Legendary comedian performs at sold-out show in San Francisco
THE SANTA CLARA
October 13, 2016
David Letterman said it best: “There may be people as funny as Norm Macdonald, but I don’t know anybody who is funnier.”
The 56 year-old comedian, best known for his five-year stint on “Saturday Night Live,” absolutely destroyed during his 70-minute set Saturday night at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco.
The audience’s laughs were steady and heartfelt as the comedian poked fun at everything from gambling to autoerotic asphyxiation to living life as a “deeply-closeted gay man.”
Macdonald’s opening act was long-time San Francisco comic Larry “Bubbles” Brown, best known for his two appearances on “Letterman.” Brown generated modest laughs from the audience, relying mainly on self-deprecating one-liners (“I told my doctor I wanted to die with dignity—he gave me a tie”) and jabs at the city of Hayward (“They have a sign that says ‘At least we’re not Fremont’”). Brown’s other jokes about suicide and sexual frustration were sharp and self-effacing, and his deflated delivery hilariously exaggerated the depressiveness of the material.
After Brown’s 20-minute set, Macdonald came onstage to raucous applause from the sold-out crowd. Taller and wider than one would imagine, Macdonald nervously towered over the audience, keeping the microphone in the stand and his feet firmly planted the entire show.
Macdonald began the show by commenting on his rotund gut (“I ate 50 eggs for dinner”) and continued with an absurd strain of jokes regarding his repressed homosexuality and sham marriage. Macdonald is the king of “are-they-serious-or-are-they-joking” comedy, so the crowd took a while to adjust to his enigmatic jokes. But once they did, the laughs were non-stop.
Macdonald discussed his erectile dysfunction (“There’s a lot of cramming involved”) and reflected on the fall of Bill Cosby (“My friend said the worst part about him was that he was a hypocrite … I don’t think that was the worst part”). The lighter, broader material focused on growing older and the Founding Fathers—specifically Abraham Lincoln’s futile attempt to popularize the term “score” (as in “four score and seven years”).
In addition to being wildly funny, Norm Macdonald is perhaps the most original standup comedian working today. He avoids the heavily-rehearsed, beaten-out delivery of most comics in favor of a wandering, tangential style of comedy.
Though he plans out his punchlines, Macdonald improvises his set-ups, allowing him to take his act to surreal places. Macdonald’s digressions—full of colorful language and countless metaphors—allow the tension to build to the point of uncomfortability. When he finally drops the punchline, the audience is both relieved and delirious from laughter.
Macdonald has honed this unique style throughout his career, nearly perfecting it during his time as a “Weekend Update” anchor on “SNL.” His stripped-down approach and smug delivery perfectly captured the sarcastic wit of the bit, and his personal stamp is the main reason he is considered by many to be the greatest anchor to ever deliver the fake news.
Nowadays, Macdonald can be seen hosting “Norm Macdonald Live” on YouTube, currently in its third season. Though the platform is smaller than “SNL,” the laughs are bigger than ever, as Macdonald has hilariously riffed with comedy legends like Carl Reiner, Adam Sandler and Roseanne Barr, among many, many others.
Also on YouTube are many of Macdonald’s past talk show appearances, where he can be seen joking about Hitler with David Letterman and telling long-winded jokes to Conan O’Brien.
Additionally, Macdonald just released a new book, “Based on a True Story: A Memoir,” an autobiography that is peppered with intentional inaccuracies and outlandish observations.
Whatever the platform may be, Norm Macdonald has continuously and consistently made audiences laugh for decades. But it all comes back to stand-up.
Ranked by Comedy Central as one of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time, Macdonald has long stated that his sole goal in life is to be hailed as the greatest stand-up comedian to ever live. Though it sounds like a pipe dream, it was an undeniable reality for the 400-plus people at Cobb’s Comedy Club on Saturday night.
True, there may be stand-ups as great as he is, but no one is greater than Norm Macdonald.
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