TNT's Rough Cut
JUNE 8, 1998 (TNT)
Q&As: Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange
Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange, who star in this week's Dirty Work, don't really want to do an interview this afternoon. What they really want to do is try to make each other laugh harder or, failing that, make their traveling entourage (a publicist, a studio person and some random guy) bowl over in the sort of canned laughter -- complete with tears in the eyes -- that always follows celebs around whether they're funny or not. Macdonald, recently freed of his SNL commitments, is on a stand-up tour this summer along with a director's cut of an episode of Comedy Central's "South Park." To be fair, I think Macdonald's very funny; I just wish we could have talked mano-a-mano when he visited Atlanta.
ANDY JONES: This is a big tour.
NORM: Yeah, 32 cities.
ANDY: And you're showing an episode of "South Park."
NORM: Yeah, it's a 40-minute, director's cut version. They're leaving the dirty words in.
ARTIE: And then me and Norm are going to act out an episode. I'm going to play Cartman.
NORM: We're going to do a little improv and then we're going to do our stand up. We both do stand up.
ANDY: Should people expect new stuff?
NORM: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I don't do any old stuff.
ANDY: So, is this stand-up thing sort of a transition period for you? Is there something that you're working toward?
NORM: Yeah, I'm just killing time, you know? I'm doing a movie in August and so I've nothing to do until then.
ANDY: What are you doing in Dr. Dolittle?
NORM: I play Eddie Murphy's dog. See, everybody other than Eddie Murphy is an animal, right?
ANDY: Hmmm. Got it. Ellen DeGeneres is in it, right?
NORM: Yeah, she's a pigeon, or something. Oh, no, she's a dog, too, actually. [Garry] Shandling's the pigeon. So, yeah, I'm his dog.
ARTIE: Norm is considered a pigeon in certain circles, too.
NORM: I don't know what that means. Shut up.
ANDY: Do you know Eddie Murphy?
NORM: No. I met him only a couple times. I did one scene with him. You know, because normally you just do the voice, but that's why I did the movie because he asked for me and I said, "Oh, my god. I love Eddie Murphy, he's the greatest."
ARTIE: Eddie Murphy is the funniest guy I ever met. He's good.
NORM: He's the greatest guy. That's why I wouldn't do any jokes about him during Update when he had that trouble.
ANDY:I guess David Spade should have thought about that.
NORM: It's never a good idea to do a joke about a guy that's funnier than you are.
ANDY: What's David Letterman like?
NORM: He's a really nice guy. He's like a gentleman, like. He's like a guy from a different age. Courtly man, you know. When you're finished, he goes, "Good job, son," like, you're a construction worker.
ANDY: You know, a lot of people look uncomfortable on his show. You look comfortable.
NORM: Yeah, I really like him.
ANDY: And he likes you.
NORM: Yeah, he's a good man. God bless him.
ANDY: What else do you like on TV?
NORM: I loved "Seinfeld," of course.
ARTIE: Do you know what he likes on TV? A big beer. A pizza.
NORM: On TV?
ARTIE: Yeah, on the TV.
NORM: I didn't know it was on the TV?
ARTIE: The apartment's small.
NORM: I love "Seinfeld," I love "Larry Sanders" and I love Letterman. Always love Letterman. And sports.... Hey, you know what I love?
NORM: ["TNT MonsterVision"'s] Joe Bob Briggs.
ANDY: Joe Bob Briggs is great.
NORM: Ever watch that dude?
ANDY: Of course, I do.
NORM: He's hilarious. He's got an on-line thing because he says it every week.
ANDY: Yeah, his MonsterVision site.
NORM:I never watched him, but I always thought he looked like a hick. And he's hilarious.
ANDY: Exactly. You know, he does God Stuff too on Comedy Central. Same guy.
NORM: Absolutely hilarious.
ANDY: And his name's actually John.
NORM: Did you ever watch Monstervision? Billy Joe Griggs?
ARTIE: I know who the guy is, but I haven't watched it enough to know if he's funny.
NORM: He's really funny.
ANDY: Were you disappointed at all that "The Daily Show"'s Craig Kilborn is going to be taking over Tom Synder's "Late Late Show" because that seems like it would be perfect for you.
NORM:Yeah, that would be fun.
ANDY: And that's it?
NORM: Yeah, I never expected it or anything, because I don't even know if I could do such a thing for like an hour and a half. It might be two hours. Might be too hard. But it would be cool to do a talk show. I always wanted to do a talk show.
ANDY: Are you going to be on Howard Stern's new show or not?
NORM: No, I'm not doing anything on Howard Stern.
ANDY: Not at all?
NORM: No, that just started somehow. I don't know how. I think maybe Howard maybe said something on a show once. Mentioned it and then his fans, they're like so huge, that they generate these things and it became like this.... People were asking me about it like this was a fact, and I never talked to anybody. I never talked to Howard about it. I think he's just going to do his radio show.
ANDY: And I'm sad to say that I don't know more about you (to Artie Lange). I didn't know that you were going to be here...
NORM: You can imagine. Do you ever watch "Mad TV?"
ANDY: I do watch "Mad TV."
NORM: Did you ever see... What was your character's name? White Mama?
ARTIE: That's My White Mama.
NORM: And then what was your catch phrase?
ARTIE: "Don't make me break my foot off in your ass." I used to sign autographs for 12-year-old kids: "Don't make me break my foot off in your ass. Love, Artie Lange."
ANDY: So, how did you guys meet? Way before Dirty Work, I'm guessing.
NORM: No, right before it. He can tell the story.
ARTIE: I got fired from "Mad TV" in the second year, so I thought my career was over or something. And Norm pulled me up and said, "Hey man, I want you to be in a movie. 'Cause I know you from Mad TV." And I was like, "All right, cool."
ANDY: So, you knew him from his work on TV?
NORM: Yeah. I always liked him on "Mad TV." I thought he was the funniest guy. And we needed a fat guy.
ANDY: That was the most important thing.
NORM: And, believe it or not, there's not that many fat guys that are funny any more.
ARTIE: Yeah, it's fat from the perspective of a guy who could be thin. I mean, what's funny is the bottom line. Smart and funny would describe me, I think.
ANDY: But not fat.
ARTIE: Well, yeah, fat, I guess would, too.
ANDY: Not necessarily.
ARTIE: Smart, fat, funny and outdoorsy are three -- four words -- I think that best describe me.
ANDY: I would never say fat.
ARTIE: Thanks, man, I appreciate that. Phat you could say. 'Cause that's cool, right?
ANDY: You wrote Dirty Work, too, right? What do you like doing more, writing or directing or performing?
NORM: I like writing, but I don't like writing all by itself. I like both. But I like the writing part best. Like I wrote for the Roseanne show, and I found it kind of frustrating because you write and then another dude gets huge laughs and you're like sitting in the office all mad, you know? But I don't like performing something that someone else has wrote, either. So, I just like writing and then performing what I wrote.
ARTIE: Oh, like an auteur.
ARTIE: An auteur.
NORM: I don't know what that is. Is that French-like?
ARTIE: It's art.
ARTIE: Woody Allen's an auteur.
NORM: Oh, yeah. I like him. Good one, Art. You've lost it. You know, people often compare me to Woody Allen.
ANDY: No doubt.
NORM: Yeah, they say, compared to Woody Allen, you're sh--.
ANDY: "Saturday Night Live?"
NORM: I was hired as a writer, but that's why I wanted to go to "Saturday Night Live" ... because it's the one place where you can write and then move on to performing. Because Lorne Michaels, who produces... he's really good. His idea is that whoever's funny in the room can be on TV. That's always been his M.O. So I knew that from the history of the show, writers often moved into performing. That's why I specifically wanted to go there.
ANDY: You're of that generation that grew up watching the show and dreaming you'd get on it someday, right?
NORM: Yeah, when I was a kid, that was the show, you know? That was the show for our generation.
ARTIE: "Your Show of Shows" was more the show to Norm and his age group, but that ended back in the '50s, and then it became "Saturday Night Live."
NORM: When I was a kid, like everybody watched SNL, and when I was a little kid, it was Carol Burnett. But then all the hippies started watching "Saturday Night Live." I think everybody I knew on the show was like that. Like [David] Spade and especially Chris Farley (who cameos in Dirty Work), you know? You just idolized these guys, you know? It was so cool for us to be there. And, you know, you can't even believe that you're there, on the show. Really cool.
ANDY: You said this yourself very nicely on David Letterman, but let's talk about being fired from "Weekend Update." Was it a surprise to you? Or were there some run-ins with Don Ohlmeyer (NBC West Coast President) before?
NORM: No, never met the guy before, and we get notes from executives, but Lorne always, like, protected everybody on the show. So, we never really talked with executives, ever. We never got notes from them, or anything. Lorne would get them and just protect us from them and stuff.
ANDY: Do you think Lorne had a stack of notes from executives who hated you?
NORM: I guess. It was the president, and, therefore, all the executives under the president did whatever he said. I didn't know that but later I found out that they had been constantly giving him notes about how to change -- how I should change. But it was useless, because I can't change. What was I going to do?
ANDY: Are you still friends with Lorne?
NORM: Yeah, yeah. Love Lorne. He's the guy that gave me my break in performing and stuff. And he's a real funny, great guy. He's a great guy 'cause he's the producer of the show, but usually executive producers don't know anything about comedy -- on comedy shows. They're just kind of money men or something. But he's a really funny guy. And when I was a kid in Canada, he had a show in Canada where he was a performer, you know.
ANDY: I didn't know that.
NORM: Yeah. So, I knew him from then, and I always remembered him as being really funny and so it's great -- that bond with a cool head and a sense of humor. That's a great thing.
ANDY: I wish we could see that more.
NORM: He's a warm guy in real life, but his public persona is another thing.
ANDY: Was Chris Farley's death a surprise to you?
NORM: Yeah, it was a shock to me. Everybody else told me they weren't shocked, but I was shocked. You know, I'm shocked when anybody dies. I just figure everybody will live forever. But especially Farley because he was so full of life, you know? He was always like the most lively guy; the strongest guy, you know. And everybody else would just get sick around him, but he would always be the strongest guy. So, I was completely shocked by that.