Norm MacDonald, Saturday Night Live veteran and, according to Chevy Chase, “the best Weekend Update anchor since — well — Chevy Chase,” did a Reddit AMA last night. It was particularly hilarious, not necessarily because of his jokes, but because he dictated every answer to a Reddit staffer named Victoria, who duly recorded them verbatim “like a court reporter,” as one Redditor pointed out. So half of MacDonald’s answers read like this: “Well, here’s what I did, Victoria.” As if he’d taken the collective Reddit audience and squashed us into one human-shaped blob named Victoria.
Some of MacDonald’s answers are true, and some aren’t, which makes for interesting mental exercises. Also, many of his answers are full-on stories, so we’ve included them in their entirety. For your reading pleasure, we bring you now the 15 things we learned from Norm MacDonald.
1. Burt Reynolds not only liked Norm’s Burt Reynolds impression, but wanted to join in on the fun:
Yes, he phoned me and told me he wanted to come on the show, because I did Celebrity Jeopardy as Burt Reynolds. His idea was to come on the show, punch me in the face, replace me and then be even stupider. He talked to me on the phone, and he was even funnier in real life, he would just laugh all the time.
2. Roseanne Barr and Dave Chappelle aren’t “difficult” or “crazy” — they’re hardworking and creative:
I was just on twitter talking about Roseanne because she gave me a first job, and I thought of her and Chappelle who I have both worked with, and who have both been called “Difficult” or “crazy.” And that word crazy when it’s applied to an entertainer can torpedo their career. One time I was on a show, and I wanted to get Burt Reynolds to play my father, and the director said “You don’t want Burt Reynolds, he’s crazy.” I said “I don’t want you to be my director. I want Burt Reynolds.” So crazy just means creative. And difficult just means hardworking, and opinionated. And Roseanne was a victim to this specifically because she was a woman, which is very sad. But that’s all I was saying.
Also, he says, “Oh, Roseanne herself definitely taught me how to write.”
3. He thinks the perfect joke is one in which the setup and the punchline are identical:
Yes, the joke is “Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts were divorced today. The reason: he’s Lyle Lovett and she’s Julia Roberts.” That’s the closest one.
4. He essentially made up his favorite character, Stan Hooper, just to entertain himself:
Well, here’s what I did, Victoria. Any sketch I would write, I would call my character “Stan Hooper” and he didn’t really do anything, you know? And I would be very careful to name him Stan Hooper, and then have someone in the sketch say “Hey Stan Hooper” and one time I read a list of recurring characters and Stan Hooper was way up there. And of all the characters he had no real qualities of any kind. Just a bland empty vessel of a man.
5. Unfortunately, his show A Minute With Stan Hooper didn’t work out:
Oh. Well I thought a Minute with Stan Hooper was the best thing I ever did outside of stand up comedy. But Fox didn’t stay with the show. It was a show that was intended to turn very dark, like at the end of the first season, it was set up like a homespun show, and then at the end of the first season my wife was going to be slaughtered by the town barber that we’d come to love as a kind of a funny old fella. Anyways, turned out he was a psychosexual sadist. but they never let us get to the end. So you never got to see my plan. And I’m not saying anything against psychosexual sadists. I just think oftentimes you know, they’ll slaughter innocents and I’m no fan of that.
6. The demands of the internet might be hurting comedians:
I think the big problem with the internet when it comes to comedy is it requires too much content, and supply and demand does not work with comedy. And success goes to the ones that give the most content, but the content would be, there’ll be a precise algorithm between amounts and mediocrity of content. So that’s how I think the internet demands too much input of a comedian. And the successful ones will be the worst ones. I’m doing JASH, a video podcast, which is like a tv show that is only on the computer. And it’s about time there was a place to put tv shows other than the TV, I’ve always said!
7. He’ll answer if you call him “Turd”:
Well, let me answer this by asking a question: when I was on SNL, I played Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy. One time, he (being me, playing he) refused to be called “Burt Reynolds” because he had changed his name to “Turd Ferguson.” So Alex Trebec[sic] had to call him “Turd Ferguson” that became a little cult thing. So one time, i was in a very crowded street, and the street was 5th Avenue, which you know, at lunchtime how crowded it was, and there were hundreds of people watching as a gentleman yelled at me “HEY TURD!” and I said “Thank you! Thank you!” And I always wondered what sort of relationship those people thought me and that fellow had.
8. He’d be glad to take over Craig Ferguson’s show: This is an interesting number of questions, Victoria. Who was it that said: If nominated, I will not run, if Elected, I will not serve? Whoever it was, they were an idiot. If nominated, I will run, and if elected, I will serve. But as we know, television is not a democracy but an oligarchy. They don’t hire a lot of guys who run around saying oligarchy. Many times a boss will call me and say “I’ll have to let you go” and I’ll say “Why” and they’ll say “Well you sell more than everybody else at the plant, but you’ve been saying Oligarchy in the break room too much at lunch. In fact the suggestion box is filled with pieces of paper that complain about that.” And I’ll say “well sir, Oligarchy, holy fuck” and then I know it’s time to pack up my duffle bag and hit the lonely road. 9. And his first guest would be a politician: Well, if I ever got any talk show on any network, the first thing I would do, the first guest I would get is one of those politicians up from Washington Way. And I often say, Victoria, that we could solve our energy crisis by getting the hot air to come out of Washington and bottle that somehow! ANYWAYS, I’d get that politician on a tv show beside me, and I’d start skewering. And finally I’d puncture that blowhard until he popped like a balloon. 10. His “joke” about Bill Cosby calling his dad wasn’t actually a joke: Oh yes, that wasn’t a joke, but what happened, Victoria, was, I opened for Bill Cosby. I told him my dad was a big fan. He said he would have my dad backstage when he went to Ottawa where my dad lives. But my dad has been dead for 15 years. So he asks me for my dad’s phone number, and i Just write some numbers down on a piece of paper. He was such a nice guy, I didn’t want to say he was dead. So I did hear from Cosby after that, because Cosby is so nice, I told that story one time on Letterman and the next day at SNL I received like 200 things of flowers, and then about 2 weeks later I found on one flower way in the back a little card and it was from Bill Cosby and it said “I’m sorry to inform you from this, but your dad is long since dead.” He was very funny and nice also. 11. He likes reading Karl Ove Knausgaard because My Struggle is “an unflinching look into mortality,” which he likes to do: Well, I’m reading this norwegian guy and I can’t remember his goddamn name. I’m trying to remember! I know what it’s called, the book is called My Struggle. By Karl Ove Knausgaard. No wonder I couldn’t remember it. The title is even very daring, but it’s an unflinching look into mortality, which I like to do. I like to look into mortality, in an unflinching manner. Some days, I’ll flinch. Some days I’ll be honest with you Victoria, I’ll stare into my own mortality in that abyss. I’ll flinch. But I can’t say the same for Horgalveyeysbadlobad. I’m sure he flinches too, but he writes it down and pretends he’s not flinching. Because that’s what I did when I was writing my book. 12. He has some timeless advice about storytelling: Well, I know how you DON’T tell a story saying the ending part first, because that’s what my mother does all the time, and that’s what people sometimes do in the audience, where they’ll yell out “DO the joke where the thing at the end happens?!” You know how they always say a story has to have a beginning, middle and an end? Well, I find that if you have a beginning and an end, you don’t really need a middle. Why waste time with a middle? Who ever goes “You know what part of the movie I liked? The middle.. That long part between the beginning and the end.” That is no one’s favorite part. Although I worked on the Middle and it was a fine show And just because the other person is silent, don’t forget to stop your story. 13. His next book will be a children’s book, and may or may not be self-published: I finished writing my book, and I started writing another book, because I think I like writing books. I’m writing a children’s book, Victoria, and it’s about a boy, you know how all little children are different? You know how the beautiful thing is about little children are all being different? Well this is about a little boy who is the same. That’s what the book’s about. And I think there’s a bidding war right now, but I believe it will be either Harper Collins or self-published. So down to us two. 14. He played it cool when he met Bob Dylan: But I MET Bob Dylan, that’s the interesting part. It was pretty amazing, because I did not expect this. But I went to LA, I was living in Toronto, to do an audition for the Joan Rivers show way back when, and I was walking down the street all nervous in front of the world famous Comedy Store, I kept walking and walking because I showed up three hours early, and so anyways, a car came by and then stopped, and Bob Dylan asked me for a light (because I was smoking a cigarette). I lit his cigarette, and said “here you go buddy” pretending I didn’t know who he was like an idiot, I thought it would be cool, I didn’t say anything of interest to him, and then I had to go back to this ridiculous Joan Rivers audition. 15. Chris Farley was funnier than John Belushi, but never knew it: Oh yes, my favorite memory of the movie was Chris Farley, because we had him play a guy whose nose was bit off by a Saigon whore. So he did all the scenes with no nose, and he would improvise all his dialogue, he would ask first if it was alright, and I would say “sure,” because he was just the funniest guy ever. It was really sad with Chris because he would always say he wanted to be as funny as John Belushi, and I would say that he funnier than John Belushi, but he never knew how funny he was. Sad.