As a comedian, Norm Macdonald is the ideal candidate to headline a festival. He’s honest and fearless, has a unique perspective, and exudes hilarity. As a pitchperson, though, you could find better.
When the startup Northwest Podcast Fest invited the 50-year-old Canadian to bring his vehicle, Norm Macdonald Live, to the festivities, he couldn’t even wrap his head around such an idea.
“They wanted me to do the podcast and I’m like, ‘I think it would be a gyp,’” he said on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I know some people tape their podcast on the road and stuff, but it seems like it would be very hit-and-miss to charge people. Then I’d also have to find a guest. It seemed like an awful lot of work. I’d be really nervous that nothing would happen.”
Instead, Macdonald will be the only performer at the festival doing straight-up standup. Either way it’s a win, though. His video podcast (also available in just audio format) is one of the most consistently enjoyable passive endeavours on the web. He’s released two seasons’ worth of shows, all 25 episodes in the traditional talk-show format, complete with big-name guest and bumbling sidekick (Adam Eget is his Ed McMahon), only sans fans.
“When we do our stupid little podcast, it’s way more fun without an audience,” he says.
His producers were toying with the idea of charging two bucks per program, but Macdonald is a man of the people. He thinks the idea is “ridiculous”. Ditto soliciting donations “like you’re a communist or something”. So it will remain free for all.
The show is on one of its occasional hiatuses, leaving fans wondering if it’s ever coming back. It is, but not for a few more months, when Macdonald has wound down his standup commitments. The last episode, featuring nonagenarian entertainer Jack Carter, aired in early August.
If you’re getting the sense Macdonald just talks to geezers, you’re not far off. He has young guests, too, but he much prefers the older ones.
“They wanted young guys, so they got this guy from The Big Bang Theory,” he says of actor Simon Helberg. “He was nice enough but completely uninteresting. And then no one watched it! Like, no one cared. My idea was to get guys as old as possible, like before they died. Because I find those old guys will say anything because they’re not in show business anymore.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop Macdonald, who says pretty much whatever the hell he feels like. He never goes for the obvious, no matter what the masses are saying.
While other comics use Rob Ford as a punching bag, Macdonald took to Twitter last week in support of the ailing Toronto mayor. In a series of mawkish tweets, the former SNL news anchor wrote, seemingly unironically, such inspiring words as “I love you, @TOMayorFord, and you will be in my prayers until you are fully recovered and sit in City Council. God is with you, sir.”
See, you never know what you’re going to get with Macdonald. And you never know just how much of what he says he believes. But one thing is certain: he’s much funnier on-stage than in the Twittersphere.
Norm Macdonald headlines the Northwest Podcast Fest at the Vogue Theatre on Saturday (October 4).