Watch Norm Macdonald Tackle Coronavirus In Stand-Up Set

Earlier this month, Macdonald riffed on the pandemic on stage

Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald might be one of the few people alive who can talk about coronavirus and be funny.
Norm Macdonald/YouTube
By Tobias Carroll / March 24, 2020 12:15 pm

Bringing up a hot-button news topic in one’s comedy isn’t always the best of ideas. Cue memories of Gilbert Gottfried being heckled with cries of “Too soon!” in early 2001; cue memories of hundreds of bad comedians, pros and amateurs, trying and failing to make light of potentially tragic events — and bombing on stage as as result.

But the peculiar comic sensibility of Norm Macdonald makes him one of a handful of comedians who can grapple with subjects that aren’t remotely funny and make it work. Which is exactly what happened when he took to the stage and, as part of his set, riffed on the coronavirus earlier this month.

“It’s like I’m in the middle of a Stephen King novel,” Macdonald quips. Also up for discussion: Big Pharma, baby laxative-laced cocaine, Costco and the way that number of cases of coronavirus can escalate in uncanny fashion. And, of course, touching your face — or, to be precise, not touching your face.

“It’s funny that we all now know how we’re going to die,” Macdonald says, and the nervous laughter he gets in response is telling. At Vulture, John Roy wrote an in-depth exploration of Macdonald’s routine — a thoughtful look at both his comedy and how it speaks to the current moment.

Macdonald has also posted a second clip from his routine — including a brief cough that clearly alarms both Macdonald and his audience, to bleakly comic effect. What happens when the mind responsible for the moth joke tackles a pandemic? Now we know.

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