When every comedian you know talks about how great this performance by Norm Macdonald is from his final appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, know that they’re talking about much more than simply the jokes.
The notion of how cell-phone photography and selfies have or will have changed the game is something, sure; the ID abbreviation joke is simple yet so effective; the reflection on Germany’s history, so funny the way he reminds us of the precedents of world wars. “But no, it was actually close.” The way he lingers on the fact that he’s not going to dignify the former German dictator by telling you his name, “but I think you know who I’m talking about,” priceless. Yes, to all of that. What makes this something special, though, is the way Macdonald manages to remain completely sincere, honest and in the moment throughout — from ad-libbing a few opening lines about Oprah and her conversation with Letterman about smoking weed, to how he chokes up remembering the first time he saw Letterman live when he was 13. And then he recites his all-time favorite joke, which was one of Letterman’s Macdonald remembers from being that awestruck teenager. And still, almost four decades later, awestruck. That joke of Letterman’s from 1977, by the way, is pretty great, too.
“That was very sweet Norm,” Letterman said.
Roll the clip!