Shortly before his death, comedian Norm MacDonald was gearing up to take some material on the road and eventually tape a new comedy set for Netflix.
Unfortunately, that would never happen, due to the pandemic and MacDonald’s cancer. Instead, we get Norm MacDonald: Nothing Special, with him sitting in front of a camera with a pair of headphones on—basically talking to himself. In one take, he goes through a typically nutty set of his observational humor. It’s delivered in that strange Norm MacDonald style that combines intelligent asides with intentional ignorance, such as when he purposefully mispronounces words or routinely plays stupid on things in which he’s obviously schooled. It’s his shtick, and it was always a winning shtick.
After he finishes his set (nearly an hour long), a panel with David Letterman, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle, Conan O’Brien and Molly Shannon shares their thoughts on the material, and Norm in general.
Fans will find a lot to appreciate here; it is one last chance to hear Norm ruminate on subjects like people eating each other and his own gambling issues. (He happily refers to himself as a degenerate gambler.) There’s no audience and no laugh track—just a guy saying some pretty funny stuff, and his friends basically remembering him and saying their goodbyes.
In the end, Norm delivers the final set in a way that reminds us we’ve lost a lot with his passing. There aren’t too many comedians who would be as interesting as this guy is talking by himself.
Seeing his friends reminisce on him is touching. The celebrity roundtable is actually a bit of a bummer, because these folks are seeing the set for the first time; they are clearly taken aback and unhappy about the loss of their pal. It’s not a rip-roaring celebration of Norm’s life; it’s more of a quiet, thoughtful group eulogy.
Norm MacDonald: Nothing Special is one of the more interesting posthumous releases you are likely to see this year. We miss you, Norm.
Norm MacDonald: Nothing Special is now streaming on Netflix.