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Norm

Published: Thursday 16 Sep 2021 | Edited: Thursday 16 Sep 2021

Before yesterday, I'd never felt a personal sense of loss at the death of a public figure. Norm Macdonald was my absolute favorite comedian.

I was too little to know him from Saturday Night Live when he did the Weekend Update there, but I did get a lot of it as reruns on YouTube.

He's in the category of artists where the genius is obvious, even (and maybe especially) when you don't have any experience or maturity to understand what you like about it or how it's good. I got into Norm's comedy only a few years after I first got into Steinbeck. I know Norm was partial to the Russians, but I hope he wouldn't mind me comparing him to the Great American Novelist.

It's a hallmark of truly developed talent, I think, when someone very young or uneducated or unclassed can still dig it. When I first read The Pearl I knew there was something about it that shone. Even though I couldn't have possibly empathized with the story of poor Mexican pearl divers, nor connected in any meaningful way with the remote encounters of parenthood, ambition, or grief, Steinbeck made me feel them — as a thirteen year old. It was only later that I fully understood how highly acclaimed an author he was — that experts considered him great.

This isn't a way of saying, "I liked him before he was cool." It's actually just an ode to the Great American Comedian. Norm, like Steinbeck, created something so good, the appreciation of it was accessible past barriers of reference, conditioning, learned taste.

I know it's not anything that everyone else isn't saying; it's just one more testament from an untutored fan: I loved watching Norm make the thing that he made. The world is dimmer without him.