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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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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

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It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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