Entertainment

Roseanne Barr on her friendship with Norm Macdonald

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Comedian, actor, writer and legend Norm Macdonald may have left the planet last September, but he left more behind than just his greatest hits. In a “that’s soooo Norm”Move, he also gifted fans with something so needed, so wanted and at such a perfect time -“ Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special. ” Macdonald’s special, which premiered Monday on Netflix, was filmed in his living room.

Loved and respected by fans and colleagues worldwide, Macdonald formed a unique bond with fellow comedy legend Roseanne Barr back in the early ’90s when she tapped him to write on her hit show, “Roseanne.” What started as admiration on a working level turned into a lifelong friendship that endured many personal high and lows.

Macdonald clearly entertained to the end and even started a podcast in 2020 called “Quarantined With Norm Macdonald,” which Barr appeared on as a guest. Ahead of his last taped hurrah, Barr talked to us about why Norm Macdonald wasn’t just the bravest in comedy, but also in life.

How did you and Norm Macdonald meet?

Roseanne Barr: Somebody sent me a tape of him from Canada when I was looking for writers for my show. I don’t think he had been any place in the US yet. I hired him for my birthday party because I had a big 40th where I hired my favorite entertainers because, you know, I had a lot of money then. I had Norm for comedy, and I was just howling. I knew in two minutes, I gotta get that guy! First off, he kind of talked like me. He talked like he was from my hometown in Utah. Or in Utah, we talk like Norm. I just loved the way he talked. He was just so hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing so I was like, “Hey! Do you want a job? You’re so great I want to hire you to write on my show. ” And he did. When Norm got the offer for SNL, he was so sweet. He said he’d like to go do it, and I told him, “You gotta go! Are you kidding? You have it! ” To me, he’s the greatest Weekend Update comedian that no one can match ever. He was what comedy is supposed to be. He was always brave.

It seems like everyone has one, so, let’s hear yours. Favorite Norm bit?

It’s the back seat one. I’d say, “How much do I have to pay you to do that bit?” He’d say, “Stop it, and I’m not gonna!” I could never do it by heart, or like him, but the one I love is where the guy is riding in the back seat and [it goes] like, when you’re in the back seat, you’re in your own world because you’re not in the front seat. You’re not in the conversation and you’re in your own world trying to hear. Then another car pulls up next to you and there’s another guy in the back seat, and you kinda wave to each other because you know you’re both losers. It was basically a whole bit about being a second-class citizen. It was so politically nuanced, there’s nothing I’ve seen that is that genius.

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Any other standout Norm moments while we’re taking this walk?

Yeah, because him s— on OJ was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I remember where I was even, on bed rest 12-weeks pregnant with my son. I just had all of his OJ jokes and played them on a loop. Then he got fired, you remember that? You can’t be too funny in show business!

It’s tricky for sure, especially in 2022! Did you know Norm was sick? It felt like a total shock, but maybe it was common knowledge?

I didn’t know Norm was sick. When I heard he was gone, I was just so shocked. I asked other people like, “Did you know? Did you know he was sick? ” Nobody I know knew. Looking back, it’s like, of course, he’s not gonna tell nobody because that will ruin all his material! Either they’d laugh too much, or they just be sitting there crying. I wanted to get him on “Last Comic Standing,” because you gotta have Norm, and now thinking back I’m like, “Oh, he was sick and that’s why I never saw him anywhere outside of it!” I was shocked. I talked to him all the time. Comics will ask each other, “Is this funny?” And usually he answered me, but the last few months, it was really hard to get a hold of him, and he wouldn’t answer. Of course, in my comedic brain I’m like, “What the f— is up, Norm?” Human compassion never even entered my mind as a comic. Then he finally got back to me and says, “I want to interview you for this podcast,” and I was happy to do it. That was the last time I ever talked to him. He never told me anything. When I came back to TV, the first person I called was Norm. I asked him to come back, and he said, “Yeah I will.” And when I got fired, Norm quit. I just said, “Thank you, Norm.” He called me every day when I was in a real bad place, and he also went on “The View” to stick up or me, which I really appreciated. He was just the greatest.

I’m feeling a real mixed bag of excitement and sadness about this special. How do you feel about it?

Comedy is dealing with the mental, and that’s why I’m excited for Norm’s thing, because he dealt with the mental. I wonder what he talks about, like maybe Norm will talk about what is going on in the world now and be an avatar to save us all. And I love that his special is coming out after his death. You know, I did the world’s first after-death comedy special about 20 years ago. It’s like, if you’re watching this, I’m dead and my kids have all my money. I’m so happy to hear that Norm has done it for real. Because he’s a genius. He will redefine death and dying. What an ethical and loving human being. There’s never been anyone like Norm and there’s never going to be. Norm is the f— GOAT. There was a genius here, and he vacated this realm.

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