Because I was a big Norm MacDonald fan as a kid – his Burt Reynolds and Weekend Update were my favorite parts of SNL, before he got fired and the show became unwatchable – I’ve attempted to avoid seeing anything else he’s been in, since everything – aside from a fantastic cameo in Billy Madison – has been panned.
I just watched an episode of The Norm Show, from 2000, in which MacDonald plays Norm Henderson, an ex-hockey player, kicked out of the NHL for gambling, who becomes a social worker – an inherently comedic situation because Norm Henderson is such a selfish jackass. It’s typical sitcom mediocrity, and MacDonald’s performance seems uncomfortably forced, except in occasional moments when a dry, caustic, real Norm MacDonald joke comes through.
Anyway, having virtually no exposure to MacDonald since I was twelve, upon hearing about Norm MacDonald Presents the Fake News, I was curious to see if my partiality to his comedy would persist ten years later. I was predictably disappointed. Maybe it’s because my tastes have changed or Norm just wasn’t funny in the first place, but The Fake News, which is up to episode 40 on Super Deluxe, resembles SNL’s Weekend Update only in style – all of the jokes fall flat.
###I watched a handful of episodes (on the presidency, campaign trail, economy, etc.) and barely cracked a smile. MacDonald’s delivery, marked by his stuttering, hesitation and mumbling, does not come through in the extra-crisp computer generated animation, and his use of O. J. Simpson jokes and non sequiturs is woefully outdated, stuck in early 90s when I was almost pubescent and MacDonald was funny. And his avatar looks nothing like him, though the moustache is kinda hysterical.
By all reports, MacDonald is a generally unlikable guy, which may be manifest in his propensity to make unfunny jokes with uncertain political overtones in interviews and on television. Still, people liked his comedy, and many of the quips made by or about MacDonald toward the end of his SNL career worked because of his misanthropic personality. It’s a shame they don’t have the same effect a decade later nor translate to slick cartoons.
I would like to remember MacDonald fondly and The Fake News provides no vindication for the comedian’s career. But fortunately, through the magic of Hulu, he still has a fan club and he can still make me smile.