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Norm Macdonald, the comedian known for his dry delivery, died this week after a long battle with cancer. The actor is often remembered as the always-hilarious “Weekend Update” host and Burt Reynolds’ impersonator on “Saturday Night Live.” But before he found TV fame he enjoyed a decades-long career as a stand-up comedian, much of which he recounts in his quasi-memoir “Based on a True Story.”
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The 2016 book, which became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon following his death, is only partly factual, but entirely hilarious. It’s easy to pick a part the truth from the fiction, though. His distinctly self-loathing humor about the tumultuous life of a stand-up comic is definitely true, for example. “Stand-up comedy is a shabby business, made up of shabby fellows like me who cross the country, stay at shabby hotels, and tell jokes they no longer find funny,” he writes in the introduction. And those who watched “SNL” during Macdonald’s tenure will likely remember at least some of his “Top 25 Favorite Weekend Update Jokes,” which he lists in no particular order.
But some of the best parts of the book are the absurdities he packs in for pure entertainment. That he “was a hick, born to the barren, rocky soil of the Ottawa Valley,” when he was actually born and raised in Quebec City, for example. Or when he plans a hit on the life of fellow comedian Dave Attell because of their shared interest in Sarah Silverman.
Writer Sean O’Neal, when he reviewed the book in 2016, wrote that the last chapter would “make for a fine eulogy,” likely because of Macdonald’s unusual earnestness in the final pages, in which he describes how lucky he had been to find so much success and adoration in his life.
“There is the way things are and then the way things appear, and it is the way things appear, even when false, that is often the truest,” Macdonald writes. “If I am remembered, it will always be by the four years I spent at ‘Saturday Night Live’ and, maybe even more than that, by the events surrounding my departure from that show. As long as ‘SNL’ exists, then so do I.”
I think about these two and a half pages from Norm Macdonald’s book constantly. When I reviewed it, I wrote that they would “make for a fine eulogy”—and I swear I didn’t mean anything by it. But they do. pic.twitter.com/vxLRAd2OeP
— Sean O’Neal (@seanoneal) September 14, 2021
‘Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir’ by Norm Macdonald
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