Alright, wrong Norm but give me a break, Cheers has been off the air for multiple decades now and being that this was a homecoming show, “NORM!!!” is the perfect response for tonight’s host. I’m sure I’ve said this many time while he was still of the show, but I truly believe that Norm MacDonald is one of the funniest people on this planet with my other top two favorite people being Gilbert Gottfried and Tracy Morgan, all of whom I personally discovered before they were a part of Saturday Night Live.
Well, with Gilbert, I first found him on USA’s Up All Night, which came out after he was a Not Ready For Prime Time Player. I was five when he was part of the show and I didn’t become aware of this fact until I was in my twenties and a thing was invented called the IMDB. With Tracy Morgan, I first learned of him through an urban sketch comedy show called Uptown Comedy Club where he started with Jim Breuer as the show’s crazy white guy.
When it comes to Norm, I first saw him on Comedy Central back when they would air nothing but stand up for the eight hours a day that the channel was on the air. He used to have that joke with the punchline, “Them’s mean streets for a wiener dog in a cardigan,” which became a catchphrase that me and my friends used from time to time.
I think what I like about this trio is how they all seem to be people who almost find it more important to entertain themselves to the point where it sometimes seems that they take pleasure in torturing the crowd with inside jokes meant for the comedians in the back of the room. Since I used to be such a stand-up comedy nerd, I used to imagine that I was part of this special crowd, even though every attempt that I made to get up on the stage ended with me covered in flop sweat after muttering through my routine.
Since Norm can be a bit of a wildcard, part of me was worried that he would come in like a host under protest, especially during his monolog where the main joke was that he didn’t get better to earn to role as the host, but that he landed the gig because the show had gotten that bad. Normally, I hate when host do this, especially when they’re alumni but since he was just as hard on himself, I ended up giving the joke a pass.
After the monolog, this became a great episode that reminded me of a Best Of Special from back when he was still on the show, especially since most of the cast was the same from when he was on the show. I loved how they brought back many of his characters, and they only dropped the ball by not adding a sketch with Bob Dole.
Though this episode was the best of the three from this season so far, I am a little nervous about how the rest of the season will play out because it reminds me a lot of the last two years of this show where, when they cast is on the shows are flawless but then the very next week it can feel like their phoning it in. Thankfully, with this group, the phoned-in shows are still better than many entire seasons from the past, but I would still love just a little more consistency so that I can heap on more praise instead of trying to figure out what I thought they get wrong.
Keep in mind, I say this not as an expert but as someone who is trying to examine why I like what I like while looking back over my favorite childhood shows. With that, it’s now time to move on and share what I saw in this episode, as I give you…
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with Giuliani's World Series Bets that had Darrell Hammond as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani so that he could announce a bet he had with the mayor of Atlanta where the winner would get a treat that their cities were known for, peaches for an Atlanta win and New York Strip Steaks for a New York win. Giuliani then went on to explain how this friendly bet wasn’t good enough for him before going on to share some of the crazy ideas that he had to raise the stakes for the wager. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, this all built up to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
Norm MacDonald then officially opened the show with a monolog about how his sudden rise in popularity had nothing to do with the fact that he’s gotten any funnier but instead he just seemed funnier because SNL has gotten to be so bad. This was unfortunate because even though I think Norm is one of the funniest people of all time and the show screwed him over, it still bummed me out that, even jokingly, he took it out on the cast that he was about to work with. There’s just nothing I hate more than a host who even jokes about being there under protest but there’s just something about Norm’s delivery that made it clear he was just having fun especially since he was also making fun of himself while he was making the joke.
Martha Stewart: The Commodity was a sketch where Ana Gasteyer as Martha Stewart announced how she was now living it up ever since her IPO became a stock market success which was extra fun considering the fact that this was years before she was even being looked at for her SEC controversy so it had nothing to do with the fact that she would someday end up serving time.
Great Moments in Yankee History had Norm MacDonald as a sarcastic Lou Gehrig who insisted that he was the unluckiest man on the face of the planet considering he was cursed with a disease that was so rare that they named it after him.
Celebrity Jeopardy! brought Norm MacDonald back as Bert Reynolds, AKA Turd Ferguson, so that he and Darrell Hammond and Sean Connery along with Jimmy Fallon as French Stewart badgered Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek as he attempted to just get through the game.
Crosstalk was the parody of a real panel talk show with the same name where Chris Parnell played the host with the topic on the table being “How Thin Is Too Thin?” His first guest was Cheri Oteri who played a plus-sized model who felt that the ideal tiny size was getting out of control. The next guest was Ana Gasteyer who made herself look disturbingly thin yet defended the super thin movement. The third and final guest led to Rachel Dratch’s show debut as Calista Flockhart who was so thin that it was just Rachel’s head above a shirt that was draped over the chair. Throughout the entire sketch, the plus-sized Cheri Oteri was the only person, including the host, to make any sense but she kept getting cut off by Chris Parnell making an insensitive fat joke.
Larry King's News & Views allowed Norm MacDonald to revise his Larry King impersonation in order to parody the talk show hosts real segment where he rambled on about random thoughts that came to his head.
TV Funhouse then returned with another installment of Fun With Real Audio where this week Robert Smigel provided animation to an address that Charlton Heston made to Congress in support or The NRA.
We then got the second installment of Larry King's News & Views where once again Norm MacDonald made fun of the random thoughts that come from Larry King’s head.
Once again, Colin Quinn gave us the news. This week, we got another installment of Weekend Update: The Millennium that, this time, highlighted a bunch of events that never actually happened, like when Mark Twain and Skeletor didn’t win a war by dropping a bomb on the St. Louis Arch. Cheri Oteri also dropped in as Marla Maples to share her regrets of accidentally turning twenty-six, making her too old to take advantage of her sexual exploit potential now that she was no longer married to Trump.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg then took to the stage to perform Still D.R.E..
Tooth Brushers had Norm MacDonald as a toothbrush and Cheri Oteri as a tooth to play a married couple of dentist who had a routine planned out of the kids on Halloween but kept screwing up on their timing which led to vicious fights that would take place the second the kids would leave. As soon as things started to seem to be the most heated, the doorbell would ring starting the process all over again.
Michael Jackson In A Bar had Tim Meadows as the late pop-superstar in order to complain to a bartender, played by Norm MacDonald, about all of his recent marital woes. Even though Jackson kept sharing bizarre details like how even his monkey was depressed, Norm kept trying to reassure Michael that he was absolutely normal without ever even attempting to make a pedophile joke. Toward the end of the sketch, Jimmy Fallon joined the scene as Howard Stern who also had recently divorced his wife.
Dr. Dre and Eminem then took to the stage to perform Forgot About Dre.
This was followed by a parody of Inside The Actors Studio where Will Ferrell introduced his James Lipton impersonation in order to interview Norm MacDonald as Clint Eastwood but the auteur had a hard time answering any question since Lipton would constantly cut him off in order to keep the interview going which put Eastwood into Dirty Harry mode.
We then got a repeat of the Chess For Girls ad from a couple seasons ago that joked how chess was too hard for girls so they replace the board and game pieces with dolls and a doll apparel.
Finally, Norm MacDonald closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.
Two out of three ain’t a bad way to start a season. Fortunately, this episode was one of the two, thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved the Great Moments In Yankee History sketch because it felt like such a Norm thing to have Lou Gerhig point out the fact that having a disease that is so rare that they name it after you, might be the unluckiest thing in the world. Next, I really liked Burt Reynold’s Return To Celebrity Jeopardy! because, even though I never care about guest number three, I can’t get enough of Alex Trebek, Burt Reynolds, and Sean Connery working through their contentious relationship in order to get through the show. Finally, I was a fan of Michael Jackson In A Bar because they didn’t really go the route I expected and acted like Wacko Jacko was absolutely normal but Norm was still barely able to hold himself together long enough to get through the scene.