Personally, it has been a rough week for yours truly. You don't care, but that's okay. Over the past few days, Norm MacDonald has also had a rough week, being skewered for un-Politically Correct Statements on pre-production of Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, and then later in the week on Norm's Apology Tour.
I haven't watched Norm's new show, but I can guarantee it will be hilarious... or awful.
Lazily I changed my Facebook Profile Photo to Norm because I wanted to show solidarity with one of my favorite comedians. You know, the easiest way to show your support for a cause without actually doing something about it.
But then Kevin Fallon at The Daily Beast crossed the line and forced me to defend Norm in a longer format. His argument, in a nutshell, is that last month, Netflix cancelled Michelle Wolf. Now, it’s parading around Norm Macdonald’s ticker tape of stupid. Hollywood is severely broken. ‘Norm Macdonald Has a Show’ proves it.
The article was about 90% wrong and wrong on multiple levels.
<< Deep Sigh>>
Here we go. Norm MacDonald was one of the funniest comedians of the 1990's. His stint on SNL was comic gold. But if you watched the breadth and depth of Norm's material, it was all very hit or miss. For every gem like "And finally, 'Weekend Update' would like to congratulate Madonna, who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last Monday. The baby weighed in at six pounds, nine ounces, making it the fourth largest object ever to pass through Madonna's birth canal. Congratulations Madonna" you'd then get the worst joke you ever heard. As the audience would groan or boo, Norm would smirk at the camera and say "what??"
He was fired by Don Ohlmeyer at NBC for not being funny. His TV show The Norm Show was re-vamped and re-named by the corporate overlords at ABC. Then cancelled prematurely. For every supporting role where he was good in an Adam Sandler production (Billy Madison), he was awful in another Adam Sandler production (Grown Ups).
When Norm made a great movie (Dirty Work), it suffered at the box office in part due to an ad ban at NBC. He was an early writer on the Rosanne show and was fired. (Along with dozens of other writers.) Instead of being bitter, he was grateful for having gone through writer's boot camp.
Editor's Note: Fred did not like Roseanne. Or the re-boot.
I was one of the few people in America that enjoyed Norm's movie Screwed, and then MacDonald followed that up with one of the biggest dumpster fires I have ever seen, Back to Norm for Comedy Central.
And that's Norm's gift. He's not afraid to fail, he's one of the few dangerous stand up comedians left in America (technically Canada). I read his book Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir and, let's use a baseball analogy: The jokes were strike out, strike out, home run. Strike out, strike out, double. Double, double, triple play. It wasn't a consistently good read. It was a parody of modern celebrity narcissism.
In the 10's, Norm wasn't shopping for a new show. Norm basically set up shop in his basement and was doing a Podcast called Norm MacDonald Live. It was a low production entity that was on YouTube. Netlfix liked the show so much they picked it up and re-named it Norm MacDonald Has a Show. Hollywood has been trying to get rid of Norm for, at least, 20 years. Netflix's non-traditional approach to television has been a thorn in Hollywood's side since its decision to introduce original content to its streaming services.
So for Kevin Fallon to bellyache that giving Norm a show and taking one away from Samantha Bee- uh, I mean Michelle Wolf, as being the classic Hollywood move, he's not paying attention.
NOT AT ALL.
Michelle Wolf is another comedian from the Jon Stewart Tree. I was watching her episode Bad Opinions and found her riff Oceans are Gay a well written and funny joke. If Jon Stewart delivered it. Michelle Wolf's show reminded me of a board-room pitch meeting.
Netflix Executive #1: We offered Jon Stewart a boatload of money to come to Netflix and do whatever he wanted. He passed.
Netflix Executive #2: What if we tried the Jon Stewart Show, but gave it to....who made those Trump jokes at the White House Correspondent's Dinner?
Netflix Executive #1: Michelle Wolf
Netflix Executive #2: What if we tried the Jon Stewart Show with an angry woman?
Netflix Executive #1: Yeah, let's try that.
Fallon forgets that Netflix is the channel that gave Hannah Gadsby her own special.
Sometimes comedy is subjective. Kevin Fallon is throwing a tantrum because his brand of comedy got cancelled. Wolf's comedy is described by Fallon as "valuable," I would describe it as "formulaic" and "shrill." Why is Wolfe's comedy so valuable? Because she puts the Trump Family in their place in a more cutting edge way than other comedians. Uggh. In case you haven't noticed, EVERY network comedian puts the Trump Family in their place. Her comedy could easily be interchangeable with Seth Meyers' or Stephan Colbert's.
What's my beef with Michelle Wolf? She got all the headlines when MY comedy show got cancelled on the same day as hers. Also on Netflix, the Joel McHale Show got cancelled despite me watching every episode religiously. The Joel McHale experiment seemed a little clumsy, but it was starting to find its niche. I felt that it would grow into Soup-like popularity. I was upset with Netflix, but deep down I kind of understood Netflix's logic. Fallon would probably argue that McHale's comedy is unimportant.
Which reinforces the key concept at Beacon of Speech. There is no right type of comedy. Norm MacDonald is a stand up comedian that rubs some people the wrong way (Fallon). Michelle Wolf is is a stand up comedian that rubs some other people the wrong way (Me). Netflix wouldn't cancel the Wolf show unless no one was watching. Why would they cancel a popular show?
There is important speech in America and there's silly speech in America. Comedy, by definition, is silly. There are VERY FEW important stand up comedians in history. Maybe George Carlin. Maybe Richard Pryor. Maybe Dave Chapelle. That's about it.
I applaud Netflix for all the chances it takes. Some work, some don't. They give a platform to a nice cross-section comics. If you look at Kevin Fallon's resume, it is not a nice cross section of corporate media, it all leans one way. Don't worry Mr. Fallon, Norm will get himself fired sooner than later, he always does.
You, on the other hand, will continue to churn out pretentious articles praising political correctness and condemning unlike thinkers. Jim Carrey hasn't been funny in 20 years, yet somehow in your eyes he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why? Because now Carrey's line of thinking is the same as yours.
I put the article to sleep, then actually laid in bed and watched Norm's new vehicle. I tuned into Episode 6 of Norm's Show with Chevy Chase as a guest. Chevy gave an uneven performance in Dirty Work and has the reputation of being a world class a-hole, so I figured maybe some fireworks with Norm? Nope. Uncomfortably bad TV.
Tuned into Episode 8 of Norm's Show with Michael Keaton as a guest. Better TV, better than Michelle Wolf, but there ain't gonna be a Season 2 of Norm's Show either.
Tuned into Episode 5 of Norm's Show with Jane Fonda, Oof. Brutally bad. Gave up. Not because of the political content, but because I didn't laugh.
Let's predict the Future shall we? The Norm MacDonald Has a Show show will be cancelled in 2019. It may get a partial renewal, like the Joel McHale show, but it will not make it through 2 full seasons. Norm will keep doing voice work, like the hilarious Pigeon on Mike Tyson Mysteries, but his days of having a show are over. He may get another stand up special or recurring TV role, but he'll fade away like Bob Newhart or Don Rickles.
Michelle Wolf? If Comedy Central pulls the plug on Trevor Noah, she goes to the top of the list of his replacements. If she doesn't get steady work by 2020, look for her to be a special contributor at CNN for the next Presidential Election. I can see Michelle Wolf and Kevin Fallon actually being teamed up to stop the Evil Donald Trump.
Disclaimer: Do not vote for Donald Trump in 2020.
Here are your early voting options:
Trump v Oprah? Vote Bill Weld
Trump v Biden? Vote Rand Paul
Trump v Sanders? Vote Glenn Beck
Trump v Clinton 2: Red, White, and Orange? Vote Mark Cuban....