"Important things are going on... it's raining in the forest!"
Norm MacDonald is a guy that's openly against doing specials, so it's nice that we actually get some televised stuff for the first time in six years (apart from a brief Letterman appearance). To start out with the good: Norm's still an absolute genius, making people laugh at the sheer absurdity of his premises. There are no rapid-fire punchlines, as the years progress Norm's increasingly comfortable with just having long, meandering stories and takes his time to set up a joke. The absolute best bit in the special is the one where he teaches us you never have to lie... if you say everything in a sarcastic voice. The way he acts that out is classic stuff.
With that said, there are two somewhat disappointing elements about this special. For one thing, Norm doesn't like it when his performances get edited but this could have definitely used some editing. Some bits just go absolutely nowhere and just confuse the crowd. For instance, there's a bit on George Washington that just completely dies, and it makes you wonder if Norm really thought his delivery could save a bit that literally has no jokes. Norm's delivery and timing is amazing, maybe the best of all time. But you still need to write, even if you can make people laugh by mispronouncing the word 'capsule'.
Another thing that's somewhat of a letdown is that a lot of this material is old. There are some decent quality bootlegs available from 2009 and 2010, and I recognised a lot of bits from those bootlegs. He's been doing these bits for seven or eight years now? For a guy who allegedly hates to tell the same joke twice, that seems pretty lazy. I can laugh at the restaurant bit a hundred times, but I was hoping I'd discover lots of new material. That didn't happen, I knew pretty much everything.
However, it's good to see he's still having fun with this. He's a natural and an incredibly mysterious guy, so all the new footage you can get of him is a gem. Furthermore, I don't think I've ever laughed more at the ending of a comedy special, because it was just so perfectly in character for Norm. Overall I'd say this special is a little below 2011's "Me Doing Stand-Up", but certainly not by much.
Reviewed by Quinoa19849 / 10
Norm MacDonald's genius is in the expectations of where his anecdotes and observations will take a turn. The finale of this special is a key example as he starts with saying a deep and true thing that with all the problems in the world and so on loving one another is the most important thing... And this leads into describing (in a first person imitation as Norm can do) of Hitler's dog and how much he loved the guy because... Well, dogs love people and don't judge.
I almost feel weird explaining a joke like that, or how he'll take apart things like Wikipedia or how we use our phones (they didn't used to be 'magic' is the premise of that bit) or the absurdity in the commandment "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ox." Nevermind the fact that no one in like 500 years has seen an ox let alone referred to that commandment that way - that I think is part of the joke - so much of the laughs, and I found as many and as hearty to be had as in the best of the Chappelle or Louis CK specials (also new on Netflix in 2017.
The key I think is that Norm comes off so... Unassuming. He's not a comic that has a rapid fire or super-high energy delivery, he takes his time with every bit he does, and it's like being drawn in to a trick (again with the subtitle of the special). There's a YouTube reviewer called the Nerdwriter who goes more in depth but the key thing is that there's a magic level to what Norm does, and not in a cheesy way, I mean that you are pulled in little by little as he does each movement of thought and winds up at something that is .... Whoa. His comedy is absurd and wholly delightful, and the intelligence behind it could cut through ten plates of glass.
If nothing else his bit about bringing back the word 'score' ala Abraham Lincoln and George Washington cutting down the tree would get this three stars by default. There's more though so it gets the bump up to just shy of 5 (maybe a couple of minutes fell flat for me but only a couple).
Reviewed by classicsoncall7 / 10
"Like, most of my act is just, you know,...uh, gossip and trickery."
If I had to guess, the only times I've seen Norm Macdonald were on his Saturday Night Live appearances. Seems to me he was funny in those bits, but I had a bit of a tough time with this stand-up special. Macdonald had his moments, but there were also times when he seemed to just wind up standing there lost in thought and wondering what to say next. More so in the first part of his act, he hit a better stride in the second half. I like comics who focus in on the mundane and make it funny, and Norm does some of that here, but every now and then he would lament the fact that he was old. Not getting old, just being old. So much so that I had to look up his stats here on IMDb and he was born in 1959, so that only makes him fifty eight as I write this. Heck, I'm a decade older and feel a lot better about myself than Macdonald does. It could just be part of his schtick but the way he came across I don't think so. My favorite bits here had to do with the unknown astronauts who have walked on the moon, and Germany taking on the world twice in a losing cause. Those were pretty funny observations. For those who enjoy the more morbid, I thought his idea to blame someone else in a suicide note was kind of interesting. Don't think I'll try it though.