Norm Macdonald‘s posthumous comedy special, Nothing Special, has arrived on Netflix, concluding with a 30-minute commentary and tribute from his famous friends.
At a private pre-release screening, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, David Spade, and Molly Shannon watched Macdonald’s 54-minute special and then discussed it, touching on memories they have of Macdonald personally and on a global scale.
After Macdonald signed off from what would ultimately be the last special of his life, Chappelle, who dedicated his own special to Macdonald, opened the discussion. He talked about how he used to dislike the concept of stand-up comedy without an audience, but that Macdonald’s unresponsive performance (save for a few heckles from a dog) changed his mind.
“This was very endearing. It was amazing,” Chappelle said. Later in the discussion, he recalled how Macdonald’s hilarity on the set of their 2000 film Screwed helped him grieve the loss of his father.
Letterman, who anointed Macdonald as the last comedian to perform stand-up on his late-night show, called the special “not strictly-speaking stand-up.”(After all, Macdonald was sitting down.)
“It’s something else… The great gift could have been to be in a room full of people when Norm did that for those people.”
Due to COVID-19 and his failing health on account of a secret cancer diagnosis, Macdonald recorded his special with a couple of cameras and a bright lamp in the kitchen of his producing partner’s condo.
“The audience was his partner,” Letterman lamented about Macdonald’s final, isolated special. “Everybody was in this together with Norm.”
Sandler, with whom Macdonald worked on Saturday Night Live and several movies, took something more personal from the special.
“That kind of felt like the gentle Norm that, when you would sit and hang out after our shows on the road . . . and he’d still be being funny, he would kind of perform like that.”
“He had the best word choice of maybe any comedian I’ve ever seen,” added O’Brien, on whose talk show Macdonald shined brighter than arguably any other platform. “He was like Mark Twain.”
Another of Macdonald’s SNL and film collaborators, David Spade marveled that the special was filmed in one take. “There’s no really looking down, there’s no bumbling . . . it was just kind of go, go, go, go,” Spade said over there on the chair.
SNL alum number three, Shannon, remembered Macdonald’s lesser advertised attributes. “I felt like, deep down, he was very, very shy . . . and so sweet . . . and so sensitive.”
Perhaps the most poignant comment came from Chappelle.
“This guy was, in a weird way, reconciling his mortality hilariously in front of us.”
You can watch the rest of their discussion, and the special that prompted it, in Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special on Netflix.