The death of comedian Norm Macdonald at the age of 61 after nine years of battling cancer has ignited tributes to the many facets of the character of a man who made millions laugh on “Saturday Night Live.”
But although he existed in a shallow age, Macdonald was deeper than just a punch line.
He often spoke publicly of his faith. In 2017, he posted a window to his soul on Twitter.
“Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God. Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is,” he posted.
Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God. Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.
— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) October 31, 2017
The post came a year after Macdonald broke what has become one of entertainment’s rules and spoke up when a comedian thought trashing the Bible was just so humorous.
It was 2015, and Macdonald was one of the judges on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”
Harrison Greenbaum came out with a joke that pushed Macdonald’s buttons.
Greenbaum constructed a mythical argument with a fellow New York City subway rider who he said quoted the Bible at him.
“That is not fair,” he said. “Like you get to quote from your favorite book, I should be able to quote from my favorite book. He was like, ‘Men do not live on bread alone — Matthew 4:4’ and I was like, ‘Everybody’s a little bit magic — Harry Potter, chapter seven.’ Not a fair fight, right? One of those books is a classic about a man who has sacrificed himself for the good of the world and the other is the Bible, do you know what I’m saying, people?”
Fellow judge Roseanne Barr said she liked the joke. “You’re real brave,” she told him. “The stuff you’re talking about, Bible jokes, that’s some brave s***.”
Macdonald was not amused.
“I don’t think the Bible joke was brave at all,” he said.
“I think if you’re gonna take on an entire religion, you should maybe know what you’re talking about. J.K. Rowling is a Christian and J.K. Rowling famously said that if you’re familiar with the Scriptures, you could easily guess the ending of her book.”
After Barr interjected a nasally, “Huh?” Macdonald offered his final judgment.
“I didn’t like it.”
In a subsequent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Macdonald explained his antipathy to the joke. He was asked why it had irritated him.
“Oh, just the smugness. There are a lot more hack ‘smart’ comedians nowadays and atheist comedians. It’s so dull. To be talking about being an atheist living in West Hollywood is not the bravest stance to take,” he said.
“If a guy went up and said, ‘Jesus Christ is our lord and savior,’ I’d say, ‘D***, that guy’s brave!’ Or, ‘The infidels must die under the sword of Allah!’ I’d go, ‘G**d***, that’s a brave comic.’ So that got under my skin. Also the idiocy of comparing the New Testament to Harry Potter,” he said.
“I knew because I read all the books with my kid that J.K. Rowling said she’s a Christian and based the books on the New Testament. I thought, now you’ve really stepped into an area that you don’t know what you’re talking about at all.”
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