This week, comedian Norm MacDonald was supposed to be on a press tour promoting his new Netflix show, Norm Macdonald Has a Show. But following remarks that defended disgraced comedians Chris Hardwick, Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr, MacDonald is now on an apology tour. And it’s going poorly, as his latest stop included a crass comment that insulted people with Down Syndrome.
The day after MacDonald’s THR interview went viral, caused him to get booted from a Tonight Show appearance, and inspired a piss-poor apology tweet, the Saturday Night Live alum appeared on radio’s The Howard Stern Show, where he tried to backpedal his previous comments. Deadline reports MacDonald denied that he didn’t feel for the victims of harassment, and said, “You’d have to have Down syndrome to (not feel sorry).”
MacDonald then said to Stern “Down syndrome. That’s my new word.” He means he’s using “Down Syndrome” as a synonym for “retarded.” Perhaps this is Norm MacDonald trying to be politically correct, but if so, he wildly missed the mark. He’s still mocking people who are intellectually disabled, he’s just narrowed the focus. And Stern supported him, offering in response, “Down Syndrome. Good word.”
But MacDonald wasn’t done. He made a statement about Me Too. And it’s about what you’d expect. Which is to say, he still doesn’t get it or why people are angry with him.
Me Too is what you want for your daughters, you know what I mean? You want that to be the future world. I meet all kinds of women that have terrible stories, you know, about what’s happened to them. But I wasn’t talking about the victims. They asked me about Roseanne. They asked me about Chris Hardwick. They asked me about Louis.
This is like a winning bingo card for awful celebrity apologies. “Father of Daughters” cliche? Check. Missing the core of why people are angry? Check. Suggesting you’re somehow a victim because WHO COULD POSSIBLY ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS? CHECK CHECK CHECK.
One: MacDonald doesn’t have daughters. Maybe, like Hardwick, he considers himself a future father of daughters. Regardless, suggesting that MacDonald wants Me Too for the daughters he doesn’t have is infuriating, because in the same breath he admits he knows women now with “terrible stories,” presumably of sexual misconduct in the workplace. He doesn’t express any concern for them when he kicks the effects of Me Too to some mysterious future place. He doesn’t want change now, because even though he says he knows people personally impacted by the very abuses Me Too is pushing back against, he also has abuser-friends who are impacted. And don’t they deserve fame while suffering zero consequences for their trespasses? (Spoilers: No. They do not.)
And you were talking about the victims, Norm. For a refresher, here’s what you told THR:
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 canceled] 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.
And lastly, it’s intellectually dishonest for any celebrity to declare surprise when asked about Me Too or Time’s Up. This has been a hot topic since last fall. Everyone in Hollywood should have an answer at the ready, because any journalist has reason to ask. The excuse of being caught off-guard is bullshit. If your publicist hasn’t had a conversation with you about how you’d answer a question about Me Too or any number of alleged abusers you personally know, you should fire them because they are not doing their due diligence. But this isn’t MacDonald’s rep’s fault. He’s the one that decided to say tone-deaf, rape culture-promoting trash, and then defended it by throwing on senseless insults to a marginalized group. And he’s the one that essentially tried to claim he’d been tricked by the interviewer or taken out of context by headlines that claimed he defended Hardwick, Barr, and C.K.
A big chunk from the Norm/Howard Stern interview: Norm doesn't like doing print interviews because "they put things together that you’re saying - I’m a fucking dumb guy. I get confused and shit. So they’re asking me about a whole bunch of things at the same time." pic.twitter.com/ZKUBpozvHW— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) September 12, 2018
MacDonald wants us to read his words but not in between the lines. He pleads ignorance, declaring, “I’m a fucking dumb guy. I get confused a lot and shit.”
Here’s the thing. I don’t think MacDonald is dumb. I think he’s lazy. I think the ideas he’s being asked to confront challenge his perspective and make him uncomfortable. That’s very human. Change scares us. But that’s not a good excuse to dig deeper and act like you’re the real victim in all this. Some have criticized The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’s decision to cancel MacDonald’s appearance, suggesting it could have been a venue to challenge his comments. But with the Stern appearance, MacDonald makes clear he will only continue to make an unfunny fool of himself at any opportunity. Let him do that on Twitter not TV.
As it’s meant to hit their streaming service tomorrow, Netflix is unlikely to cancel Norm Macdonald Has a Show. But each of us has a choice about tuning in to watch a man comment on life and celebrity when he is a self-confessed “fucking dumb guy.”
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