Saturday, October 8, 2016

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: sort of a book review

My favorite comedian for years, Norm Macdonald, is making the media rounds for his "memoir." That's in quotes because it's titled "Based On A True Story," and it's basically a novel loosely based on his life. I read it in three days - and that's only because I was busy and couldn't finish it in one sitting (and setting, since I read it in the same place).

It's amazing. If you like Norm Macdonald, you will love this book. If you love interesting stories, you'll love it. It's so weird. I don't know how to describe it. It tells his life story between parts from the present where he's making a trip to Las Vegas. He's a notorious gambler. Or, was. Maybe.

The reason it's a novel based on his life, as opposed to an actual autobiography, is because so much of it is made up. The part in the present isn't real; the trip to Vegas with "my trusty sidekick" Adam Eget (and co-host of his amazing YouTube podcast) is totally made up.

The parts about his life... Ummmm... I'm not sure what to believe. This is where "based on a true story" comes into play. He was one of the few hired on Saturday Night Live who didn't actually audition. But, Norm likely did not actually get his SNL job by becoming the morphine hookup of Lorne Michaels. And while he likely did have a crush on Sarah Silverman - because who doesn't? - he probably didn't attempt to hire a hitman to kill Dave Attell because she was dating him.

He has said that the first chapter was true - the reason why he decided to write the book. His manager called and woke him up in a hotel room to say that somebody hacked his Wikipedia page and said that he was dead. It said he died in a hotel room. He looked around his hotel room, to the lady asleep in his bed whose name he didn't remember, to the empty liquor bottles ("such tiny bottles that made me feel so big") and realized that the hacker wasn't so far off.

And the parts about his childhood, if true, are so sad and heartbreaking. If it's just "based on a true story," then it's great narrative writing. Norm didn't use a ghostwriter. It has a "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" vibe to it, if that's your thing.

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The clip above is Norm on Conan's TBS show. As are all of his appearances on any late-night talk show, it's hilarious. He's best in an environment where he can riff and say random stories. And, that's the case here. Conan is a comedy writer at heart; he wrote for The Simpsons and SNL before getting a talk show - so he knows how to interact with Norm when he's "in character" and they work well together.

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