke is that the joke ultimately became more about the retelling of it in novel ways. First time round the punchline is the crux of it. Through repetition the punchline is the name of it.

edit: and I've just been down a Norm YT rabbit hole. Now I have to do Stewart Lee too.
posted by vbfg at 12:14 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm has had a video podcast on youtube for the past couple years. He interviews other comedians and it offers insights into his thoughts on comedy. They are nothing groundbreaking but since I enjoy his style I found them entertaining. One fun bit is when Norm declares it joke time and starts handing his guests cue cards, they always want to know who wrote the jokes, Norm always denies responsibility. If I had to recommend some, Carl Reiner was an amazing guest. The Roseanne one I found insightful as Norm goes straight into her being labeled crazy. He interviewed Bob Saget too, I can't remember exactly but don't think they touch on the roast.

Anyway in the spirit of the thread, here he is anthropomorphizing another creature; A frog goes into a bank (it is prior to an interview with David Spade, when his skit with his whipping boy / producer Adam Eget goes awry, as it always does and Norm instead says those magical words, "Do you want to hear a joke?").
posted by phoque at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


>I didn't care for McDonald on SNL at the time, but I've come to think he's one of our greatest comedians - and when I go back and watch his SNL anchor bits, fuck me if I don't lose my shit at least one out of three jokes.

"Last year's number one song was by Better Than Ezra. The number two song was by Ezra."

That's not funny. That's totally not funny. When he says it, its funny. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?


Same reaction here. I mostly didn't like Norm on SNL--something about him rubbed me as mean-spirited, maybe unfairly. But the hardest I've ever laughed at SNL was after a Norm joke. And a joke that would have been mediocre delivered by anyone else. It was the Weekend Update for a Christmas special, and one of Norm's "news items" went like this:

"In other Christmas news, Kenny G has a new album out. [pause] Happy birthday, Jesus! [pause] Hope you like crap!"

Absolutely lame written down, but his delivery was pitch-perfect and it was hilarious.
posted by Creosote at 2:12 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dirty Work is one of my very favorite movies, and I think a large part of why it works so great is that Norm MacDonald is just a terrible actor.
posted by kafziel at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dirty Work made me laugh until I cried. Twice. The scene where they sneak into the house and plan to hide fish all over the place (oh no, he has taken my chainsaw away from me, and now he is using it on me) and, God help me, Adam Sandler as the devil.

First we kill the pig, then we cook the pig, then we eat the pig. Then we burn.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:26 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Norm MacDonald is just a terrible actor.

Yeah, he's such a terrible actor that ABC gave him a prime time show.

I couldn't find any decent video clips of The Norm Show online, so I'll post one. Sorry for the quality, this is from an old, badly encoded bootleg. Remember, this is a prime time show on a national network.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:36 PM on March 7, 2015


To quote the man himself, "I can't act or do characters."

"It’s a very odd thing with Hollywood, where you do stand-up, you’re good at it, then they go, “How would you like to be a horrible actor?” Then you say, “All right, that sounds good. I’ll do that.” So I’m fucking excited about not having to pretend to know what I’m doing with acting, because it really is nerve-racking. It really is so humiliating. If it wasn’t so pointless and ridiculous, it would be more humiliating, you know? Also, if there weren’t so many people as bad as myself—equally untalented people—it would be even more humiliating."

In Dirty Work, delivering everything as stand-up really works. In sitcoms, it ... doesn't.
posted by kafziel at 5:58 PM on March 7, 2015


Norm MacDonald is just a terrible actor.

His recent podcast with Martin Mull has Mull saying something along the lines of being nervous about his acting ability, sweating bullets to "be good at something Tony Danza has already mastered".
posted by Chitownfats at 8:58 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm a day late to the party, but I saw Norm Macdonald do a stand-up show around '98 (a double bill with Kevin Nealon) and I recall him doing an extended joke on old man scrotums which did not amuse me at the time, but which seems funny in retrospect.
posted by hyperizer at 4:28 PM on March 8, 2015


I've been watching way too much Norm these last few days because of this post. Those Sports Shows are good, I don't remember them at all.
posted by PHINC at 7:09 PM on March 8, 2015


I interpreted Norm's bit at the Saget roast as him doing a meta-insult: Saget, you are so pathetic that one of the comedians they hired for your roast is telling the lamest possible jokes. I mean, he couldn't even memorize the jokes, he had to write them down on cards and read them off. They couldn't get a better comedian. Sorry man, you're just not that great.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:51 PM on March 8, 2015


The most amazing Norm moment ever was the celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It doesn't spoil anything to tell you he made it to the million dollar question. Jesus, Regis.
posted by riruro at 8:57 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think Conan and Norm are soul mates.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:27 PM on March 8, 2015


Somebody above quoted the following from Wikipedia:

"A common example of anti-joke is "Why did the chicken cross the road?" with the answer, "To get to the other side." The punchline is intentionally mundane."

Just wanted to point out that it's a double punchline. It seems to be mundane but it actually means "to get to the other side." As in the punchline is open ended due to having 2 meanings:

Meaning A: The chicken wants to cross the street to get to the other side of the street.

or

Meaning B: The chicken is suicidal and wants to get killed by crossing the street to get to the other side as in death.
posted by I-baLL at 7:01 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meaning C: other side means life after death, as in "Why did Bobby Fischer give up chess and turn to God?"
posted by infinitewindow at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2015


I have to say that this is the first time I've ever heard that the chicken crossing the road joke is about suicide.
posted by rhizome at 11:27 AM on March 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


That puts the chicken joke in a new light for me. The other side indeed.
posted by ostranenie at 3:45 AM on March 10, 2015


Metafilter: both pedantic AND wrong.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why did the chicken stand in traffic?

No, wait...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:50 AM on March 10, 2015


Is there a way to mashup the "why the long face?" joke with Kristen Schaal Is a Horse?

asking for a friend

who doesn't understand comedy
posted by psoas at 10:15 AM on March 11, 2015


Kristen Schaal walks into a bar, the bartender says "why the long skit?"
posted by cortex at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


network pressure, mostly
posted by Greg Nog at 8:38 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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