"Crack whore." "O.J. Simpson's a murderer." "Germans love David Hasselhoff." Laughing yet? "Crack whore." "OJ Simpson's a murderer." "Germans love David Hasselhoff." How about now? Say what you will about Norm MacDonald—he's crass, only occasionally funny (though at times uproariously so), arrogant, a has-been. But you have to give the guy credit for his dedication. MacDonald spent five years on Saturday Night Live, fervently believing the mere mention of any of the previous phrases should incite laughter and the endless repetition of said phrases should incite even more laughter.
Despite his negative qualities, MacDonald had something truly likeable about him. Every time he mentioned the words "homosexual pedophile," his eyes sparkled like a mischievous child searching for approval. And even when he would launch into one of his all-too-obvious setups for any of his favorite punch lines, you really hoped that this time the audience would laugh harder than they ever had. You wanted MacDonald's belief in repetition to be right. And some of his greatest moments came when he was wrong. His true comedic gift was demonstrated in his reactions to tepid audience response or to his own gaffes.
His mentality was part Aristocrats, part Rocky Horror Picture Show, believing the audience already knowing the joke was the joke. The punch line was never a surprise, but the creativity and variance of the setup were. MacDonald's "Weekend Update" routines frequently felt like a meeting for fans "in the know." Invariably, his eyes would get that impish twinkle, he'd start talking about O.J. Simpson, and you could bet money that in just a moment, the word "murderer" would come out of his mouth.
But like Monty Python and the Holy Grail or This Is Spinal Tap, Norm MacDonald's comedy is always better long after it's over—when being discussed with some friends while passing around the four-foot bong. And his moments of genius, though few and far between, make every repetitive reference worth sitting through. "Crack whore."
Norm MacDonald and Victoria Jackson at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2750; www.thegroveofanaheim.com. Sat., 8:30 p.m. $35-$60.
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