Norman Gene Macdonald is a Canadian stand-up comedian, writer, producer and actor. He is known for his five seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, which included anchoring Weekend Update for three years.
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Why am I doing this today? So you’ll listen to this new podcast called Edge of Fame with /u/washingtonpost. The first episode follows me to The Tonight Show, a gig and an important time I was shaving.
Oh. And there are other episodes of Edge of Fame coming up with David Letterman, Ava DuVernay and Weird Al. We’ll get started at noon ET, 9 a.m. Pacific Time.
EDIT: I'm all done for today. Thanks to Gene of u/washingtonpost for setting this up. Listen to my podcast episode above and thanks for the questions!
EDIT 2: Edit: Also a thanks to the folks at the new reddit/WBUR podcast /u/Endless_Thread, who helped get the word out about this AMA today!"
What are your favorite fruits and vegetables?
I guess Richard Simmons and Terri Schiavo, I'm now using Bob Hope's old writers.
All your fans love your podcast. David Letterman, your hero, loves your podcast. Everyone seems to love your podcast. Why do you seem so embarrassed by it, or like you hate doing it?
I did my podcast in order to see if I could host a talk show. And I think I succeeded and have now been offered a talk show by Netflix. All the podcasts were rehearsals.
EDIT: To be clear, I'm only in negotiations. There's no show yet.
Norm, have you ever listened to your farts, I mean really listened to them, to see if you can hear words within them that could serve as a warning of something horrific to come?
I literally just went over and shit on every desk in my office. I think they're gonna fire me :(. Thanks Norm Macdonald.
You are my people!
Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas exist outside of man. And drift into one's consciousness if one allows it. None of these ideas are mine, I only take them from the ether and put them back out in a more solid form.
Norm, what is your opinion of Gene who works at The Washington Post?
He's the greatest.
What’s your favorite line to say in Mike Tyson’s Mysteries?
I like the cursing that makes no sense and interjects itself, like "cock motherfucking son of a cunt bitch."
at what point in your life/career did you realize you were not everyday person level funny, but comedian level funny?
I thought I was comedian level funny during my first year of comedy. Five years I realized I wasn't actually that level of funny. But five years after that I realized I was comedian level funny. So 10 years into my standup.
How close were you to becoming a late night show host?
Razor thin close.
Do you celebrate Canadian or American Thanksgiving?
haha Canadians have a tendency to steal American holidays and make them before the American holidays. It's very a very cunning form of fest that only Canadians can pull off.
Which comedian makes you laugh the most?
Of all time, Richard Pryor. At this moment, Brian Regan.
Norm to what (if any) extent do you portray a persona whether that be on stage or in various interviews?
I've often seen interviews where the hosts seem shocked at some of your answers such as saying you don't participate in sex because you find it boring or your love for Russian literature etc.
I tend to take it at face value because you seem sincere when talking about these things - so, am I the idiot for believing you or are others the idiots for not?
No I'm absolutely sincere.
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Due to multiple herniated discs, my pain level on a normal day is through the roof.
Hey norm. Big fan. Do you have any plans to do the Joe Rogan podcast? I would love to see you on.
I will do that.
What are you reading right now? Do you have any thoughts on Thomas Pynchon?
I'm reading "Search for Lost Time" by Marcel Proust.
I find Pynchon to be the most knowing writer of our time.
Do you have more fun performing stand-up or hosting your talk show?
I have more fun hosting my talk show because I've already perfected standup.
Norm, I love your book and loved the audiobook version the most. Is there any chance of the TV or movie adaptation happening?
Also, how's a fella go about getting you to sign his copy of your book at one of your shows?
(please come back to Jersey or Philly soon)
Yes, a movie adaptation is worked on as we speak. You could send the book to Mark Gurvitz at Brillstein Grey and I'll sign it for you.
Which four comedians would be on your "Mount Rushmore" of stand up comedy?
Richard Pryor, me, Steve Martin, Brian Regan.
Will there be a Dirty Work 2?
There are people who want to make it but I've yet to make up my mind.
What is the most profound piece of life advice has a random stranger ever given you?
A person once said to me that the homeless never get touched and that without human touch, the mind veers toward madness. So the homeless people I approach, I always give my money to, whatever it is I have, and I always hug them or touch them.
Did you do your amazing Burt Reynolds impression before SNL? Also do you have any stories from celebrity jeopardy that we might not know about?
I did do Burt Reynolds and that's why I created celebrity Jeopardy so I could do my Burt Reynolds. No one ever mentioned that I played Burt Reynolds as a 35 year old.
Did you ever carry around a tape recorder to take your 'notes to self' in real life?
Yes I do. I'm constantly talking to my phone. Whenever an idea occurs. Sometimes I don't say enough. I'll dictate "large coffee cup" and have no idea of what I thought was funny about that subject.
How do you build the perfect taco?
You start with a Mexican guy and you pay him a $1.35.
What's your favorite Phil Hartman memory?
He returned to host the show when I was a cast member. And I did a character that pinched girls's asses, and said "YOU LOVE IT." And he's a great fan of it and thought it was going to be a huge character. And then it didn't get past dress rehearsal. And he said, "That's showbiz."
What is the best and worst part of doing stand up comedy?
The best part is standing on the stage with your comedy being able to turn a passive audience into an unruly mob. The worst part of standup comedy is the insane pressure on the spine and lower back from standing up for so many hundreds of hours.
Do you still talk to Dennis Miller? I loved your appearances on his shows, and would love to see him appear on NML.
Yes I love Dennis Miller. Dennis gave me my first job for which I will be forever indebted. He's been kind to me since and I would love to have him on the podcast.
Back in August you said you'd been invited to meet with the world's greatest novelist. My friend thinks that means Cormac McCarthy or Thomas Pynchon. Me, I go with Rosie O'Donnell. Can you tell us who you met, and if they enjoyed your book?
I'm not allowed to say. But it was one of the first two. And they invited me to discuss my book. Yes he liked it very much but had critical things to say that will help me out in future books. It was a very kind gesture.
Do you have a favorite story of messing with a talk show host?
I've never messed with a talk show host. I'm just trying to make my segment as spontaneous and interesting as I saw talk show guests be when I was a boy.
Did you enjoy making Stephen Merchant so uncomfortable?
I was told later that Stephen was uncomfortable but I didn't mean to. The conversation just flowed to British children's entertainers being largely pedophiles and I don't know why Stephen Merchant was tiptoeing around it.
What's your elevator pitch for the story of humanity?
Imagine a woman in a sports car, impossibly beautiful, speeding down a winding road and looking out her window at a man who is skiing down a mountaintop. And then the man comes to a stop, snow flies from his feet. The two lock eyes. And both know each will be the other's entire. And the car speeds off.
What are you wearing?
Sorry, I meant wat r u waring?
I'm wearing sweatpants, and a T-shirt with beef stew spilled all over it. I had some beef stew for breakfast.
Hey Mr. Norm, this mystery has been keeping me up for years now...
What is your favorite cereal?
Count Chocula. The least-respected, least-feared of all vampires.
Norm, I love you. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
The greatest comedic novels (Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, Pale Fire, Based on a True Story) all make heavy use of metafictional elements. I'm leaving out A Confederacy of Dunces because I hated that book. Anyway, were you consciously drawing upon that tradition in BoaTS? Or did the story you wanted to tell naturally take you in the direction of metafiction? I ask because you have claimed to hate meta.
I love all those books. I do hate meta but I was forced into by the scriptures of convention. I was hired to write a memoir, but secretly wrote a novel so I had to use the techniques of meta to mask it. I did it so well the New York Times called it a nonfiction.
White or whole wheat bread?
In this day of political correctness, I suppose I should say nine grain.
But I won't. It's white bread.
What are your thoughts about separating artists work from their behavior? Specifically in cases of comedians like Bill Cosby and Louis C.K.
I separate their work completely from their transgressions. Everything about their work is extraordinary. Everything about their transgressions is utterly ordinary.
Would you ever consider doing a sports show again?
That show was awesome!
I would consider commentating golf which I think I can do better than anyone except Jim Nantz
Normy Normy Normy!
Any chance you'll invite Conan to your podcast.?
Your book is phenomenal, and loved the audio narration. Stay amazing sire.
What will be your pseudonym for your novel?
haha you clearly don't understand the nature of pseudonyms but I will publicize the book under a thick disguise.
Big fan, Norm! Aside from your own book, what are a few personal favorite books of yours that you recommend like-minded individuals read? I'm looking to have my perspectives SHIFTED.
The two greatest living writers are Cormac McCarthy and Alice Munro, so I would suggest a collection of Alice Munro short stories and McCarthey's masterpiece "The Road." My personal favorites are "War and Peace" and "The Death of Ivan Ilych" both by Tolstoy.
In the podcast Geoff Edgers said you take a pill for anxiety, but didn't state what causes your anxiety. Was it wrong for him to mention that?
Oh no. I suffered from panic attacks. Panic attacks as opposed to anxiety attacks are a feeling of impending doom. When one strikes you, you're paralyzed. One struck me directly before I had to do Weekend Update, and I understood I needed help. My doctor prescribed klonopin and advised me to take half a pill before any performance.
Hi Norm Macdonald and Gene at The Washington Post. Norm, did anyone ever tell you that you look like you're related to Bruce Campbell? Gene, has anyone told Norm that he looks like he's related to Bruce Campbell?
I presume one person has but none before this morning.
Who do you think does the best impression of you?
I don't like any impressions of me but since Jimmy Fallon is the best impersonator I've ever met, when he does it I must believe that that's what I sound like.
Are you still playing poker? Any favorite games / locations?
I play a high limit stud at Hollywood Park and in Vegas at the Aria.
What is life's purpose?
Well, it depends on your view I suppose but it's been my experience is that life's purpose is to suffer. To abide the inevitable pain and to bear it in a noble way.
What does Bob Saget smell like?
I will say about Bob Saget that he's so recognized it's amazing. And people come up to him and say "You're Bob Saget." And he says "thank you." I guess that's what fame is.