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Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special Review

Comedy is therapy, not only for performers but also for their audiences. The comedians utilize their material to unwind and reveal their deepest, darkest insecurities and depression sources, while the audience is made aware of their own deepest, darkest insecurities and depression sources. Stand-up comedy is a mutually beneficial partnership. We go to comedy clubs or pay expensive fees to see touring comedians because, ideally, they make us laugh at ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to find that moment of catharsis. In response, we provide them with — again, ideally — the validation they require for their craft.

Because this dynamic is missing in ‘Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special,’ it places it in a select group. Macdonald was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012 but kept it a secret from his family, agent, and producer Lori Jo Hoekstra. Even his closest friends and colleagues in the industry were unaware of his passing while he was still alive, as we learn later in the program when Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, and Molly Shannon appear on screen after the special to discuss arguably the most whimsical and articulate comedian of his generation.

Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special Review - ThiruttuVCD

The Netflix special was shot in the summer of 2020, not long after the COVID-19 outbreak began. When the shutdowns began, Macdonald was already hard at work on the content. He recorded the entire special in one go before going into surgery, thinking he wouldn’t be able to do it afterwards. There’s some banter between Macdonald and Hoekstra regarding the sound system at first, and then it’s just Macdonald for an hour, seldom interrupted by the barking of his dog or the ringing of his phone. However, these elements simply add to the show’s raw and unvarnished nature.

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I first saw Macdonald in Adam Sandler’s ‘Billy Madison,’ where he played Frank, one of the protagonist’s friends. It’s a silly character in a ridiculous film, but Macdonald’s performance in his debut feature left an effect. I next saw him on ‘SNL’ in one of Will Ferrell’s ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ segments. Macdonald played a loud and proud Burt Reynolds impersonation alongside Ferrell’s straight man Alex Trebek. I saw snippets of his time on Weekend Update and was hooked, line, and sinker.

Macdonald died on September 14, 2021. His swan song is ‘Nothing Special,’ which has a double meaning. It’s the concluding chapter in a remarkable resume of a comedian who has gained virtually exceptional acclaim from his peers. He was the comedian’s comedian, the one who other comics went to when they needed a laugh and some catharsis.

Due to the lack of an audience, his speech gives the impression that he is speaking to you and you alone. You’re bound to be swept up in the emotionality of the moment as you sit there — alone or with others — and watch Norm’s brilliance develop like a barely-restrained yarn of pandemonium. But, my readers, I implore you to continue reading. It’s hardly Macdonald at his best, but it’s as emotional and reflective as any of his best writing.

The concept of mortality is extensively featured in the episode, as are the flaws that Macdonald perceived in himself, ranging from gambling addiction to a mentality that frequently drove him to self-destruction. Yet, while he speaks, he has this twinkle in his eyes that makes you feel as if he is daring you to delve deep into his jokes to find what he truly meant to express. Some of his jokes are so cleverly delivered that there are numerous jokes between the setup and the punchline. In certain cases, he will use a single premise to produce many jokes.

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Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special Review - ThiruttuVCD

When Macdonald’s six pals take a nostalgic journey through time to honor him and his contributions to humor, they emphasize the project’s singularity. Letterman even asks what the reaction would have been if Macdonald had done this in front of two to three hundred people. “Killer, stand O?” he asks. It’s an intriguing question to investigate. According to some of these visitors, Macdonald had an unconventional relationship with his audience. He was not frightened of bombing and frequently delivered jokes for the sake of jokes. This fearlessness is evident in the special. It’s rivetingly witty, purposefully intricate, and heartbreakingly melancholy.

Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special Review

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