Norm McDonald's last special was recorded on Netflix during the battle of cancer

Norm McDonald’s last special was recorded on Netflix during the battle of cancer

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Norm MacDonald’s latest comedy special shows that he’s been contemplating his own death while secretly battling cancer for nearly a decade.

The late stand recorded “Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special” on low-key Netflix (now streaming), at his home in front of his computer in the summer of 2020. He wore a blue plaid jacket, baseball cap, and headphones he liked because they covered his no longer white hair He wants to color it.

“I don’t want anyone to paint my hair black because I don’t want to die and then be surprised” when God says, “Well, I made your hair white. What do you think it was all about? I was telling you to take care of your affairs for God’s sake.”

“Nothing Special” offers about 50 minutes of the late comedian’s last jokes, followed by about 30 minutes of David Letterman, Molly Shannon, Dave Chappelle, Conan O’Brien, Adam Sandler, and David Spade telling stories about their friend. The Quebec City-born, best known for his time as a member of the “SNL” cast (1993-1998), died in September 2021 at the age of 61. His producing partner, Laurie Jo Hoekstra, told Deadline that her friend kept his nine-year fight against cancer to himself because he “never wanted his diagnosis to affect the way the public or any of his loved ones saw him.”

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Hoekstra is executive producer of “Nothing Special”. It said in a statement that this stripped-down show, which was taped in McDonald’s living room, “was not originally supposed to be the finished product,” but that “COVID restrictions prevented it from filming in front of the public.”

“Nothing special” begins with this message: “In the summer of 2020, he was due to have surgery and, in his words, “didn’t want to leave anything on the table in case things went south.”

“At the house, the night before entering, he shot — in one take.”

The special is full of homemade charm. He is interrupted by a dog barking in the background and the McDonald’s phone answering. “I have to call you back on the account, I’m doing a special on TV, a comedy special,” he told the caller.

Despite the absence of an audience (and therefore no laughter), one can feel fairly confident that a roulette joke will elicit cries: “I put $100 on the black, the little silver ball spins around the wheel and all,” says MacDonald. Then I landed on red. That’s what I said, (expletive) I almost picked it!” Or when he cracked that his dad was progressive because they had a ‘gender-neutral bathroom.’

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The group is not perfect. It needed ingenuity. MacDonald loses his chain of thought at times (it’s hard to tell if that’s part of his routine). There are parts that may make some viewers shiver, such as MacDonald’s use of the R-word before setting off on an uncomfortable part about people with Down syndrome.

In light of McDonald’s death, some of his other observations seem strange. He encourages the audience to have a living will and warns viewers, “You have to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, in this world. That’s what I’ve learned, as I get older.” He says about making the most of your life: “You only have so much time. You have to choose.”

MacDonald talks about religion, revealing, “One of my biggest fears is that I chose the wrong religion (Christianity). That’s what I believe in, but then I die, and I’m gone, ‘Ah!” it’s you! I thought it was the other companion. “

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“This guy was, in a strange way, judiciously reconciling his death in front of us,” Chappelle says, after watching the special. Letterman agreed. “His circumstance, he focused on it a few times, but it didn’t last. For us, from this perspective, it is very meaningful.”

McDonald’s fellow comedians say they have no idea he is terminally ill.

“Never tell me anything,” Sandler told the group, but noted that MacDonald was “really impressed” on a tour they did together. “That’s cool, just the tour itself. And we hang out and have dinner and breakfasts and (expletive). It’d be just so much fun to see him. He had a lot of energy to hang on.”

O’Brien was concerned that he had offended MacDonald because the comedian had turned down offers to appear on O’Brien’s Late Night Show. “When he was gone, everyone in the[comedian]community, we all thought we were the only ones who didn’t know, and we were so upset that we didn’t get a chance to tell him what he meant to us,” O’Brien says, “I quickly realized he wasn’t going to tolerate it. “

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Shannon MacDonald recalls “really wanted to understand God” in his later years and make the most of his time with her when they saw each other on “SNL’s 40th anniversary” in 2015.

The “Superstar” actress recalls, “As soon as he saw me he was like, ‘I love you, Molly.’ I felt like he had that urgency to say exactly what was on his mind at the moment because he probably wouldn’t go through that moment again. I was like, ‘Oh! Something different with Norm.”

Chappelle describes MacDonald as “uncharacteristically emotional when we parted company” the last time they saw each other at The Comedy Store. A photo from that night concludes Chappelle’s “Closer” special, dedicated to McDonald’s. Chappelle says MacDonald raised his head to take the photo. “And I realized he was standing up for the photo, in hindsight, like a gift. It was a very fitting farewell.”

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