Norm and Doug: Two Comedians Rejecting PC
We live in a time when one comedian after another has been so badly bitten by the political-correctness bug that he's lost not his wits but his wit. Humor, it's been said, is the ultimate enemy of tyranny; so when people whose job is to make us laugh at our culture's sacred cows choose instead to march in lockstep behind its high priests, it's time to worry.
Fortunately, most of the comedians who've tamed themselves in the name of social justice and ultra-sensitivity to victim-group sensibilities – the first three names that come to mind are Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Handler – were never that great to begin with. There is no little irony in the fact that all three of these women became famous less for being witty than for trying to be shocking – for doing raunchy material of the sort women aren't supposed to do. Then, suddenly, all three of them changed their acts and started lecturing us all about what kind of things we should and shouldn't say.
With such clowns turning into killjoys all over the place, it's important to give a nod to those gutsy practitioners of the craft who still dare to think funny and defy the Thought Police. As it happens, two of the very best have recently come out with books and standup specials that showcase their continued willingness to transgress, disgruntle, and outrage in order to give us a laugh or two.
First up: Norm MacDonald, whose “Weekend Update” segment, during his years (1993-98) on Saturday Night Live, was that show's highlight. Nowadays, when SNL ventures into politics, it's invariably heavy-handed and predictably PC; in his day, Norm – many of whose SNL bits can be viewed on YouTube – routinely swam against the tide. He tirelessly skewered then-President Bill Clinton as a shifty poon-hound and Hillary as a congenital liar and battleaxe. He joked about fat women and the Million Man March.
One of his choice targets was celebrities' moral posturing. (“Talk-show host Ricki Lake was arrested for vandalism after demonstrating against fur. She said wearing fur was in bad taste, then returned to her studio to tape a show entitled 'Why Whores Get the Clap.'”) During the O.J. Simpson trial, he served up gags predicated on O.J.'s guilt; after the verdict, he led with this: “It's official. Murder is now legal in the state of California.” It was Norm's O.J. items that reportedly led to his firing by Don Ohlmeyer, an NBC exec who was pals with O.J. – and who threw a post-trial party for the jurors.
Other, less talented SNL alums went on to wildly successful careers making bad movies. Norm starred in one silly, uneven, but highly risible flop, Dirty Work (1998). He made the fresh, freewheeling sitcom Norm (1999-2001) – which disappeared fast, even as insipid fare (Friends, Two and a Half Men) thrived. His 2011 comedy special Me Doing Standup is a masterpiece. (“In the old days, a man could just get sick and die. Now they have to wage a battle. So my uncle Bert is waging a courageous battle....And this is the battle: he's lying in a hospital bed with a thing in his arm watching Matlock on the TV.”)