Netflix wrapped Macdonald’s performance, which lasts just over 50 minutes, with a half-hour chat with six of his friends: Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Conan O’Brien and Molly Shannon, who spend another 30 minutes or so remembering him while deconstructing what viewers just saw.
Chappelle calls the austere setting “very endearing”, while Letterman notes that without an audience to respond to the material, “We weren’t watching stand-up comedy. Without that audience, you don’t get the full measure of Norm.”
What you get is a clear reminder of Macdonald’s quirky sense of humor as he jumps from topic to topic, engages in occasional odd digressions, and endures the kind of interruptions that have been commonplace. in work experiences during Covid, from his barking dog to answering a phone call and apologizing, but he’s recording a comedy special.
While Macdonald knew his time might be short, there’s nothing morbid or tearful about the presentation, which essentially drags a camera to his face and leaves him tearing up. The comic mentions living wills and a few other issues that touch on mortality, but the tone is no different from his routine of preferring to gamble at Native American casinos (“I consider this a form of reparation” ) or strategizing about cannibalism if he ever found himself on a plane crashing in the Andes.
Beyond that, Macdonald’s performance and ensuing conversation/analysis (recorded during Netflix’s recent Is a Joke comedy showcase) enjoys a relaxed quality, taking viewers behind the curtain where they can listen to the process and thoughts of the comics.
However one responds to the various jokes, there’s something sweeter than sad about it. Macdonald left, but he was able to orchestrate his own recall, saying goodbye with a little help from his friends.
“Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special” will be released on May 30 on Netflix.