Short and Sweet.
Keeping this column short, as I’m still recovering from recent hand surgery, and typing with a keyboard is still a bit difficult at the moment, but I wanted–no, needed to put this one out there.
While I generally write about sci-fi/fantasy/horror entertainment in this column, I just wanted to pay tribute to the late Norm Macdonald, the former Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” news anchor (from 1993-1998), standup comic, actor and, more recently, a voiceover performer for Seth MacFarlane’s lighthearted Star Trek-inspired series, The Orville (2017–?), where he played a flirtatious, gelatinous alien blob/engineer named “Yaphit.”
The character of Yaphit (perhaps named after the late actor Yaphet Kotto, who played the surly engineer Parker in 1979’s ALIEN) was a perfect fit for Macdonald’s range, as his nonchalant-yet-lovable delivery created a character out of little more than a tool-toting pile of squishy green computer graphics. Despite Yaphit’s regrettable tendencies for sexual harassment and outright boorishness, he could also be surprisingly heroic as well, saving the starship Orville and her crew on more than one occasion.
I was already huge fan of Macdonald’s work on SNL during the 1990s; his spacey, seemingly vacant-eyed delivery as anchor of “Weekend Update” was easily the best seen on the long-running show since the days of Chevy Chase and the original cast in 1975. Macdonald didn’t often do the typically impeccable celebrity impressions seen on SNL during his run, but his Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole were absolutely hysterical.
Macdonald guest-starred in many movies during his career, including “Billy Madison” (1995), “Deuce Bigelow” (1998) as well as smaller, but no less-significant roles for high profile director Milos Forman in “The People Vs. Larry Flynt” (1996) and “Man on the Moon” (1999), the latter two of which my sister and I loved very much.
Much Needed Laughs.
While I never actually met this nonconformist funnyman, my sister and I did take in a show of his at a local Improv Comedy Club back in 2003. My sister, who was taking care of my terminally ill mother at the time, didn’t have many opportunities to get away, but that night we managed to carve a few hours so she could take in Norm Macdonald’s standup set, which was only a few miles from where she lived at the time.
After several solid warmup acts, MacDonald took to the stage, where he tore into then-relevant comic fodder, such as the guilt of O.J. Simpson, and other hilariously hot-button topics. He had my sister and I in tears, and for a few hours, my sister’s burdens at that time were lightened considerably. I drove her home, and we laughed all the way. It was a near-perfect night for us both.
A year later, after our mother’s passing, my sister moved to the Midwest, but we’ll always have that night of laughter. For that one show, I was compelled to thank the late Norm Macdonald in this column for coming to our neck of the woods in Southern California and making that evening possible.
In a show-must-go-on fashion, the very private Macdonald chose to keep his decade-long struggle with cancer a closely guarded secret. This seems typical, as he was never one to rant about his personal life. When he took to the mic, he was all about the humor. My sister and her beau texted me with the news of Macdonald’s passing yesterday, after I’d just read it on the news myself. It hurt us both–a real blow to the solar plexus to lose this gifted comedian at a time when the world is in a serious shortage of mirth.
Rest In Peace, Norm Macdonald (1960-1921) and thanks for a special night of hearty, healing laughter at a time when my sister and I really needed it.