The Complicated Legacy of Norm Macdonald

The information of Norm Macdonald’s dying caught everybody off guard—the legendary Saturday Evening Stay comic had been privately battling most cancers for the previous 9 years.

An outpouring of tributes adopted from comedians and followers alike, sharing anecdotes and reminiscing about their favorite Macdonald bits. However as many within the trade had been mourning Macdonald’s passing, some ladies had been bracing themselves, for they too had a narrative to share about Macdonald.

To many, Macdonald is taken into account a part of the previous guard of stand-up comedy. His cracks got here quick and surprising, typically met with delayed laughter from the viewers as they tried to maintain up with him. He was a comic book’s comedian, identified for his deadpan supply and oft-rambling storytelling.

And he by no means shied away from ruffling feathers; if he thought it was humorous, he would say it, those that could also be offended be damned. Working example: his firing from SNL in 1998 was reportedly as a result of he wouldn’t let up on O.J. Simpson, who occurred to be a detailed good friend of NBC government Don Ohlmeyer.

However whereas Macdonald was being memorialized, many glossed over a few of his not-so-funny faults, save Slate. Maybe probably the most dumbfounding items was an opinion column that ran in The New York Times that lauded Macdonald’s comedy for being “quite Christian,” as a result of he admitted he was anti-abortion and pushed again on one other comic’s quip that in contrast the Bible to the Harry Potter books.

But Macdonald made quite a lot of transphobic remarks, together with that Brandon Teena “deserved to die”; frequently dismissed and disparaged ladies, each on stage and off; voiced his disdain for the #MeToo motion; and caught up for comedy buddies who had been accused of sexual harassment.

In 2018, he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and griped about the #MeToo movement. “I’m joyful the MeToo motion has slowed down just a little bit,” he mentioned. “It was once, ‘100 ladies can’t be mendacity.’ After which it turned, ‘One girl can’t lie.’ And that turned, ‘I imagine all ladies.’ And then you definately’re like, ‘What?’”

In that very same interview, he expressed sympathy for his associates Roseanne Barr and Louis C.Okay., the latter of whom had admitted to sexual misconduct in 2017 after five women came forward with accusations against him, together with that he would masturbate in entrance of them. Barr’s reboot of Roseanne was canceled by ABC in 2018 after she went on an incredibly racist Twitter rant about former President Barack Obama’s ex-adviser Valerie Jarrett, evaluating her to an ape.

As one girl who labored with Macdonald throughout his time as a decide on Final Comedian Standing in 2015 framed it to The Every day Beast, “If he’s comedy’s sweetheart, then that could be a scathing indictment of the comedy scene, not a praise to Norm.”

It was at all times laborious to pin down precisely the place Macdonald stood; if he was telling the reality, exaggerating a narrative to spin it right into a half-truth, or flat-out mendacity. As Slate’s Lili Loofbourow factors out, even his personal “memoir” Primarily based on a True Story wasn’t absolutely correct. He wrote that he selected the title “as a result of it involves me that there’s no method of telling a real story. I imply a very true one, due to reminiscence. It’s simply no good.”

Michael S. Schwartz/Getty

It wasn’t solely Macdonald’s jokes that appeared to blur the road of fiction and actuality. Many followers paying tribute to him famous, in frat-bro adulation, how Macdonald appeared drunk whereas performing, praising him for touchdown his jokes regardless of how impaired he gave the impression to be. But Macdonald didn’t drink, or at least that’s what he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015.

“I’ve by no means drank, no,” he mentioned. “However folks suppose I’m drunk on a regular basis as a result of for some motive my voice is all slurry, and after I’m speaking onstage, I’m considering quite a bit… Once they ask what I’m consuming and I inform them I’m not, they both don’t imagine me or they’re very upset… However I don’t drink or do any medicine. I suppose I’m simply naturally lazy and incoherent.”

Nonetheless, he leaned into this notion, admitting he would down booze-free photographs to impress his crowd, particularly if he was bombing. In that very same interview, unprompted, Macdonald admitted he typically pretended to be drunk to get away with groping ladies.

“I’d be in a bar and for some motive whenever you’re drunk, women will put up with it should you attempt to grope them or no matter,” he bragged. “(In a high-pitched voice) ‘What are you doing? Ha-ha.’ In case you’re sober, they’re like, ‘Hey! Simply what do you suppose you’re doing?’ So, I’d simply garble my phrases. I’ve used being a drunk to my benefit many occasions.”

It was these obtrusive omissions of Macdonald’s personal feedback that struck a nerve with quite a few ladies who came forward on Twitter to claim it wasn’t just another joke—that Macdonald had a reputation of harassing female comedians and comedy club waitresses.

One girl, who The Every day Beast is figuring out as Molly, claims when she requested Macdonald for a photograph after a present in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he shoved his hand down the again of her pants and groped her behind. Molly later uploaded the picture to Fb with the caption, “Molestation going down at this second.”


One other girl, who labored as a waitress at Portland’s Helium Comedy Membership and who The Every day Beast is figuring out as Sofia, says she was serving Macdonald within the inexperienced room when he abruptly backed her up towards the wall, put his arms in her hair, and yanked her head again, as if he was going to kiss her, leaving her shaken and terrified.

Macdonald’s conduct was additionally no secret to comedy golf equipment’ administration, in response to sources. Sofia says The Helium Membership carried out insurance policies about who might serve Macdonald within the inexperienced room when he carried out, whereas Cap Metropolis in Austin shunned reserving him after he allegedly made fellow performing feminine comedians and the venue’s wait workers uncomfortable.

The Every day Beast reached out to Macdonald’s crew for remark. The Every day Beast additionally reached out to Cap Metropolis for remark a number of occasions however didn’t obtain a response again. Wealthy Miller, who oversaw reserving at Helium Comedy Membership and now Cap Metropolis, declined to remark for this story.

Sadly, however not unexpectedly, the ladies who voiced their experiences, and even those that merely reshared their posts, had been dogpiled on. They had been branded liars, subjected to trolls who made disgusting feedback about their appearances, and finally questioned as to why they’d dare tamper with Macdonald’s legacy after his dying.

For Molly, she questions why so many individuals are keen to guard his fame, trying previous a few of his unsettling feedback, when she believes Macdonald didn’t maintain his legacy in an excessive amount of esteem within the first place.

“This isn’t me messing up his legacy,” says Molly. “This was one thing he owned; that is one thing he did to me. He didn’t cover this—he bragged about it. I’m not messing together with his legacy. I’m backing up his personal claims that he didn’t care.”

This was one thing he owned; that is one thing he did to me. He didn’t cover this—he bragged about it. I’m not messing together with his legacy. I’m backing up his personal claims that he didn’t care.

“I walked as much as him, I mentioned, ‘You might be my favourite comic, after I was a child, I beloved the film Soiled Work. I noticed it within the theater 10 occasions.’ He didn’t care about his legacy, as a result of he appeared an individual within the eye who would have carried on his legacy, confirmed these films to their youngsters once they had been older, laughed with him, and stored the issues he labored for current in folks’s thoughts—he simply stomped on it for a momentary satisfaction of his impulses,” Molly provides.

“He didn’t care about his legacy, he didn’t care about me, he didn’t care about something however what he wished. So, I don’t know what I’m speculated to care about with regards to him.”

Sofia claims that Macdonald gave the impression to be drunk when she was working as a waitress at The Helium Membership within the fall of 2011, whereas Macdonald was performing on the membership with Kevin Farley—the brother of the late comic Chris Farley.

“He at all times acted like he was drunk, he was a reasonably bizarre man,” Sofia recollects. “I went in [to the green room] to see in the event that they wanted something. [Macdonald] backed me up towards the wall and put his arms in my hair and pulled my head again, like he was gonna kiss me. It was actually terrifying… I don’t even keep in mind how I really received out of there. I feel I blocked it out or no matter. I didn’t know what they had been gonna do to me. Kevin had a bizarre look on his face, so I don’t know if he was in shock at what Norm was doing.” (The Every day Beast reached out to Kevin Farley for remark.)

Others are wrestling with their emotions about Macdonald, together with fellow comic Nancy Norton, who makes use of she/they pronouns, and shared a telling anecdote about Macdonald and the way he “personally offended” them after a very “magical” efficiency.

“He took the stage [and] he requested the viewers, ‘yeah, you preferred Nancy? Yeah, I’ll let you know who else preferred Nancy, my laborious cock. Yeah, my laborious cock actually preferred Nancy,’” Norton wrote. “True to his authentic fashion, he repeated this time and again and over with completely different phrasing for like what appeared a number of minutes. God, I felt humiliated and decreased, however I didn’t say something to him.”


Norton tells The Every day Beast that Macdonald attempting to scale back them on stage after that they had such a profitable set made them really feel “like shit.” So, when Norton lastly noticed Macdonald once more a number of years later, they approached him concerning the remark and mentioned how uncomfortable it made them really feel.

“Norm merely replied, ‘Yeah, that feels like one thing I might do.’ Properly, one way or the other that acknowledgment helped clear that wound and never take it personally. Properly, that and watching him bomb his ass off for repeatedly calling youngsters r*******. (That was how nervy he was, in entrance of an viewers full of oldsters and associates of youngsters with mind most cancers.) He bombed so laborious a person within the viewers lastly yelled, ‘Depart!’”

Norton says they grappled with whether or not to put up their story, as a result of they don’t essentially agree with “cancel tradition,” however suppose there needs to be a dialogue opened up. Plus, they imagine as comedians, the “precedence is to talk the unspeakable reality typically,” and possibly that was Macdonald’s uncensored and uncooked view that “ladies are simply one thing for his cock.”

“I don’t just like the tokenism or like [to say] that’s all on Norm,” Norton explains. “It’s not all on Norm. He was the voice, and he had the braveness to be the voice of the possibly unpopular. Is he simply the voice of the patriarchy?”

A recurring theme of Macdonald’s jokes concerned dismissing ladies—how they’ll’t do math, can’t drive, and whereas on SNL, he was particularly vicious towards Madonna. In reality, a Macdonald fan account uploaded an almost 20-minute video merely titled “Sexist Jokes Compilation” in 2019. Macdonald additionally wasn’t keen on too many feminine comics, though he had gentle spots for Barr and Sarah Silverman, one of the few female comedians who paid tribute to him after his passing.

It was his therapy of girls that altered the point of view of a longtime fan who labored on the set of Final Comedian Standing when Macdonald served as a decide in 2015. “In case you say, ‘Norm Macdonald,’ I feel, ‘Hates ladies,’” she explains. “Will not be his complete particular person, however that was my takeaway from Final Comedian Standing.”

“Norm was simply extraordinarily disappointing, unfunny, and uneven in his temperament towards comedians, and themes emerged—he was particularly hostile and degrading towards youthful ladies and different comics,” she says. “His critiques of male comics can be about their comedy, however he would get very private and condescending to the ladies, whose units can be equivalent to ones he simply praised.”

For Molly, she says that Macdonald has been lifeless to her for the reason that incident on the theater greater than 10 years in the past. “I couldn’t watch him on TV anymore,” she says. “I really feel sick each time I see him and simply realizing there’s a whole lot of girls [who] really feel that method, I’ll positively say one thing as a result of that’s when folks cease questioning you or telling you that you just’re mendacity, is when ladies in unison say the identical factor.” | The Difficult Legacy of Norm Macdonald


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