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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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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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