About three years ago I was hit with severe sinus problems. Having never in my whole life experienced such a thing I can tell you that it frightened me. You ask, What was frightening about it? Well, mostly it was not being able to breathe. Also the fact that I couldn’t sleep because, who wants to nod off to sleep when they can’t breathe? I felt as if I somehow did manage to fall asleep that I might never wake up—that’s what not being able to breathe does to you.

So every night for about three weeks instead of sleeping in my bed I adopted the habit of sitting in my favorite chair in the living room. Sitting up straight eased the pain a bit and, frankly, it just felt better than lying down. And, since I could not sleep and was sitting up awake I decided to scroll through YouTube on my I-Pad.

About the third night I came across a clip that someone had advertised as one of the greatest comedy bits of all time. I watched the bit. It was Norm Macdonald on the Conan O’Brien show, the episode with Courtney Thorne-Smith where she was plugging her new movie that starred her and Carrot Top. Of course, I had heard of Norm Macdonald—who hadn’t?

I watched the clip and, even though I couldn’t breathe I started to laugh. Out loud. I had to admit, it was really funny. I wasn’t sure if it was the greatest of all time, but it sure was funny.

Then I started followed the leads on the right hand side of the screen and watched a few more clips of Norm. Pretty hilarious stuff. I eventually landed on some hour-long show with him and when I woke up hours later another show of him was playing. At least I had gotten a little bit of sleep, finally.

The next night I still couldn’t sleep. I looked at my Google feed as I sat up in my living room chair. The bit of Norm on Conan again showed in my feed. I didn’t really want to watch it again so I typed in something else but, by accident (I guess) the same clip with Conan and Courtney came up again. So I watched, yet again. And this time at the end I thought to myself, you know, this really might be the best comedy bit of all time. I probably fell asleep for at least seven days in a row listening to Norm Macdonald.

I became a Norm fan and sought out everything about him I could find. I listened to the same things over and over and over again. Figured that I listened to great music again and again, so why not listen to great comedy again and again? Other favorite bits of mine were his appearance on Letterman after he had been fired from Saturday night Live, his last appearance on Letterman, the moth joke, and the Canadian uncle joke. There are probably twenty others that I regularly visit on YouTube.

But more importantly than laugh at his jokes, Norm made me think and reflect on what he had said, and how he said it. The artistry, the delivery. He had a peculiar way of telling jokes. He would go on and on with the setup, sometimes for ten minutes and then, Boom came the punch line which always surprised, even if I already knew it! I remembered what Norm did or said at 2:00 in the afternoon when I listened to my piano students play, when fixing breakfast, when driving to school, when going on vacation.

Looking back I realize that if I had never gotten that sinus infection I might never have discovered Norm Macdonald. And, I might never have slept! I guess it’s not really accurate to claim that he cured my affliction so, please chalk up my title to comedic interpretation. But, eventually, my sinus infection passed, as most things in life do. In fact, today Norm Macdonald himself passed.

Good thing that chair is still in my living room.

Dave Fox is a Professor of Music at Greensboro College. He is a composer and pianist and one of the world’s leading experts on Meldavia.

Dave Fox is a Professor of Music at Greensboro College. He is a composer and pianist and one of the world’s leading experts on Meldavia.

(1) comment


I didn't watch Conan much, but I did see that episode ... mostly for CTS, but Norm saved the show. Like many comedic video clips, I like to re-watch them - just because. Now, I'll have to see through a bit of a mist. :...(

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