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Normy, Normy, Normy.

Norm Macdonald, the comedian/philosopher/humorist/social commentator and present-day-horseshit-eviscerator, died last week at 61. He was loved by many, most of whom figured they got him in a unique, idiosyncratic way that the others missed. “Beloved” and being “laid claim to” are two different things, much as most of us would take either. Norm was both. Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, was so able to connect with the human experience that other cultures claim him as their own. Chinese scholars have asserted that he had to be from China. This was the kind of reaction Norm Macdonald could elicit. I shared this fondness for Norm. To quote from my last blog post, just weeks before the sad news: “Van Morrison, Clint Eastwood, Norm Macdonald, Dwight Yoakam .. I have few icons left and once they’re gone, they’re gone. You can’t alter who or what it is you deem iconic; it’s pretty much a one-shot deal at registration.” An overstatement, perhaps, but still a reflection of his select and personal appeal.

Ah, but Norm had a way of putting you in your place, even if you were some anonymous fan. With all of the heaped praise in the past few days, hundreds of Youtube clips being shared, jokes being quoted, etc, it was a token civilian who cut through the brilliantly banal for me and got to the essence of the man. This guy wrote on Twitter about how his dad, a union worker building sets for NBC in the 90’s, scored backstage passes for a Saturday Night Live episode. He was a kid at the time, eight years old, and didn’t know who any of the celebrities or comics were. Tim Meadows, a cast member and bit-player, rolled his eyes at the father as he signed an autograph, realizing that the boy couldn’t distinguish him from Adam. Of course we’re acutely aware of these things at eight years old and pick up on adult cues with great sensitivity. Then, he said, Norm Macdonald caught glimpse of this awkwardness before approaching and addressing him directly. “Don’t worry, kid.” Norm assured. “Some day when I die you can make it all about you.”

So, in deference to Norm, I won’t even try. We’re living in an undeniably divisive age. Laughter is a uniquely human reflex. Norm Macdonald’s powers in this realm were so acute that he was able to say things you’re not supposed to say, to hold opinions forbidden to public figures. Some of the people praising him loudest at present were those he busted on mercilessly. He espoused Christianity and defended the wit of political figures whose names can end careers with mere mention. He went back and guest-hosted SNL, the show that made him famous, and noted the irony in being asked to return after getting fired for not being funny. It wasn’t possible, he posited, that he’d “become funny” in the short period between losing his job and being asked to host. “Then it occurred to me,” he said live on-air in his opening monologue. “I haven’t gotten funnier .. the show has gotten really bad.” It wasn’t just a bit or Norm flexing his nerves of steel. He was right. The show did blow.

OK, enough doing what I said I wouldn’t do. If, in my select and small readership, there is anyone unfamiliar with Norm Macdonald, do yourself a favor. Go on Youtube and look up the channel “I’m not Norm.” Watch the clips. This guy was not just a comedian, not just someone with outsized balls who didn’t give a fuck and kicked back against the dying light. He was human in every flawed and remarkable sense and talented on that exceptional level that sneaks up on people and makes us come closer together in the subtle, shared realization that we’re all full of shit. And like all of us, he was vulnerable. I really liked the guy.

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