There's something so laid back about Norm Macdonald's approach to comedy -- as evidenced even by the title of his latest album, Me Doing Standup -- that I think some people have a hard time taking him seriously (if you'll pardon the contradiction in terms). His delivery is so sleepy and casual and his rhythms so specific that he may put comedy fans looking for manic energy and broad observations off. Macdonald has a style that forces you to be drawn in and pay attention. He doesn't bring the comedy to you; you have to come to it.
On Me Doing Standup, the comic that Macdonald actually reminds me of most is George Carlin. Obviously, he has none of Carlin's righteous anger -- it's hard to imagine Macdonald getting worked up about anything, frankly -- but he has the same interest in breaking down the language that we take for granted. From "heart attacks" to "battles with cancer" to the "disease" of alcoholism to "gay pride" (quotes Macdonald's, not mine), the Canadian comic has a fascination with common phrases that we widely accept, but applies a logic to them that most of us have probably never considered. The results are very funny, especially when combined with Macdonald's deadpan, bewildered approach.
If forced to choose, I would actually have to say that I prefer Macdonald's first comedy album, 2006's Ridiculous. It's not really a fair comparison, though, because that album was all taped bits and sketches (save for a few hidden tracks at the end) and Me Doing Standup is an actual live comedy album (hence the title). While Me Doing Standup is a good demonstration of who Macdonald is as a comic, Ridiculous did a better job of taking the audience inside his mind. There was a real sense on that album that this was the stuff that Macdonald finds funny, whereas Me Doing Standup feels more audience-driven. That's obviously the right call for a live record, but there was something about the absurd purity of Ridiculous that makes it one of the decade's best and most relistenable comedy albums.
Me Doing Standup is still pretty great, though, and a worthy addition to any comedy fan's library. In the back half of the record, Macdonald segues away from language and into more long-form bits about subjects like 24 hour news, the woman troubles of Tiger Woods and gives an involved, detailed description of just how he would go about getting away with a murder (not that he's planning on killing anyone, but a river can only go so long before there's a bend). The material is funny enough on its own, but it's made even better by Macdonald's trademark delivery. He's a guy that could make reading the phone book funny, if you'll pardon the cliche. Me Doing Standup is much funnier than the phone book. Now there's a quote for the marketing people.
- Album Release Date: 6/14/11
- Label: Comedy Central Records