AKIE BERMISS: For years now, I’ve been an unabashed fan of Norm Macdonald. Back when he was anchoring weekend update for SNL, I came to know him as the guy who couldn’t stop squinting and never met a dead-pan joke he didn’t like. Norm stammers, interjects, mutters, mumbles, and is sometimes fairly impossible to comprehend. Put that together with his love for anti-jokes and deliberately lame punch lines and I don’t know why its taken America so long to give this man his own anchor desk television.
Now, allow me to gloss over the whole “is he funny or isn’t he” debate. If you don’t think he’s funny then I’m certainly not going to be able to convince you to give him another go. If, like me, you think he’s comedic visionary, then I’d just be preaching to the choir. For the rest of you, who have no idea who Norm Macdonald is, we once dedicated an entire discourse to the question of his funniness.
His new program on Comedy Central is called Sports Show and it does indeed seem to be centered entirely around sports. I suppose it was one thing the late night Comedy Central team has been missing — something making fun of sports casts. Its like the Daily Show meets SportsCenter, basically. As far as I’m concerned, its a real niche of the demographic but I can only assume Comedy Central has done the necessary research. Every week, there are some headlines, a few longer pieces that are like relaxed rants (his Barry Bonds/Cheating segment was particularly entertaining), and even some sketches. Its a lot like what you might expect from a Late Night show hosted by Norm Macdonald, but I guess 30 minutes and subject specific is a safer way to go with Macdonald’s humor.
The show is funny. Its been a while since Macdonald’s brand of anti-charm could be had in such large and unadulterated doses. It took me a few minutes into the first episode to remember WHY he was funny. Its really an acquired taste and if you haven’t had it in a while, you’re not likely to jump right back into the swing of things from the get-go. Still, Norm still has it. His one-liners and total let-down punchlines still drag a laugh out of me, even as I am realizing how little I think the joke itself is funny. Maybe its meta or post-modern, but some of the pleasure comes in knowing that the joke had to be conceived. That better punchlines had to be weeded out for that perfectly flat one to rise to the top. And, besides, this is sports! This is a discussion of things which, while being utterly unimportant, are of great personal and social importance to many of us. We spend hours watching and reading about (and, yes — writing about) sports. This isn’t the Libyan conflict, or the price of gas, or the Royal Wedding. This is: Kobe Bryant makes the entire Laker’s starting team apologize for his having called a referee a “faggot.” I think its fair to say we should feel comfortable to dig in a bit.
That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to see Macdonald take on more topics. I think he could makes his mark on political coverage and/or editorializing. The sky’s the limit. All he requires is a microphone and a place to squint.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Here’s all you need to know: liked Norm MacDonald’s Weekend Update? Like sports? Watch this show. Simple as that.