Film & TV

With Sports Show, Norm Macdonald Is Comedy Central's New Hero

Norm Macdonald is admittedly a seemingly bizarre choice to host Sports Show. Nearing age 50, he hasn't been nationally relevant since he hosted Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live in the mid-'90s -- a gig that ended when then-NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer fired him. What followed was Dirty Work, a box office dud that is now considered to be a cult classic, and two failed network sitcoms, the names of which are as forgettable as the shows themselves.

Macdonald has spent most of the past half-decade doing stand-up comedy while popping up seemingly at random as a guest on Conan O' Brien's various late night shows or as a participant in the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget. To some (especially those born after his SNL career), he may seem like a totally random choice to host a funny show about sports. But here's why it's another genius move by Comedy Central.

It's not that Macdonald had lost it. His appearances on O'

Brien's shows alternated between hilariously dry pre-recorded bits and

wildly unpredictable, rambling stories where, truthfully, he sometimes

seemed drunk.

His turn at the Saget roast, wherein he mocked the

existence of Comedy Central's overly theatrical production by telling

purposefully corny and "unfunny" dad jokes to the bewilderment of a

packed theatre, should be stuff of legend, if it isn't already. If

Macdonald wasn't outright the funniest person of the past few years, he

at least at the best batting average.

But what makes the existence of Sports Show with Norm Macdonald so odd

is that it seemed as if Macdonald had carved out a comfortable niche.

He had failed commercially, but aside from that, his particular brand of

humor seemed to make sense in only crossing paths with a wide

television audience a few times a year.

Macdonald is purposefully

antagonistic as a comedian, and oftentimes he treats comedy as an

experiment and his audience as lab rats. He not only blurs lines between

what jokes are morally acceptable (he repeatedly called Michael Jackson

a "homosexual pedophile" on Weekend Update, long before that became

idle dinner party chatter), but he also challenges how we think and

expect jokes should be told and how they should function.

He recently

admitted that his goal on Update was to eliminate the cleverness of his


That the audiences for Sports Show's first two episodes have been so

receptive and aware of Macdonald's humor has given the show a slightly

weird feel, but Macdonald being received as a folk hero thankfully

hasn't made him, or his off-kilter jokes, any less funny.

Why the show is positioned so well to succeed is precisely because

Macdonald is such a unique a comedian. Unscripted television comedies

now have to combat the fact that jokes about anything and everything are

hashed out on the internet in real time, thus making it more difficult

for shows, even nightly ones, to feel fresh.

Talent and ingenuity

arguably matter more they ever have, and Macdonald has already proven in

two episodes that his show will gleefully (and predictably) veer left.

Take for instance his riff on sportscaster Jim Nantz's penchant for

sickeningly lame puns during big sporting events like The Final Four and

The Masters.

Some on the internet have spent a portion of the past

month mocking Nantz with purposefully obvious puns, and Macdonald set up

a segment of his show to do just that, only to spend the subsequent

minutes delivering bone-dry punchlines that systematically broke down

the set-up.

Sports Show likely won't become a hit on the level of The Daily

Show or The Colbert Report, but it is already as much of a

must-watch. The surprising thing about the show is not that the show is

uproariously funny, it's that it even exists at all.

--Jordan Sargent

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Miami New Times staff