May 17, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Tim Benz: Sports world should mourn loss of Norm Macdonald as entertainment world is

3 min read

If you are a fan of stand-up comedy or “Saturday Night Live,” Tuesday was a hard day.

Comedian Norm Macdonald died after a battle with cancer. The former SNL “Weekend Update” host was 61 years old.

Macdonald was also inexorably linked to the sports world during his career. Macdonald was renowned for weaving sports into his routines and tweeting about golf constantly.

In 2011 on Comedy Central, he hosted the “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald.”

He’d even work sports into late-night talk show guest appearances.

Then there was that time he crashed the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award press conference with Blake Griffin.

Plus, he was a big hockey fan. But sports fans probably remember Macdonald most for his stint hosting the ESPYs in 1998.

Let’s be clear. The ESPYs are an abomination against humanity. The annual ESPN awards show is a preening, pandering, posturing, corporate back-slapping, self-aggrandizing, virtue-signal fest.

It’s the world’s best sports figures promoted via the nadir of cliched Hollywood-elite awards show propaganda.

And those were the good years.

Well, except for 1998. That’s when ESPN made the mistake of hiring Macdonald to be the emcee.

A mistake in the sense that Macdonald left the entire in-house audience squirming and network executives feeling uncomfortable.

But also a mistake that benefited everyone watching on television who still allowed themselves to chuckle alone in their own living room at sarcasm and political incorrectness, without feeling the need to self-immolate before their laughter finished echoing in their own eardrums.

Macdonald’s monologue was probably the first — and last — time that the show was properly self-reflexive, and — by extension — entertaining and memorable.

I have one, and only one, positive memory of the ESPYs. And it is Macdonald’s opening monologue in 1998.

Bill Clinton, what was East Germany, Ken Griffey Jr., Charles Barkley and O.J. Simpson probably disagree.

Here is the whole monologue on YouTube. It is crass. Irreverent. And 90% of the jokes wouldn’t be allowed on network television today.

Which is why I’m suggesting you watch it right now.

And, to modify the phrase, ”Dance like nobody is watching,” I hope you “Laugh like no one is shaming.”

Rest in peace, Norm.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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