Norm Macdonald’s 1998 ESPYs monologue was a sports roast for the ages

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When it was reported Tuesday that comedy icon Norm Macdonald died of most cancers at age 61 a million ideas went by way of my thoughts. Never have we had somebody who felt so forward of his time, as a result of he was prepared to move you again. Norm had this means to mix trendy biting comedy, self depreciation, and observational comedy — all with a supply that felt like your uncle telling jokes at a household reunion.

The lovely factor about Macdonald’s comedy was how he relished in the awkward. He made it his playground. No matter what he mentioned, or did on stage — he all the time had the viewers proper the place he needed them, in the palm of his hand. If you groaned as a result of he made a joke straight out of the Fifties, it’s as a result of he needed you to. The man understood an viewers higher than any comic of the final 30 years. It’s for this motive that information of his loss of life instantly made me suppose again to the 1998 ESPY Awards, one thing that by no means, ever would have occurred immediately.

Armed with the appears of a nightly information host, Norm took to the stage and started roasting everybody in sight, with out second considered the ramifications. If it appeared like Macdonald didn’t care, it’s as a result of he seemingly didn’t. His model of comedy was by no means aimed toward marketability, it was aimed to make folks chortle, which he did, in a method we are going to by no means seen once more at the present.

“I was talking to Jerry Jones backstage, and he’s a good guy, and he talking about rebuilding the team, you know. And he told me, he says, ‘We have to get back to what made us a championship team: Strippers and crack.’”

Norm turned the complete monologue into speedy fireplace burns of everybody in attendance, typically hanging to the core of their off discipline/courtroom troubles and actually hit folks the place it hurts. Nobody in that viewers needed to listen to their identify talked about by Macdonald, figuring out one thing was coming round the nook. Hell, take a look at John Elway’s face when the digicam cuts to him after Norm congratulated the Broncos on successful the Super Bowl. This is a man scared of what would possibly come subsequent.

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Thankfully for Elway, he was spared. Norm knew after the eruption of applause that it wasn’t the time to goof on the champs, so he swung down, saying there was a film being made about the Denver Nuggets: “Black men can’t jump either.”

Now look, I do know there are PLENTY of instances the place Norm makes jokes on this which might be a product of their time. Things we might by no means, ever joke about now — and the level right here isn’t to litigate what’s, or isn’t applicable comedy in 2021, it’s simply appreciating that for one fleeting second in 1998, ESPN handed their cherished awards over to Macdonald and needed to watch.

Saving the most surprising joke for final, Macdonald congratulates Charles Woodson on turning into the first defensive participant to win the Heisman Trophy, one thing he says can by no means be taken away from him … “unless you kill your wife and a waiter.” Closing with an O.J. Simpson joke is barely one thing Macdonald would have been courageous sufficient to do on that stage, and it was excellent.

Rest in peace, Norm Macdonald. Nobody will ever, each be such as you.