September 22, 2018

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Talk-show seat suddenly red-hot

Comedian doesn't want to be another late-night 'pundit'

NETFLIX</p><p>In an episode of his new Netflix talk show, Norm Macdonald (right) interviews actor Michael Keaton.</p>

NETFLIX

In an episode of his new Netflix talk show, Norm Macdonald (right) interviews actor Michael Keaton.

Norm Macdonald’s new Netflix show, aptly titled Norm Macdonald Has a Show, could very well be a rarity among late-night talk shows hosted by comedians: the hour-long episodes featuring celebrity guests won’t include any political commentary.

“I decided very early on there can be nothing topical,” the Canadian comedian said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter published Tuesday, adding that late-night hosts have all been “forced” to become “political pundits.”

But his interview, which was meant to promote the show, was quite topical. Touching on a variety of politically charged issues, Macdonald’s controversial opinions on the #MeToo movement, Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr sparked waves of criticism. His comments appeared to ridicule the movement and victims while voicing support for C.K. and Barr, both of whom are his friends.

In 2017, C.K. admitted to sexual misconduct after five women came forward accusing him. C.K. had all but disappeared from the public eye until he returned to perform again for the first time just last month in New York. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Macdonald was interviewed “several days” before C.K.’s performance. In May, ABC cancelled its popular Roseanne reboot after Barr, the show’s star, launched a Twitter attack widely criticized as racist against Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to president Barack Obama.

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Norm Macdonald’s new Netflix show, aptly titled Norm Macdonald Has a Show, could very well be a rarity among late-night talk shows hosted by comedians: the hour-long episodes featuring celebrity guests won’t include any political commentary.

"I decided very early on there can be nothing topical," the Canadian comedian said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter published Tuesday, adding that late-night hosts have all been "forced" to become "political pundits."

But his interview, which was meant to promote the show, was quite topical. Touching on a variety of politically charged issues, Macdonald’s controversial opinions on the #MeToo movement, Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr sparked waves of criticism. His comments appeared to ridicule the movement and victims while voicing support for C.K. and Barr, both of whom are his friends.

In 2017, C.K. admitted to sexual misconduct after five women came forward accusing him. C.K. had all but disappeared from the public eye until he returned to perform again for the first time just last month in New York. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Macdonald was interviewed "several days" before C.K.’s performance. In May, ABC cancelled its popular Roseanne reboot after Barr, the show’s star, launched a Twitter attack widely criticized as racist against Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to president Barack Obama.

"There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day," said Macdonald, referring to C.K. and Barr. "Of course, people will go, ‘What about the victims?’ But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that."

Soon after the interview was published, Macdonald was trending on social media for all the wrong reasons, getting lambasted for his comments. The widespread backlash prompted the comedian to issue an apology about 10 hours after the interview was published.

"Roseanne and Louis have both been very good friends of mine for many years," he tweeted. "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."

However, his apology did not seem to be enough for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which swiftly cancelled his scheduled appearance on Tuesday night’s show, an NBC spokesman told the Washington Post in a statement. Macdonald was originally supposed to be part of the guest lineup alongside actor Matthew McConaughey and rapper Future.

"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," the statement said. According to Variety, the decision was made after Macdonald apologized.

Tuesday’s wide-ranging interview with the Hollywood Reporter began to snowball after Macdonald brought up the #MeToo movement.

"I’m happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit," he said. "It used to be, ‘One hundred women can’t be lying.’ And then it became, ‘One woman can’t lie.’ And that became, ‘I believe all women.’ And then you’re like, ‘What?’"

Macdonald apologized after a Hollywood Reporter interview sparked waves of criticism.</p>

Macdonald apologized after a Hollywood Reporter interview sparked waves of criticism.

Macdonald added that he felt TV host Chris Hardwick, who was accused of sexual misconduct and suspended from his job earlier this year, "got the blunt end of the stick there." After completing an internal investigation, AMC announced in July that Hardwick would return as the host of Talking Dead and Talking with Chris Hardwick, the Post’s Bethonie Butler reported.

He continued, saying, "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. 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."

Macdonald said he knew of two people whose lives and professional careers have been upended after their actions sparked outpourings of criticism: C.K. and Barr. C.K. wrote the foreword for Macdonald’s book, Based on a True Story, and Barr hired him as a writer for the original Roseanne series.

"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," Macdonald told the Hollywood Reporter.

"But she was just so broken and just crying constantly."

During that call, the pair gave each other advice and had "a good conversation," he said.

"There would be no way for me to even understand that advice, because who has ever gone through such a thing?" he said. "All their work in their entire life being wiped out in a single day, a moment."

When asked whether Barr is racist, Macdonald stood by the actress, saying he’s always known her as "a very left-wing person" who has fought for the representation of "different orientations and religions" on her shows. "She is certainly not a racist," he said to the publication. "That’s just crazy."

Long known for his acerbic jokes and deadpan delivery, Macdonald rose to fame as a member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the 1990s and is credited with creating the show’s first "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketch, in which he famously impersonated the late actor Burt Reynolds.

On Twitter Tuesday, one user predicted Macdonald was "about to have a very bad day" — and she wasn’t wrong.

The comedian was almost instantly excoriated, his interview becoming a trending moment on Twitter. Critics called the interview, "an absolute mess," "embarrassing" and "insensitive."

But others continued to support the comedian, even using hashtags such as #NormForever.

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Netflix is "planning to move forward with Macdonald’s show as planned." The show, produced by David Letterman, is set to première today.

— Washington Post

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