They say never meet your heroes. Sadly today Norm Macdonald just made that possible.
He was everything, the perfect comedian in my book, there were and are many greats, but for me, none did it better than Norm. He was a lot of fans favourite comedian and he was the comedians comedian. His dry deadpan style, his cheek, his charm and his dark loveable humour. He was ruthless in many ways, a loveable asshole who rubbed people up the wrong way and offended but that's what made him so brilliant. In his interviews and chat show he could talk about any twisted subject so believably and lure someone in and turn it back on them as if they are the horrible person for having thought of it. He played the naive/gullible thing so well. He was a masterful storyteller, often like a grumpy old grandpa rambling and pausing but holding you with every word. His running joke about Hitler and other nasty people in history as being “real jerks” and “the more I learn about that guy, the more I don’t care for him” is the best.
He brought tears to my eyes with laughter and brings tears to my eyes in his passing.
When I started out in comedy, other older comedians would tell me I reminded them of a young Norm Macdonald, I was sarcastic and had a dry cheeky style on stage, his comedy definitely influenced me so I was OK with that, but apparently I actually looked like him too, the crows feet around the eyes, the thick eyebrows and the dimples and curls. I was also told this made me look a bit like George W Bush at the time, but whatever! They were both killers! I don’t even care if this sounds vain right now. It was the hugest compliment because even if I could be compared to Norm in looks alone, I felt some strange connection. We even shared a birthday, October 17th. And that made me so happy as if stupidly it gave me some extra special link with him. I wanted to tell him this when I eventually met him. And no doubt he would have said something sarcastic and shut me down for being such a fan boy. I wouldn’t have cared. I would have loved to had that moment. When I started working in Canada, the country he was born, Canadian comedians and audiences would often make the same comparison. I played it down but I milked it too. This was a ridiculous boost to my ego. I was told I could play him in a film. I’m now too old to play a young Norm but if ever the day comes and they write a show about him. Ahem. Sign me up!
I desperately wanted to meet him. I wanted to just watch him in action once and to hang out in a green room and be in his presence. I probably would’ve frozen around him. I wanted to share the same stage. We did, but never at the same time. I can’t be sure, but we probably used the same microphone. Fuck this sounds pathetic but I don’t care. That means so much to me. I met and worked with so many comedians who knew him. My newsfeed is once again filled with posts of grief and anecdotes about him, I’m crying and laughing at each and every one of them. I am personally and professionally jealous they even got to be in the same room as him. But so happy for them too. When I was working at a club in San Diego one year I saw he was billed to be there the week after me. I was back in LA and hustling to get on other gigs and never made it back down. I now wish I’d jumped on that bus just to see him perform live once.
When comedian Sean Lock passed away recently, I said for my North America friends that he was the UK’s Norm Macdonald. They shared a similar dry, cheeky style and were a huge influence for many comedians. Cancer has taken them both aged 58 and 61 respectively. They both kept their illness under wraps too. That is a sign of greatness. Both will leave a huge hole in the world. Both have left a huge impression on so many of us. The comedy world is taking a bashing lately, it feels like a series of Survivor and each week another one is voted off. Much like reality TV, I want this shit to stop.
I was woken this morning in the early hours to the sound of a helicopter coming into my town. It was so loud flying right over the house to land just a couple of streets away at the local hospital. When the chopper comes, you know it’s only one thing, someone is getting airlifted to a bigger hospital. And because we knew everyone growing up here, I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach wondering if it’s somebody I know. I fell back asleep but when I woke up a few hours later and saw the news that Norm Macdonald had died, I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach again, that I had just lost someone I knew. I never did get to meet my hero and I’m heartbroken. I always thought we would, it would have been a highlight to get a photo with my doppelganger! We had mutual friends and played the same clubs at times and came close and I guess that’s pretty cool. It’s hard to say you loved someone you never met, but man I loved Norm Macdonald.
He was a comedy genius. If you didn’t know his work, go down the rabbit hole this week and read the tributes from the greats, read the articles about who he influenced and what he meant to so many of us, watch his live stand-up, his own chat shows, his segments on late night talk shows, fall in love with his rambling tales and enjoy one of the greatest comedians of our generation. RIP.