Since I learned about Norm MacDonald dying of cancer yesterday at the age of 61, I’ve been knee-deep in tweets memorializing the comedy legend and compilation videos showcasing his unique style. The man was a master of the Groaner. The type of jokes that would force an unpreventable and involuntary groan to escape your throat.
He achieved this not only through an irreverence to his subject matter. But through an irreverence to the audience watching him. He was an early pioneer of “anti-humor” — long-winded and convoluted stories that amount to little more than a cheap pun, or no joke at all. In those instances, we were the joke. He’d string us along for five minutes — that signature, permanent smirk on his face — only to deliver a severely underwhelming punchline.