Norm Macdonald has gone on record saying that he tries to write jokes as short as possible. And on the record, Me Doing Standup (available in CD or DVD versions), Macdonald proceeds to do just that. He cuts to the chase in such a startling way that that in and of itself provides additional levels of laughter.
Take the first track, “It’s Good to be Alive,” which brings Macdonald to the stage via song. Then he tells the audience: “That’s my goal in life: Not to die.” Scientists should look into this, he continues. Why focus on disease, and not death? “I come from a long line of death.” It’s so stark, and yet so simple. And he does this for several minutes. Then he does the same for the local TV news report about a missing lady. Very common sense, injecting hyperreality into the situation. But as Norm would ask, how could you make reality more hyper than reality? Even the title is as simple as it gets, without being simply self-titled. What he’s doing is asking the real questions that most people just gloss over. Then detailing in stark detail how he would kill a woman, if he ever were going to do it. Looking at the bright side of alcoholism. “You picked the best one.” “It’s the only disease in which you can constantly drink booze. In fact, it is the disease.” Comparing it to Uncle Bert’s bowel cancer.
Here’s a video clip of that bit:
A little bit later, Norm questions the anonymity of AA. Then he breaks down all the talking and thinking about sex. He has a recurring thing where he’ll start to say a familiar phrase, or a familiar thing, and then break off and shrug and say, “I don’t know what they say/do.” Aw, Norm. Toward the end of the hour, he makes a joke about getting SF’s football team back in LA, and some guy yells, “How’s O.J.?” Of course, on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update, Norm famously wouldn’t let up on the O.J. Simpson jokes, so much so that he got fired mid-season. Which gives Norm a chance to revisit O.J., since he is in prison now, but for a much different offense. And wouldn’t you know it: Norm gets to the real reality of his situation and mines it for laughs the audience member never would have suspected.
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