In a new interview, comedian Norm Macdonald says his new Netflix talk show, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, will steer clear of topical humor and political punditry, focusing more on the oddball sensibilities he’s cultivated over the years. That might be a good plan considering that his opinions on the #MeToo movement, as explained in the same interview, don’t sound particularly informed or well thought out, especially when it pertains to his old friend Louis C.K.
Macdonald brought up the #MeToo movement on his own when talking to The Hollywood Reporter in the context of the political climate of Los Angeles and in the country as a whole.
“I’m happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit. It used to be, ‘One hundred women can’t be lying.’ And then it became, ‘One woman can’t lie,'” Macdonald said. “And that became, ‘I believe all women.’ And then you’re like, ‘What?’ Like, that Chris Hardwick guy I really thought got the blunt end of the stick there.”
The “blunt end of the stick” Macdonald is referring to Hardwick being sidelined from his TV hosting gigs for a little over one month after his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra published a Medium essay claiming that she had suffered emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse from an unnamed ex who was clearly Hardwick. He was cleared to return to his job hosting the AMC after show Talking Dead following an investigation the network conducted in conjunction with an attorney from the law firm Loeb & Loeb.
Aside from feeling oppressed by women who are speaking out about enduring alleged sexual assault or harassment by powerful men, McDonald seems to think entertainers who are outed as abusers are entitled to a comeback.
“The model used to be admit wrongdoing, show complete contrition, and then we give you a second chance. Now it’s admit wrongdoing and you’re finished,” Macdonald told THR. “And so the only way to survive is to deny, deny, deny. That’s not healthy — that there is no forgiveness. I do think that at some point it will end with a completely innocent person of prominence sticking a gun in his head and ending it. That’s my guess. I know a couple of people this has happened to.”
Macdonald then clarifies that the “couple of people” he’s referring to are his friend and fellow comedian Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr, who gave Macdonald his first TV writing gig on the original run of Roseanne. “Completely innocent person” is an interesting way to describe C.K. given that the comedian admitted to exposing himself to and masturbating in front of the five women who told their stories to the New York Times. Said Norm:
Well, Louis [C.K.] and Roseanne [Barr] are the two people I know. And Roseanne was so broken up [after her show’s reboot was cancelled] that I got Louis to call her, even though Roseanne was very hard on Louis before that. But she was just so broken and just crying constantly. There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day. Of course, people will go, “What about the victims?” But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that.
The fact that Macdonald insists on staying willfully ignorant on what the victims did or “didn’t have to go through” is the most infuriating part of that statement, especially when C.K.’s victims have spoken in great detail about the professional and financial opportunities they’ve lost as a result of being harassed by him. One woman told the Times that she abandoned comedy all together after being harassed by C.K. in professional setting. The comedy team Dana (Min Goodman) & Julia (Wolov) told the Times about multiple TV writing gigs and other professional opportunities they missed out on because C.K.’s manager, who they say threatened them into silence following an incident at the 2002 Aspen Comedy Festival. Comedian Rebecca Corry also discussed the personal and professional toll that speaking out about C.K. took on her after going public with an incident where he harassed her on the set of a 2005 pilot. Victims of harassment constantly discuss the financial hits they take after rebuffing the advances of more powerful abusers, but according to Macdonald’s calculations, it’s only a loss when the accused are wealthy household names finally getting held accountable for bad behavior.
In a Forbes interview promoting his new talk show, Macdonald demonstrated a startling lack of awareness when he discussed whether C.K. should be allowed to just resume his career after laying low for nine months.
“It’s weird that you can commit murder and go to prison and do your time and then everybody goes, ‘He’s done his time, he deserves to work, how dare you treat him as less than you just because he murdered a guy,’ because he did his penance for it,” the 58-year-old said. “And yet the Twitter mob, there is no sentence for it. But I think we’re going to return to reason and realize you shouldn’t ban a person for life for doing something that you couldn’t even put him in prison for.”
Contrary to Macdonald’s amateur legal analysis, exposing yourself to women and masturbating in their presence without their consent is an actual crime that people who don’t have acclaimed FX sitcoms can get locked up for.
This would have been a perfect opportunity to push back on what “ban a person for life” actually means given how plenty of people who have been accused of awful things are still thriving. A New York Times profile accusing James Franco of sexual misconduct didn’t stop him from starring in a new season of an HBO prestige drama. Jeffrey Tambor had Netflix’s support in reprising his Arrested Development role despite being fired off the Amazon Prime show Transparent following sexual misconduct allegations on the set. After staying quiet for less than a year and dropping in for set at the Comedy Cellar last month, bookers across New York City told the New York Times that they’d be excited to book C.K. at their comedy clubs. In that sense, what exactly does “losing everything in a day,” a phrase used by Macdonald in the THR interview, mean when people who have been accused of misconduct can live comfortably off of their amassed fortune while waiting for the tides of public opinion to turn?
In hyping up his Netflix show, Macdonald is open about the fact that he doesn’t know much about current events or politics, therefore the topics won’t be featured on his show. That might be a sly cop-out: as the THR interview shows, he has defined opinions on politics and current events, but he’s making the conscious choice to divorce them from the new series. In the Forbes piece, Macdonald described his show as “a respite from people constantly starting their talk shows by telling you how to get through the latest school shooting.” In that instance, Macdonald sounds self-aware enough to know when he’s out of his depth comedically. Unfortunately, that self-awareness disappears the moment he’s addressing his friends’ behavior.
UPDATE (9/12 10:04 am EST): Macdonald tweeted the following apology on Tuesday evening amid criticism for his views on the #MeToo movement.
Roseanne and Louis have both been very good friends of mine for many years. They both made terrible mistakes and I would never defend their actions. If my words sounded like I was minimizing the pain that their victims feel to this day, I am deeply sorry.
— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) September 11, 2018
The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon canceled Macdonald’s scheduled Tuesday evening appearance in the wake of his THR interview.
“Out of sensitivity to our audience and in light of Norm Macdonald’s comments in the press today, The Tonight Show has decided to cancel his appearance on Tuesday’s telecast,” a Tonight Show rep told The Hollywood Reporter.