DID YOU READ

Review: “Norm Macdonald Live”

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No one will ever accuse Norm Macdonald of “selling out.” He does not quite play well with others — he never got along, for instance, with “Saturday Night Live” castmate Chris Kattan. His takedown of Courtney Thorne-Smith on Conan is classic Norm Macdonald: unwarranted, bloodthirsty, wholly inappropriate and, one cannot fail to note, pretty damned funny. Norm was and is fearless, even blasting his corporate masters at NBC on their own airwaves. But it was his feud with Don Ohlmeyer, then-president of NBC’s West Coast division, that was legendary. Macdonald always claimed that he was taken off “SNL”‘s Weekend Update because of the glee in which he dug into O.J. Simpson, a personal friend of Ohlmeyer, during the infamous murder trial. “That touched off a nasty feud that had Mr. Macdonald appearing on CBS’s late-night show with David Letterman (another former NBC star who has a feud going with Mr. Ohlmeyer) and on Howard Stern’s syndicated radio show,” wrote Bill Carter in the New York Times in 1998. “Mr. Macdonald berated Mr. Ohlmeyer for dismissing him, saying that Mr. Ohlmeyer objected to his often vicious barbs about O. J. Simpson.” It is never a good look when the paper of record is doing stories on internal frictions between on air talent and corporate executives. As a result of his independent, uncontrollable nature, the television and film industry has not been kind to Norm Macdonald. Still, Norm has a special place in the hearts and minds of those of us who love our comedians with a rebellious streak. Norm Macdonald is a outlaw that happens to have something a cult following among comedians.

Podcasting is, of course, the natural logical progression for someone in the key of Norm. Norm Macdonald’s YouTube channel talk show, which is on every Monday night, had its premiere yesterday with co-host Adam Eget. The set is busy, with lots of clocks and Pop-ish art and sculpture about. The tone is highly informal — Norm wore a rumpled flannel shirt for the debut — as well as chatty and sometimes rambling. It is, one imagines, the sort of conversation comedians might have at a bar after a show, only without the adult beverages. “Norm Macdonald Live” had on Dave “Super Dave” Osborne (who also has his own YouTube channel) as his first guest. At about an hour and twelve minutes, Norm is still — though older, pudgier and grayer — a comedic force with which to be reckoned. He did not quite disappoint.

“Norm Macdonald Live” was a bit rough around the edges. This is, to be fair, what is to be expected in any debut effort. Young comedian Adam Eget, clearly a close friend of the star, has not yet established his voice on the show. Again, to be fair, Eget was on with two comedy legends: Super Dave and Norm. Any young comedian in the same position would probably opt to sit back and listen to the Wise Men speaking, absorbing their collective comedic wisdom. Unfortunately, in hanging back, in receding into the scenery when focusing questions needed to be asked, Eget comes across more as decorative set furniture than as co-host. Our loss.

It is interesting to see Norm working without a studio audience. His audience interactions and the peculiar way in which he navigated the crowd at “SNL” and, later, at “The Sports Show with Norm Macdonald” were an integral element to Norm’s success as a performer. His choppy, arrhythmic style — inappropriate jokes punctuated with measured pauses — played fantasically to an audience that wasn’t quite sure it should even be laughing at what was just said. Is it ever, for example, okay to laugh at an O.J. bloody murder joke? But what if the joke is laced with moral outrage over the fact that O.J. got away with bloody murder? “Norm Macdonald Live” did not have an audience and one could not help but notice that some of the old Norm magic was missing. Not that Norm needs an audience to be funny, he naturally is, of course. But “Norm Macdonald Live” would probably be a much more interesting experience with a studio audience in place. Then again, we are, after all, in an age of YouTube. And studio audiences themselves might just be a thing of the past.

Again, our loss.

What do you think of this new look at “Norm Macdonald Live”? Are you excited for this movie? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.