Press of Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY
Tonight's top story: Norm MacDonald at the Borgata
Norm MacDonald made his name in comedy delivering the “fake news” during a five-season stint on “Saturday Night Live.”
His stand up act similarly reflects his own reality.
“I don't have a good memory, and I generally get bored talking about the same stuff,” says MacDonald, who appears at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at Borgata. “I figure it out the day before –– the general stuff I want to talk about –– and ramble on.”
Nor does the Quebec native, whose movies include “Billy Madison,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Man on the Moon” and “Dr. Dolittle,” worry too much about being quoted accurately.
“Take this mishmash, and make it into a coherent interview,” MacDonald says after a chat from his Los Angeles base. “Make up anything.”
Q: What's your stand up act like these days?
A: “Doing stand up — it's exhausting. It's not the stand up, it's just the rest of the day, other than the hour you're doing the stand up. The rest of your life, you live the life of a drifter. You're like a serial killer, just walking the streets, trying to find something to eat. Atlantic City, it's always a break-even proposition there.”
Q: With your background anchoring “Weekend Update” on SNL, do you talk about current events?
A: “I don't have a good memory, so I don't have a memorized act... (coughs). Sorry for coughing, I got a touch of the tuberculosis. I'm not especially politically topical because I don't know how to read the newspaper ... I just talk about broadly political issues, rather than specifically about whatever the hell is happening.
It's not torn from today's headlines, but it's timeless, but it's dirty a lot of times because I don't know what I'm going to say.
Sometimes it's about cats and dogs and losing your luggage at the airport, and sometimes I talk about crazy stuff. I like the audience to be forewarned. I could say anything at any moment. It's like the insane ramblings of a homeless man in the corner, but without the shopping cart.”
Q: Will you be doing your Burt Reynolds impression or any new voices?
A: “I might do Burt Reynolds because I actually have a bushy mustache I'm growing for this movie. It will be really odd. It's the first time I'm doing stand up with a bushy mustache. It's weird when you look in the mirror, it doesn't look like you. I'm always a clean-shaven man. Now I have a bushy mustache to address.”
Q: What's the movie about and who are your co-stars?
A: “It's about a girl played by Michelle Pfeiffer, one of those romantic movies. But I'm not the romantic guy. She falls in love with a young dude (played by Paul Rudd). I play her ex-husband. Amy Heckerling, from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,' is the director. That's why I had to grow the bushy mustache. I'm like DeNiro –– he had to gain 80 pounds for ‘Raging Bull.' I had to grow a bushy mustache.”
Q: Do people come up to you all the time and start reciting lines from “Saturday Night Live?”
A: “You know something else they do because I'm an old man, kids watch this ‘Billy Madison' movie I was in, like 45 years ago. It's like my generation with ‘Animal House' and ‘Caddyshack' for these kids. It's ‘Billy Madison' and ‘Tommy Boy.' They'll yell out lines I don't even remember. Of course I have no response for them. A lot of people like ‘Saturday Night Live.' Also because I did the news, they expect that I know something about politics. I'm not like Bill Maher, I don't know or care about these things that are specifically political. Sometimes they're gravely disappointed, but I'm much funnier than those other guys. (Bill Maher is) serious. He's fallen into a disease certain comedians get when they think they're serious. It's funny when you see on ‘Hardball' a guest who's one of those comedians-turned-pundits. They just can't keep up with these guys who do it for a living. They don't have the information, except (Al) Franken –– he knows everything. That's why I try to have no opinions because I ain't got the facts.”
Q: Are your writing a script right now?
A: “I'm writing a movie –– I should be finished within five days –– right now. It's called ‘Court-Appointed Attorney.' I write myself now. I hate being the lad in a movie because I suck. It's really hard because you have to fall in love with a girl and all this emotional stuff. Now I write movies where I'm the funny sidekick. I write them so big stars who can actually act can do the heavy work of moving the story.”
Q: Do you think of yourself as a writer or a performer first?
A: “I'm just a writer who did stand up. All I'm really good at is stand up. That's all writing, especially for me. I don't run around the stage like Robin Williams. I've always written. I never really wanted to perform. On ‘Saturday Night Live,' (executive producer) Lorne Michaels was like whoever's the funniest in the room gets to perform. If you're funny in the room, you get to go on TV, no matter if you're a writer or a performer. That's how I stumbled into performing.”
Q: You wrote for “The Roseanne Show” before SNL. What did that experience teach you about comedy, and how was it to work for Roseanne?
A: “That was great. She hates Hollywood writers. She saw me do stand up and liked me. There were two of us on staff who were stand-ups, the others were Harvard writers. She only liked us two. She would berate everyone else, and talk about gigs with us two. Then all the writers hated us. I don't know if she was crazy or not, but she was the best writer of her own show. That was a constant conflict in a battle with the writers. But she was invariably right. She was always funny. As long as you're writing for someone funny, that's okay. If you're writing for a 19-year-old handsome kid, that's hell on earth.”
Q: Do you want to name any names?
A: “When I turn on TV and see these handsome, young kids, I just resent them. It's enough they're handsome, they shouldn't be funny. Funny should be old, craggy guys. I'd love to ... get real old and be a funny character actor. That's my goal. I'll just age without any surgery or Botox and get old. That's what Bill Murray does. Everyone else has plastic surgery, and he gets to play the cool parts.”