Turn Ben Stein On
FEBRUARY 22, 2001 (COM)
BEN: G. Love [the band] -- very funny guys. Very funny guys.
NORM: That's a good band, man.
BEN: And Jeff --
NORM: That's the best band on tv.
BEN: Jeff--I think so-- Jeff, who comes from angola state prison--
NORM: You know what always struck me odd about prison?
NORM: Is when they--the worst part about prison to me is not the loss of freedom, you know, which is terrible, I suppose.
NORM: It's not being away from your loved one. Anal rape would be the worst.
BEN: Yeah, that sounds terrible.
NORM: And yet, they never mention that when they sentence you. You know what I mean?
BEN: Yeah, they don't say you're sentenced to be anally raped by a big giant guy who's you're roommate and all his friends.
NORM: A big giant what?
BEN: A big giant guy who's your roommate and all his friends.
NORM: I know. They don't mention that.
BEN: Yet, you would think that would be part of the punishment.
NORM: You imagine if you went there, like, if you weren't street smart like me and you, showed up, and you get anally raped the first night, you know what I mean? And you'd be, like, shocked.
NORM: You see, the guy in the cafeteria the next day, you're like, "You were way out of line, pal! Way out of line! That's ridiculous!"
BEN: Now, talking--
NORM: I've got a good mind to go the warden about this.
BEN: When you were doing Bob Dole...
BEN: What, I mean, what were you trying to say about him? You were saying the guy is intense, out of his mind, crazy.
NORM: He reminds me a lot of my dad, you know, and I saw--because my dad was in the war, and-- I just liked him because he's not a natural politician, not a campaigner, you know what I mean? He's more an inward guy, you know?
BEN: But--but what was your dad like? I mean
NORM: He was, like, very, uh... My dad was very, like, no nonsense.
BEN: Give us an example.
NORM: I remember once my dad-
BEN: This is in Canada, right?
NORM: I remember when I was a kid I used to watch-- remember the show 'Twilight Zone'?
NORM: My dad wouldn't watch anything like fantastical at all. He wouldn't even watch fiction. He just wanted to watch the news. Uh,-
BEN: Why's that?
NORM: Because he said, like, "If you watch the news, and then you watch a crazy show, then you'll get them mixed up."
BEN: Uh-huh. Why did you --
NORM: So I'm watching the 'Twilight Zone', which was--that was the worst show to him because it was so crazy. You know the 'Twilight Zone'?
BEN: Sure. Know it well. It's a great show.
NORM: So I'm watching it with my brother, right, we're watching it, we're kids. And then my dad walked down. He saw the tv with 'Twilight Zone'. He recognized it as the twilight zone. He said, "I suppose that--" he pointed at a character on twilight zone-- he said, "I suppose that one's a god damn ghost." [laughter]
BEN: And what did you say to that?
NORM: It kind of ruined it, you know. [laughter]
BEN: Now, where did you grow up, in Canada, right?
NORM: Canada, Quebec, Quebec City.
BEN: Now, why do so many Canadians find their way down here to America? Is it because we have lots of money and cute girls?
NORM: Yeah. Canada's not a very good country.
BEN: What's wrong with it?
NORM: Uh, it's kind of. Like, uh--uh, hasn't got enough people in it, you know?
BEN: Now, do your parents -- are your parents living?
NORM: Uh... My mom--it's a mixed marriage. My mom is alive and my dad's dead.
BEN: Uh, now, before he died, did your dad live to see you become a star?
NORM: Uh, no. No, but your mother's lived to see you become a star?
NORM: Uh, yeah.
BEN: Does she love it? Does she call you up every night and say, "God, I'm proud of you, son"?
NORM: No. She--she's happy. My brother is in journalism, and so he's a bit more serious, you know.
BEN: Where is he?
NORM: He lives in Israel.
BEN: You're kidding?
NORM: No. He lives in Israel. He's a foreign correspondent for C.B.C.
BEN: He doesn't look at all Jewish.
NORM: I'm not Jewish. I shouldn't say it like that.
NORM: No, no. I wasn't going to ask you for money for the UJA. I wasn't going to ask if you'd lend me money or anything or ask you if you could get me another suit like this one wholesale or anything, so... But does your mother-- does your mother, like, say, "God, I'm so proud of you"? She does, right? She calls up.
NORM: Yes, she's very happy. She's going to come next week and visit. Maybe you can meet her. She's a nice lady.
BEN: I'd like to meet her. We have to now do something crass that we in America do, because we don't have government supported tv. We're going to go to a "commercial" break. When we come back, we're going to talk to Norm Macdonald about not making any compromises for our art. Right, norm? For our art.
BEN: For our art.
BEN: We're back to 'Turn Ben Stein On', and I'm here with Norm Macdonald, a very, very funny guy, star of a gigantic sitcom called--well, it's called 'Worm'.
NORM: Oh, no, no.
BEN: It's called 'Norm'.
BEN: Sorry. Sorry. We're discussing compromise. Norm, how did you know you wanted to be a comedian? I mean, or you maybe don't want to be one. Maybe you would rather be-- maybe you'd rather be Barbra Streisand.
NORM: I never knew. I just always enjoyed watching comedy, you know?
BEN: And so when did you start doing your first comedic acts? For money.
NORM: I was working in Canada as a, um--um... I had different, like, manual labor jobs, and then they had a-- what do you call it-- an amateur night at a comedy club. So i just went there. Everybody sucked there, so i was saying-- I said i could suck, too, you know?
BEN: Uh-huh. So were you funny?
NORM: I wasn't that funny.
BEN: Look, I'm going to be like a lawyer, and I'm going to now read you some of your own words and ask you if you remember them, because i have to prepare for every show I do. I am by training a lawyer, and so I have to prepare. I don't just wing it like Larry King. Right. I, uh, come in and I prepare. So I was reading these.
NORM: Larry King does no research.
BEN: I know. He does no research at all. He's famous for that. And he gets $8 million a year. He told me that on the air. Yeah, $8 million a year. Well, to you that's nothing. To me, that's a fantastic amount.
NORM: But anyway, these are-- and so I was reading some of Norm's comments, and my wife said, "What's all this insane laughing?" I said, "Well, in Washington state, elementary school teacher Mary K. Letourneau pleaded guilty to having sex with a sixth grade student. Letourneau has been branded a sex offender or as the kids refer to her..."
NORM: Greatest teacher ever. [laughter]
BEN: Yeah, exactly! "The uh, Carney Wilson, formerly of 'Wilson Phillips', says that her talk show will be different from other talk shows in that she will treat her guests with respect and dignity..."
NORM: And then eat them? [laughter]
BEN: Right! Exactly! Now, and "Kenny-- Kenny G.-- Kenny G. "Released his Christmas album this week. Happy Birthday, Jesus."
NORM: Hope you like crap. [laughter]
BEN: Ha ha these are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, fabulous, funny stories. Now, do you-- do you make these up? How do you come up with these?
NORM: Well, because when I used to do -- I used to host 'Weekend Update' on SNL, so every week we had to do like 10 minutes of jokes, so then during the week, just reading the papers trying to think up what's funny.
BEN: And you have a kind of a gift for offending people, right?
NORM: What? Yeah. No, sometimes I like--you know, I try to be nice all the time, but sometimes, by mistake, you know, I'll offend people.
BEN: But you get a lot out of it. It's sort of the way you're father used to offend you, right?
NORM: I never thought of it --
BEN: You sort of play it back to the larger world.
NORM: I never thought of it-- that sounds like a psychology theory.
BEN: I am by nature a psychologist. You were making 'Saturday Night Live' late night type money, and then suddenly you start making sitcom type money. Big giant difference, right?
NORM: Uh, you make more--yeah.
BEN: So what's the first thing you bought with your first big whopping sitcom check?
NORM: Um, I don't--I don't own-- I don't drive a car.
BEN: You don't drive a car?
NORM: No, and I just have a little apartment, and I don't own a-- I don't know what to get. Like, I go to a store and I walk through. Everything looks the same to me. I don't know, man.
BEN: So you don't buy anything--
NORM: Sometimes I buy something, but then it's in a big, heavy box. I have to take it home and then I take it out of the box, I go, "what the f*** Do I do now?"
BEN: So you live by yourself?
NORM: I just live alone with my, yeah, I got a...
BEN: Do you have a dog?
NORM: I have a cat. What kind? A little cat I found. They were gassing for cats in my neighborhood.
BEN: You're kidding.
NORM: That's what this lady said. And there was a cat hidden. I say, "Hey, man, there's this cat." She goes, "Yeah. They're gassing for cats." So I said, "Oh, my lord."
BEN: So you saved the cat.
NORM: Well, yeah, I didn't save it. It probably would've been fine without me, but I--he lives in my house now.
BEN: All right. We're going to have to sell some products. When we return, we're going to ask Norm Macdonald some questions, unless uh, we fire him during the break.
BEN: Norm, Norm, Norm has managed to keep his job during that break, and, uh, it was a close-run thing. We're talking about compromises. G. Love, have you had to make any serious compromises here in Hollywood?
G.Love: I don't know. Just like, maybe, you had to play a song you didn't want to play.
BEN: That--that's a tough one.
G.Love: It is, man.
BEN: Wow, that's brutal. Wow! You guys suffer. Wow, you suffer for your art. Now, anyway, I, uh, is there a lot of--
NORM: This guy had to f*** guys on Santa Monica Boulevard to get this show.
BEN: Not a lot of guys. Not a lot of guys. One guy. Now, is there a lot of network interference in the writing of a sitcom?
NORM: Of a sitcom? Yes. Sitcom, you--you know, when I worked on 'Saturday Night Live', the producer Lorne Michaels was a good guy. He let me do whatever I wanted.
BEN: He did?
BEN: You could do whatever you wanted, but he could always fire you.
NORM: Yeah, exactly. But on a sitcom, it's different. You got to, uh, you know, 'cause I guess it's on primetime, you got to do what they want.
BEN: This is not on primetime. This is on cable, so i'm going to ask you some questions that have been e-mailed, uh... E-mailed to us on our website. These are real ones. These are not made up.
NORM: All right. Ok.
BEN: "Hey, Norm:-" this is from a guy named Bobby [****]. "Hey, Norm, you kick ass. The show rules, too. And whenever you're on 'Dennis Miller Live' or other good talk shows, you always talk about ... sex and stuff. That's hilarious. "Anyway, I was wondering how well you knew Chris Farley, and if you and he were good friends or just coworkers. Well, take care. -Bobby."
NORM: I, uh, I knew Chris Farley real good. He was a good friend of mine.
BEN: Was he a great guy? He seemed like that.
NORM: Great guy. One of the funniest guys ever. Because he was a guy who could make an old guy, a young guy laugh. You know what I mean?
NORM: A kid, an old guy, a real dumb guy, a real smart guy.
BEN: Mmm, he could make anybody laugh.
NORM: He could make anybody laugh, which is very rare, but he was a good man, and I worked with him. He did, uh-- the last thing he ever did was he did a movie with me called 'Dirty Work'. [Applause]
BEN: Were you totally shocked when he died?
NORM: They liked 'Dirty Work'. Yeah, I was shocked when he died. Other people said, like, they saw it coming and everything, but I'm always shocked, even though I know you're going to die, because even--like, you go to a doctor, all the doctor can really tell you after your check-up is that you're not going to die right away.
BEN: Or you're not going to die right away, that's right.
NORM: Right. They never-- they can't say, "Hey, good news. We got your tests back. You're immortal." You know what I mean?
BEN: You're going to die.
NORM: They can just tell you you don't have a big black thing inside you right now.
BEN: Which might be different if you're in prison, right? Then you-- ok. Now... Ok, now, um... Ok, now, here's another--
NORM: Now, why would--ok.
BEN: Here's the question. "What is your opinion of David Hasselhoff"?
NORM: Uh, David Hasselhoff? Well, I had a theory for a while that, uh... Germans love David Hasselhoff. And I would, uh... And I still believe that. To be true. It's a theory I've been working on for a while, and I've been keeping clippings and stuff from newspapers whenever I get any evidence that supports my, uh, assertion that Germans love David Hasselhoff.
BEN: Uh-huh. It makes, uh, makes a lot of sense. Ok, now here's another question. This is from, uh, gee, it's from Louis [****] "Norm, I am a big fan of yours, ever since your routine years ago on A&E evening at the improve. The killer dog routine you did was hilarious. My friend and I debate over why you left Saturday Night Live. He said you were forced out for excessive cursing on the show. I say you left because that show sucks and kills careers ever since all the other good people left. Which one of us is right, if any of us are? And if none of us are right-- if none of us are right, why did you leave SNL"?
NORM: Well, I just left. They fired me off the 'Weekend Update' segment, and then I--I quit the rest of it.
BEN: All right. One last commercial break. I promise it won't hurt a bit. Stay tuned for more Norm Macdonald's talk with me about no compromises.
BEN: My guest-- we're back with him. His name is Norm Macdonald. During the break, he's become even more funny and famous. Now, you recently gave a speech at the University of Iowa, and I'm told that 80% of the audience walked out. What could you possibly have said to them to make 80% of them walk out?
NORM: Well, it wasn't a speech. It was like some stand-up comedy.
BEN: Yeah, well, what did you say to them?
NORM: I was just talking-- I don't have-- my stand-up act, I just talk about whatever I'm thinking about.
BEN: Mm-hmm. So what did you say?
NORM: - Lately, but at the time, it was about having sex with animals.
NORM: But it wasn't, like, weird. I'm not in favor of it.
BEN: Of course not.
NORM: I'm not in favor of it, but I was just talking about it 'cause I thought it was odd, like, they have a word for it--bestiality. And nobody I know has ever done it. You know what I mean? I've never known anybody that's ever known anybody that's ever had sex with animals, but a lot of people are having sex with animals on account of they got that word bestiality. It's in the dictionary. It ain't easy to get a word in the dictionary.
BEN: So somebody's doing it.
NORM: Somebody's got to be going, "Hey, man. *** some animals--hey, we got to come up with a word." Whatever. So I can't remember what joke, but it was some joke about, like, I said I feel sorry for the, uh, animal, because, you know, they get to have sex with a super hot lady and then the next day, they bring him back another pig. You know, because the pig, initially he was having sex with another pig. He didn't know. Hey, this is a nice-looking thing I'm f***ing But then they go, you know. And then I also said I feel sorry for-- imagine if you watch one of those videos of a guy, um, a pig having sex with a woman, and then you recognize-- "Hhey, isn't that that woman that wouldn't go out with me?" [laughter] You feel better. They were just harmless, harmless jokes.
BEN: Are there-- for a guy like you, is there any taboo subject? In comedy.
BEN: Now, speaking anywhere, but say suppose you're speaking at the University of Southern California, not Iowa.
NORM: I would not do-- when I was on Update, I wouldn't do any jokes about, uh, Black Muslims.
BEN: Why is that?
NORM: I was afraid that maybe they would kill me. [laughter]
BEN: Now, you have children, right, by your previous marriage?
NORM: I have a boy. I have a little boy.
BEN: How old is he?
NORM: He's 8 years old.
BEN: Now, would you like him to go into standup?
NORM: Uh, stand-up comedy?
BEN: Yeah. It's a good job, isn't it?
NORM: It's not-- it's kind of tough on, uh, on 8-year-olds.
BEN: Well, maybe when he got older.
NORM: Maybe when he gets older, you know.
BEN: If you went to see him talk and he told you that joke-- started telling that joke about the pig, would you be offended or would you say, "Son, that's a great joke. I'm so proud I taught you that joke."?
NORM: I would laugh at that joke because it's not-- as long as a joke doesn't, uh, promote a bad thing. You know, you can comment on--
BEN: So this sort of--
NORM: You can comment on a bad thing. You can do a joke about cigarettes. It doesn't mean you want people to smoke.
BEN: You're actually discouraging women from having sex with pigs, right?
NORM: Exactly! I'm against it. I'm solidly against it.
BEN: On that note, thank you, Norm Macdonald for being here! Thank you very, very, very much. It's an honor to have you on the show. And we always end up doing 10 pushups.
BEN: Yes, we do 10 pushups. Yes, you have to get over there and do--
NORM: Do what?
BEN: 10 pushups.
Audience: Go! Go! Go!
[Norm watches Ben Stein do push-ups]