Interview: Norm Macdonald brings his stand-up to Netflix with his new special ‘Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery’

It’s hard to imagine a world without the comedic talents of Norm Macdonald. In the early ‘90s, the former “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update host used to deliver us lines such as, “I’m Norm Macdonald, now here’s the fake news.” It’s safe to say that Norm has always been a humorist who has been way ahead of his time.

Lucky for us, on May 9, the stand-up comic released “Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery” on Netflix. The new special treats viewers to everything we love about the entertainer. From some of our favorite “SNL” characters, to “Dirty Work” to “Screwed,” Norm brings that same wry wit to the forefront and follows through with those powerful punchlines the comic has always been famous for.

AXS got to speak with Norm Macdonald in a recent phone interview to talk more about the road so far.

AXS: Okay, so, I actually want to know, when you first began your stand-up career, did any one comic or person in particular influence you to keep pushing forward?

Norm Macdonald: Yeah. Sam Kinison. I had only been doing comedy a few months. He came and took a liking to me. He couldn’t get work in America. This was about a year before he broke. He came to Canada and I saw him and was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s incredible.’ And, he took me to be his opener. He taught me a whole bunch of stuff. But mostly he taught me that I could talk about whatever I wanted to on stage. He thought I should be talking about more significant things; things that interest me rather than things that I thought would get me on television. You know how they always talk about brave comics? That was him. The guy was just saying what everyone in the audience believed. 

AXS: Now, you released a book not that long ago, called, “Based on a True Story: A Memoir.” They say, in comedy, timing is everything. So, tell me, why now?

NM: They asked me to do a memoir and I didn’t want to do a memoir; because I had nothing to say. I tried to tell them, ‘really, there’s nothing interesting backstage.’ People think there is but it’s the on-stage stuff that’s interesting. The backstage stuff is just people eating sandwiches, trying to figure out what to say on stage. But I was thinking I like doing different comedy things so maybe I could write a comic novel and just pretend it was a memoir. I read a lot and it’s the hardest thing to do, to find a book that’s funny. I can only think of three that I’ve ever read. I thought it was impossible that I could write a funny book. So that was my goal and it just happened by accident. I knew I could never get a novel published by myself but I thought, if I call it a memoir and make it a novel, there’s nothing they can do about that. But now I write a lot.

AXS: Throughout your career, do you have a favorite character that you have either written for or gotten to play?

NM: I can’t act, so there’s never been a character. On “Saturday Night Live” I could do impressions. Like if I did an impression, then I could act somehow. Sometimes I would just do an actor, like Richard Farnsworth or something, and I’d just go ‘I’ll be Richard Farnsworth and I can act that way’. I could act the way Richard Farnsworth would act or other people like Burt Reynolds or whatever. You know, I’ve never done a character in my life. One time I did a movie and I just did an impression of John Huston for the whole movie but nobody knew who John Huston was so [he laughed] they thought I was creating this character. 

If you're like the rest of us and want to see more of the classic, punny Norm we all know and love, don’t miss the stand-up comic’s latest special, “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery,” now on Netflix. To catch Norm Macdonald live, you can head to his website for a list of his upcoming shows.