Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special Review: A Comedy Legend’s Swan Song – Not only for the comedians but also for the audience, comedy is a form of therapy. The comedians utilise their material to relax and express their deepest, darkest anxieties and sources of sadness, while the audience becomes aware of their own deepest, darkest insecurities and sources of despair.
Stand-up comedy is a mutually beneficial partnership. We go to comedy clubs or pay extravagant fees to see travelling comedians in the hopes that they will make us laugh at ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to experience catharsis. As a result, we provide—again, ideally—the validation they require for their work.
— IGN (@IGN) May 13, 2022
‘Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special‘ is in a league of its own because this dynamic is missing. In 2012, Macdonald was diagnosed with leukaemia, but he kept it a secret from his family, agency, 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 show 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.
The Netflix special was shot in the summer of 2020, not long after the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. When the shutdowns began, Macdonald was already hard at work on the content. Fearing that he wouldn’t be able to do so later, he taped the entire special in one go before undergoing treatment.
There’s a bit of banter between Macdonald and Hoekstra regarding the sound system at first, but then it’s just Macdonald for an hour, with only the barking of his dog and the ringing of his phone interrupting him. However, these elements simply add to the show’s raw and unvarnished nature.
I first saw Macdonald in Adam Sandler’s ‘Billy Madison,’ where he played Frank, one of the protagonist’s buddies. Although it’s a stupid character in an equally ridiculous picture, Macdonald’s performance in his first film left an effect. I saw him again on ‘SNL‘ in one of Will Ferrell’s ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ segments.
In contrast to Ferrell’s straight man, Alex Trebek, Macdonald played a loud and boastful impersonation of Burt Reynolds. I had to catch a glimpse of his time on Weekend Update, and I was hooked hook, line, and sinker.
On September 14, 2021, Macdonald died. His swan song is ‘Nothing Special,’ which has a double meaning. It’s the last entry in a long list of accomplishments for a comedian who has earned an almost unbelievable level of respect from his peers. He was the comedian of comedians, the one whom other comedians turned to for laughs and catharsis.
Due to the lack of an audience, his speech gives the impression that he is speaking directly to you. You’re sure to be swept up in the emotionality of the moment as you sit there — alone or with others — watching Norm’s brilliance develop like a barely-restrained yarn of mayhem. But, my readers, I implore you to continue reading. It’s not Macdonald’s best work, but it’s still as moving and reflective as any of his others.
The show emphasises Macdonald’s perceptions of his flaws, which range from gambling addiction to a worldview that led him toward self-destruction. Yet, when he speaks, he has a glint in his eyes that makes you feel as if he’s pushing you to delve deeper into his jokes to discover what he’s actually trying to express.
Between the setup and the punchline, he delivers some of the jokes in such a brilliant way that there are numerous more jokes. He also uses a single premise to produce many jokes in other circumstances.
When Macdonald’s six friends take a nostalgic journey down memory lane to honour him and his contributions to comedy, they don’t miss an opportunity to emphasise the project’s uniqueness. Letterman even goes on to question the audience about what they think the reaction would have been if Macdonald had done this in front of two to three hundred people. He inquires, “Killer, stand O?” It’s an intriguing question to investigate.
According to the accounts of some of these guests, Macdonald had an unusual rapport with his audience. He was not scared to tell a joke just for the pleasure of telling it. In the special, this bravery shines through. It’s engrossingly witty, purposefully intricate, and heartbreakingly melancholy.