June 27, 2022

It’s onerous to think about a comedy set like Norm Macdonald’s newest and final. Nothing Particular, a title that manages the Norm-like feat of simultaneous irony and honesty, was recorded at Macdonald’s house, with out an viewers, in the course of the pre-vaccine pandemic days of 2020.

It’s carried out within the model of a webcast; MacDonald has a microphone, however he’s sitting down, focusing totally on his face, as if Zooming into his personal particular. The press supplies boast that it was achieved in “one take,” which is each spectacular, in that Macdonald seems to do 55 minutes of comedy kind of extemporaneously with none breaks for laughs, and apparent, in that he’s sometimes interrupted, by a ringing cellphone or a barking canine.

The comedian had been getting ready materials for his subsequent Netflix particular, however, as only a few folks knew on the time, he additionally had most cancers. Earlier than he went into the hospital for a serious process, he determined to document his materials for posterity, simply in case. The process, because it seems, went effective. However earlier than Macdonald might do a “actual” efficiency of his latest set, he did succumb to the illness, passing away in September 2021.

So now, we’re within the just-in-case situation, and Netflix is releasing the particular as-is, appended with a 30-minute postscript, whereby fellow comedians David Letterman, Dave Chappelle, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Molly Shannon, and Conan O’Brien focus on the particular and Norm on the whole. None of them appeared to find out about his sickness; Sandler appears notably damaged up by the recollections of his buddy.

This section is exceptional, and unusual; it’s basically a televised wake in miniature, whereas additionally making Nothing Particular the one hour of stand-up I can consider that’s instantly accompanied by its personal evaluate, evaluation, and behind-the-scenes tribute — all with out the participation of its central determine.

There’s not a lot a critic can say that these comedy professionals don’t at the very least contact upon; the speak present hosts, O’Brien and Letterman, are notably astute in describing Norm’s means with phrases, with O’Brien describing Macdonald’s cautious phrase decisions as deliberate and “out of time,” evaluating him to Mark Twain.

They’re proper, particularly about Nothing Particular. Maybe owing to the intimacy of the house taping or simply the whimsy of older age, the sometime-folksiness of Macdonald’s supply hits a peak early within the hour and stays there, with acquainted Macdonald ornamental phrases like “you already know” and “on account of” popping up consistently. Often, he permits himself to ramble round a subject, and get a number of digressions deep earlier than circling again round, a sort of front-porch-rocker model that’s appealingly unpredictable.

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Norm Macdonald, photograph by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Photos for Comedy Central

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