Luxe Life Blog
Norm Macdonald muses on the new ‘SNL’ and his mastery of Twitter
By John Katsilometes
Norm Macdonald is possibly the most acerbic of “Weekend Update” hosts on “Saturday Night Live,” not a small feat when that list includes Chevy Chase and Dennis Miller.
It also is not a small feat when you consider that Macdonald has never been much of a news junkie. His brother, Neil, is a journalist who works as a reporter for CBC News, Canada’s leading news agency. But Norm does not take sides in political debates simply because he’s not engaged in the issues.
“I’m so unknowledgeable and disinterested. I watch political shows for a number of weeks in a row, and all I see are guys arguing with each other over issues I have no idea about,” says Macdonald, headlining tonight and Saturday at the Orleans Showroom. “My brother, he loves warn-torn places. My dad would always read the paper and tell me I should watch CNN, but I usually wind up watching ‘Breaking Bad.’ ”
Macdonald does keep an eye on his former show, saying, “I like Seth (Meyers, the current “Update” host and a recurring Las Vegas headliner at the Mirage), and ‘SNL’ for sure is a different incarnation now. I liken it to the incarnation before me, when they had Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz and actors who can act in an ensemble."
A cast member from 1993-1998, Macdonald was surrounded by stars who were more effective alone than in a group.
“When I was there, it was (Adam) Sandler, (Chris) Rock, (Chris) Farley, who were solo guys who played straight to the camera," Macdonald says. "Rock was most effective staring straight into the camera.”
Macdonald became known for his jarring “Update” segments. In one infamous episode, which aired the weekend after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Macdonald opened the segment with, “Well, now it’s official: Murder is legal in the state of California.”
Macdonald also stood out as an oddly effective impressionist, portraying Burt Reynolds of the 1970s on “Celebrity Jeopardy” and as David Letterman. But he doesn’t consider himself an impressionist and says he doesn’t plan on reprising any of those characters at the Orleans.
“I never do impressions, but I probably should. People like that stuff,” he says. “I never did them until I was on ‘SNL,’ and that was out of necessity. I did OK, but when you are totally made up like the person you are impersonating, like you’re wearing a mask of the guy’s face, it’s not that difficult.”
Macdonald has a fairly steep history performing in Vegas. He performed about a decade ago at the Riviera, his first stand-up booking in the city.
“I remember playing the Improv, and the doorman was later on ‘The Sopranos,’ ” Macdonald recalls.
That would be Steve Schirripa, at the time the hotel’s entertainment director.
“Yeah, it was a little dispiriting to be slugging away in the club and the doorman is on a TV show and everyone had forgotten ‘SNL,’” Macdoanld says. “He’d walk through the casino and be recognized.”
Macdonald’s first visit to Vegas was remarkable for his fleeting run at a slot machine, during which he dropped $400 at the Flamingo — while his mother and aunts were waiting in line to check into the hotel.
“It was like I was hypnotized,” Macdonald says. “I had to pretend I was fine for the entire weekend, playing nickel slots while they were off having a good time. I spent lot of time in my room.”
Macdonald is working on a pilot for a show he hopes will find a home on TBS. It is titled “Trending Now,” which is based on that week’s or day’s headlines on Yahoo and Google. “I know we’ll have jokes about subjects everybody is interested. They determine what we talk about.” Macdonald has become a master at Twitter; his updates during the Academy Awards broadcast were funny and ruthless. An example: “By the time the dead guy montage starts, Kirk Douglas will be in it.”
"A year ago, I didn't really know what Twitter was," Macdonald says. "I didn't know what the point of reading where a star was having dinner. But then I started live tweeting events, like the Oscars and the British Open. I learned how to be more concise, shorter. It's so much fun to do." (At the moment, Macdonald is focused on the PGA Championship; catch his updates here.)
But even with the based-on-Internet TV show and Twitter mastery, Macdonald is a throwback comic.
“I have always loved Las Vegas. It’s a traditional place for lounge comics to perform, and I love that,” he says. “I miss seeing real comics, Shecky Greene and Buddy Hackett, those types. I like straight stand-up, talking about the Olympics and why I feel obligated to watch them. Why am I watching archery at 4 in the afternoon?”
You’ll either have to catch the show at the Orleans or follow him on Twitter to find out.