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Norm Macdonald – Hitler’s Dog: Gossip & Trickery

When describing his lot in life as a comedian, Norm Macdonald reveals that it’s all just ‘gossip and trickery’. It struck me as an apt description of life in general. After all, don’t most of us dedicate entirely too much energy trying to dupe everyone we know into believing we’re something more than we are? It’s the entire basis of social media — look at me and how clever and beautiful I am! But we all know it’s filtered…unreal. Much of Norm’s material in his latest Netflix special Hitler’s Dog: Gossip & Trickery is filled with such weary insights. Delivered in his usual dead pan, he hits on a number of different subjects ranging from the silly to the surprisingly touching – well as touching as he’s capable of getting. Where he scores highest though, is when he talks about getting old and the brutish nature of existence. Playing within this theme, his bit on suicide is particularly hilarious – and well observed. When he riffs about going to the ‘rope store’ in preparation for the event, you get the feeling that it’s a comic take on a topic he’s give a lot of consideration. The way he speaks about life as a meaningless exercise rife with disappointment, which only gets more pointless the older you get, well, it’s hard not believe there’s an underlying seriousness behind the laughter. It immediately made me think of both Louis CK’s latest special in which he extensively pontificates on the subject of suicide and the futility of the human condition, as well as the latest instalment of The Trip which also mines this feeling of hopelessness as a core theme. Is this a condition specific to Generation X, I wonder? Or is it just a middle-aged, ‘white guy in crisis’ deal? As a member of the club myself, I must admit I too struggle with the seeming irrelevance of this whole shebang.

As the special continues, Macdonald deftly follows an easy arc of comic observations towards a satisfying conclusion. His ruminations on the use of metaphors in writing, and how they rarely hold up in reality is particularly amusing. The sole example, he says, which works in both contexts is the chestnut ‘beauty is only skin deep’, stating it’s indeed true that what’s inside is all that truly matters…and a handsome man isn’t so appealing if you literally strip away his epidermis. I laughed… and it’s true.

I have to admit, I’ve never really regarded Norm Macdonald as a comedian of any immense talent, especially compared to icons like Pryor, Carlin or Klein, but recently I’ve found myself truly enjoying his no nonsense approach. He expresses his thoughts directly, stripped to the kernel of the idea. Now that I’m a rapidly aging, lugubrious lamenter, I appreciate how he spares the audience any hint of chaff. In the end, hit or miss, it makes for a brisk, minimalist jaunt – one that is ultimately more hit than miss.

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