Norm MacDonald at Pabst Theater
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Years removed from the lofty perch of the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update desk and the not-so-lofty Comedy Central stand-by Dirty Work, Norm MacDonald came Friday to the Pabst Theater to be among the small minority of people that haven’t been turned off by his polarizing comedic style before now. MacDonald’s uncompromising asshole persona isn’t for everybody, but for those of us on his wavelength, the guy still kills it, even if he always doesn’t quite tie everything together.
Donning a wrinkly pair of baggy cargo pants and an oversized dress shirt—both as outdated as his mainstream appeal—MacDonald plowed through a myriad of dark, obscure, and just-plain-nonsensical topics in a freewheeling hour-long set. The disjointed collection of bits were loosely strung together by shoddy transitions, if any at all. A joke beginning on the subject of vegetarianism somehow made its way to Marilyn Monroe being a “pill-popping whore,” while also touching on his staunch anti-cannibal stance, land mines, Princess Diana, and Elton John.
At times, MacDonald seemed lost in his own off-the-cuff delivery. “What was I saying again?” he asked at one point. “Oh, whatever. It’s all the same gibberish. Fuck it.” But there were still plenty of hilarious stops within the winding routine to make the strange trip worthwhile.
He spoke of suicide (or as he called it, “extinguishing this worthless candle we call life.”), recognizing your own mortality, and how it must feel to recover blocked memories of being molested. Though the material was grim, MacDonald somehow managed to make each topic genuinely funny with seemingly stream of consciousness musings like, “If I was molested by my uncle, I think that would be the only thing I’d remember.”
Resisting any callbacks to previous work—save for a subtlety-placed “Mildred!” from Dirty Work—MacDonald ended with a story about the time he hung out in the broadcast booth with his friend and Milwaukee legend, Bob Uecker. Conjuring his best Mr. Baseball dialect, he reenacted Uecker signing autographs for fans. “Here, Norm. Sign this fucker.” Here’s MacDonald talking about Uecker on The Late Show With David Letterman.