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The subtle genius of Norm MacDonald
By CHRIS CONTI  |  August 19, 2009

norm main

SHARP AND SUBTLE But Norm can't stop getting nervous.

For the last two decades, comedian and SNL alum Norm MacDonald has been firing off on pop culture and sharing life observations with his disarming deadpan delivery and signature subtleties through a stoner Canadian accent and nasal drawl. MacDonald kicks off a nationwide tour this week and visits the Newport Comedy Series on Sunday, eventually wrapping up with four nights at Caroline's on Broadway in December. Of course, he's best known for delivering "the fake news" on SNL Weekend Update in the '90s, and often left the studio audience gasping and groaning while verbally destroying O.J. and Jacko on a weekly basis. His impressions of Bob Dole, Larry King, and particularly Burt Reynolds in the Celebrity Jeopardy! sketches were a recurring riot. Burt Reynolds with the giant foam cowboy hat? Untouchable.

Those who say MacDonald's comedic approach is an acquired taste should reexamine the recent Comedy Central roast of Bob Saget (at, where Norm lobbed pre-Henny Youngman vaudeville cracks off cue cards. Depending on how you like your comedy served up, this is either painful to watch or delightfully painful to watch. His progressive delay and blank stare between G-rated one-liners punctuated his blatant tank job, and the sincerely confused look on John Stamos's mug only substantiated the shtick, while fellow old-school comics like Saget and Gilbert Gottfried ate it up. MacDonald has long garnered the respect of his peers, with sharp appearances on Howard Stern, Conan, Jon Stewart, and Letterman (a recent Bob Uecker impression had Dave roaring), and has been in numerous films, including a recent cameo in Funny People.

Norm was kind enough to answer some quick questions via text while wrapping up shooting a new Adam Sandler comedy, which bumped our planned phone interview at the last minute. And if his quick-witted O.J. comments below are any indication as to what to expect come Sunday, Norm MacDonald will make for one helluva fun evening on the Newport waterfront.

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU WORKING ON? I'm on the set of a movie called Grown Ups. It's really cool because all my buddies — Sandler, [Chris] Rock, [David] Spade, [Rob] Schneider, [Colin] Quinn — they're all here. It's like a reunion, which is what the movie is about, so it's pretty cool.

DO YOU EVER GET NERVOUS BEFORE A SHOW? DOES THE SIZE OF THE ROOM MAKE A DIFFERENCE? I always get nervous before the show. It doesn't really help, but I do. I do different shows for smaller rooms than bigger venues, but I generally like places where people aren't really drunk.

WHO IS THE BEST CELEBRITY POKER PLAYER ON THE CIRCUIT? Jennifer Tilly is the best. The rest of us are all tied for the worst.

THE GIANT "FUNNY HAT" BURT REYNOLDS WORE ON CELEBRITY JEOPARDY — WAS THAT REHEARSED OR AD-LIBBED? The hat stuff wasn't planned. I left the sketch and I saw a big hat in props, which struck me as really funny.

ANY COMMENT ON O.J. SIMPSON ENDING UP IN PRISON AFTER ALL? The only thing O.J. Simpson was ever guilty of was being the greatest running back of all time. Oh, and also stealing his own sports memorabilia. Oh, and also killing his wife and some waiter.

NORM MACDONALD | Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd, Hampton Beach, NH on August 22, 2009 @ 8 pm on | Newport Yachting Center, 4 Commercial Wharf, Newport on Sunday, August 23 @ 7:30 pm | $37 + $27 | 

Related: Interview: Steve Martin, banjo extraordinaire, The Cambridge Castle of Comedy, Vegas and Jungleland, More more >
  Topics: Comedy , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Saturday Night Live,  More more >
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