Based On A True Story: A Memoir

Norm Macdonald, if you haven’t heard of him, is one of the greatest comic minds of his generation. And that generation includes a ton of heavyweights. Don’t believe me? Look at some top five lists from your favorite comedians. He’ll show up.

The ironic thing is that no matter how funny Norm is, was, and will be, he’s never achieved the level of fame his talent deserves. Seriously, watch this clip of Norm Macdonald at the roast of Bob Saget, absolutely decimating the point of a roast. As you can see, the comedians all find it hilarious and slowly the audience catches on too.

Norm has always been a comedian’s comedian. And I’ve always found him very funny, so when I heard how funny this book was, I was excited. But just like the audience at first, I didn’t catch on as fast as other people might have.

Based On A True Story follows Norm as he takes a bunch of drugs, drinks a lot of Wild Turkey 101, reminisces on his time at SNL (the only thing people remember him by), and tries to win a bunch of money through gambling or die trying. When does it take place? Who knows? There’s also the side plot of his ghostwriter going crazy, trying to inhabit the ‘failure’ that is Norm Macdonald.

I guess I expected a memoir. Something I knew to be true. But this book is an odd combination of real life events and clearly made up things and possibly people. I started to catch on when Norm is running around a prison trying to rape a person and instead trips, knocks his head, and wakes up to find that he is getting raped. What a world.

And that’s the rub. The joke starts at the beginning, and I was just too much of a rube to catch on. This is an exploration of Norm’s imagination. Which is, at times, hilarious. Especially when he gets to his brief but memorable stint as the head of Weekend Update on SNL. But it makes me wonder if he is lying about being so clearly and obviously molested as a child. Did that really happen? How can I know, especially when Sarah Silverman takes out a restraining order on him later on?

Comedy, at it’s heart, is the act of lying. And Norm is the best at it. He doesn’t do confessional comedy, he practices his bits and delivers them. If there’s a kernel of truth in there, it’s because you’re putting it there.

I wanted a straight memoir, but I got what Norm intended me to have. Something unexpected. Something not entirely truthful, but not entirely a fib either. His “Final Chapter” is a true, from the heart thank you to the world that let him live in it, but the rest, well the rest is for people smarter and funnier than me to understand.

2 out of 4 stars.

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