Netflix has packaged Macdonald’s performance, which is over 50 minutes long and includes a half-hour discussion with six of his friends: Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Conan O’Brien and Molly Shannon, who spend another A 30-minute or so reminiscing about him, while deconstructing what the audience just saw.
Chappelle called the stark set-up “extremely endearing,” while Letterman noted that without an audience responding to the material, “we’re not watching a stand-up comedy. You can’t get the full specification without an audience.”
What you get is a clear reminder of MacDonald’s eccentric sense of humor as he jumps from topic to topic, makes the occasional bizarre digression, and endures the kind of distractions that are common in work experience during Covid, From his dog barking to answering a question and calling to say sorry, but he’s recording a comedy special.
While Macdonald knew his time might be short, there was nothing morbid or sentimental about the presentation, it was actually training a camera in his face to rip him apart. The comic does mention living wills and a few other things related to death, but that has nothing to do with his penchant for gambling in Native American casinos (“I see it as a form of reparation”) or strategizing if he crashes in the Andes will eat people on the plane.
Beyond that, MacDonald’s performance and subsequent dialogue/analysis (recorded at Netflix’s recent Netflix Is a Joke comedy showcase) benefited from the effortless quality of taking viewers behind the scenes where they could listen to the comic process and idea.
No matter how people respond to jokes, there is always something sweeter than sadness. MacDonald was gone, but he was able to arrange his own curtain call, saying goodbye with the help of friends.
“Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special” will premiere on Netflix on May 30.