Comedian, actor, writer and legend Norm Macdonald may have left the planet last September, but he left behind more than his greatest hits. In a “it’s so normal“, he also gave fans something so needed, so wanted, and at such a perfect time – “Norm Macdonald: nothing special. Macdonald’s special, which aired Monday on Netflix, was filmed in his living room.
Loved and respected by fans and colleagues around the world, Macdonald formed a unique bond with fellow comedy legend Roseanne Barr in the early 90s when she hired him to write on her hit show, “Roseanne Barr. “. What started as an admiration on a professional level turned into a lifelong friendship that had many personal ups and downs.
Macdonald clearly entertained until the end and even launched a podcast in 2020 called “Quarantined With Norm Macdonald,” on which Barr appeared as a guest. Before his last recorded hurray, Barr told us why Norm Macdonald wasn’t just the bravest in comedy, but also in life.
How did you meet Norm Macdonald?
Roseanne Barr: Someone sent me a tape of him from Canada when I was looking for writers for my show. I don’t think he’s been anywhere in the United States yet. I hired him for my birthday party because I had a big 40th where I hired my favorite artists because, you know, I had a lot of money at the time. I had Norm for comedy and I was screaming. I knew in two minutes, I have to catch this guy! First of all, he spoke a bit like me. He spoke like he was from my hometown in Utah. Or in Utah, we speak like Norm. I loved the way he spoke. He was so hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing so I was like, “Hey! Do you want a job? You’re so awesome I want to hire you to write on my show. And he did. When Norm got the offer for SNL, he was so sweet. He said he’d like to go do it, and I said, “You have to go!” Are you kidding? You must!” To me, he’s the greatest comedian on Weekend Update that no one can match. He was what comedy is supposed to be. He was always brave.
It seems like everyone has one, so let’s hear yours. Favorite standard piece?
It’s the one in the back seat. I was like, “How much do I have to pay you to do this track?” He said, “Stop it, and I’m not going!” I could never do it by heart, or like him, but the one I like is the one where the guy is sitting in the back seat and [it goes] like, when you’re in the back seat, you’re in your own world because you’re not in the front seat. You are not in conversation and you are in your own world trying to hear. Then another car pulls up next to you and there’s another guy in the back seat, and you give each other a little wave because you know you’re both losers. It was basically about being a second-class citizen. It was so politically nuanced, there’s nothing I’ve seen that’s that genius.
Are there any other notable Norm moments while we take this walk?
Yeah, because him s— on OJ was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I even remember where I was, on bed rest for 12 weeks pregnant with my son. I just got all his Olympics jokes and played them on repeat. Then he got fired, remember? You can’t be too funny in show business!
Of course, it’s tricky, especially in 2022! Did you know Norm was sick? It was like a total shock, but maybe it was common knowledge?
I didn’t know Norm was sick. When I found out he was gone, I was so shocked. I asked other people like, “Did you know? Did you know he was sick? No one I know knew. Looking back, it’s like, of course, he wouldn’t tell anyone because it would ruin all his gear! Either they laughed too much or they just sat there crying. I wanted to put him on “Last Comic Standing,” because you gotta have Norm, and now thinking back, I’m like, “Oh, he was sick and that’s why I’ve never seen him anywhere else!” I was shocked. I talked to him all the time. Comics will wonder, “Is this funny?” And he usually answers me, but the last few months it’s been really hard to reach him, and he doesn’t answer. Of course, in my comedic brain, I’m like, “What’s going on, Norm?” Human compassion never even crossed my mind as a comic. Then he finally came back to me and said, “I want to interview you for this podcast,” and I was happy to do that. It was the last time I spoke to him. He never told me anything. When I came back to TV, the first person I called was Norm. I asked him to come back, and he said, “Yes, I will.” And when I got fired, Norm quit. I just said, “Thank you, Norm.” He called me every day when I was in a really bad place, and he also went on “The View” to defend me, which I really appreciated. He was just the biggest.
I feel a real mix of excitement and sadness about this stage. How do you feel about that?
Comedy is about the mind, and that’s why I’m excited for Norm’s stuff, because he’s been about the mind. I wonder what he’s talking about, like maybe Norm will talk about what’s happening in the world now and be an avatar to save us all. And I love that his special comes out after his death. You know, I did the world’s first afterlife comedy special about 20 years ago. It’s like you look at this, I’m dead and my kids have all my money. I’m so happy to hear that Norm did it for real. Because he’s a genius. It will redefine death and dying. What an ethical and loving human being. There never was someone like Norm and there never will be. The standard is the f— GOAT. There was a genie here, and he left this realm.