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A Break From the Norm

By: Michael KaplanRemember Norm Macdonald? His sardonic delivery and O.J.Simpson-bashing spiels were the highlight of Saturday NightLive in the mid-’90s–until he got the boot when NBC exec (andO.J. pal) Don Ohlmeyer deemed him unfunny. After a short-lived ABCseries and a couple of lame film comedies, he’s back on the air: Inhis surprisingly charming new show, A Minute With StanHooper (premiering October 29 on Fox), Macdonald stars as a TVcommentator who leaves Manhattan for rural Wisconsin. But thistime, it’s Macdonald who’s the sober straight man and the eccentrictownsfolk around him–from the diner owner to the local cheesemagnate–who land the punch lines. In person, though, the causticMacdonald can still spar like a champ.

Your new show feels way gentler than the typical Fox fare. What’s up with that? I’m tired of TV shows with sarcasm and bitchy wives and husbands who are afraid of them. Everything’s ironic. Shows nowadays have everybody looking so goddamn handsome. That doesn’t make me laugh. That makes me resentful. I like old, ugly guys. To me, an old guy is really funny.

How funny will you be? My hope is to write myself no jokes. I want people to laugh at the situations. If I tell you a joke, you might laugh a little bit at the end, but you really won’t enjoy hearing it. If I tell you an embarrassing story about me, you’ll enjoy it.

Okay. Tell us an embarrassing story about yourself. I was on an airplane, and the guy across from me looked over and said, “I know you. You’re fucking Fred. You’re hilarious.” He didn’t give me a chance to correct him. Hekept calling me Fred. Then he said, “What’s your last name?” So I said, “McKinley.” Then the guy said, “Yeah, Fred McKinley.” Then another dude recognized me, but he didn’t know my name either. So I had to tell him my name was Fred McKinley. He said, “Who’s Fred McKinley?”

This happened in first class? No–coach. I’m always finding somebody who wants to trade me his coach ticket for my first-class seat. So the guy’s all happy, enjoying his lobster thermidor up front, while I sit next to his wife and kids in the back. But if we crash, I’ll be walking through the cornfield while his grizzled remains are sizzling.

If the comedy thing doesn’t work out for you, would you consider doing reality TV? I had a reality-show idea. My concept was that a drunk guy has his own sitcom, but he’s the only one on the show who knows that it’s not really a sitcom. You cast all the actors, hire all the crew, and everybody thinks they’re on a show with this abusive drunk. The star would explode during the show’s taping and kick out the audience. Then, when he leaves the room, the cast wouldtalk shit about him, and they wouldn’t know they were being filmed. I don’t knowwhy nobody wants to do this goddamn show. [Pauses] The problem is that you wind up getting sued. I guess you can’t con a bunch of actors into thinking they’re on a TV show.

Speaking of cons, do you have any updates on O.J.’s search for the real killer? He’s very close. Last I heard, O.J. went into a bar and they told him, “Yeah, a guy was in here talking about the killings. We don’t know where he went, but he left a book of matches from [Los Angeles strip club] the Kit Kat Club.” O.J.’s going over there to find the guy.