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Scoundrel! Norm MacDonald on The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget

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I can’t say that Bob Saget would ever make it to my short list of favorite comedians, nor does his name cross my mind when I think of actors I admire (though his brief cameo in Half Baked still brings a smile to my face), but when the producers of Comedy Central’s ongoing celebrity roast series found themselves burdened by the cross of having to top last year’s special, featuring the ever-dashing Flavor Flav, I can’t disagree with their decision. After all, by selecting Saget, they did in fact outclass Flavor Flav. Albeit barely.

From what I remember of the first in the channel’s annual series, The Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary, I remember it to be pretty funny. I’ve always enjoyed Leary’s brand of humor and have never been one to shy away from vulgar, crass jokes typical of roasters; so what’s not to like? Following that came the roasts of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, animal activist Pamela Anderson, celebrity pitchman William Shatner and the aforementioned renaissance man himself, Flavor Flav. But as time passed by so too did the show’s flare for originality, its sense of one-upmanship and the depth and quality of its celebrity roasters. Again don’t get me wrong, I love the dirty jokes, but at some point in time hearing Lisa Lampanelli talk about Andy Dick’s vagina for a few minutes, before concluding with a brief gesture towards the roastee just stopped doing it for me. With all that in mind, sometime a little over a week ago I found myself sleepless and flipping the channels, eventually tuning into The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget.

Even after only a few minutes though the show already seemed a bit flat, the only highlights really coming when the camera panned to Saget’s one time Full House cast mate Lori Loughlin (who is looking fantastic at forty four, in case you’re wondering). Despite the show’s lack of entertainment value I continued to watch because the teasers relentlessly plugged the upcoming roasters; including Norm MacDonald…a comedian whose dry delivery and wit have earned him a place on that shortlist of my favorites (for whatever that’s worth).

“Suzy Essman, of course, is famous for being a vegetarian. Hey, she may be a vegetarian, but she’s still full of bologna in my book.” -Norm MacDonald

And here, after far too many words, is the reason behind recalling any of this: MacDonald’s performance was delivered with such brilliant timing and contrast to the rest of the roasters that he stole the show (or so I am to assume…I opted to turn on a movie after he left the stage). His first few jokes, which poked at roast master John Stamos, left the crowd apprehensively laughing seemingly uncertain as to where MacDonald was going. But as he moved on with his segment, adapting it to include long pauses for emphasis, the crowd slowly began to buy in.

It wasn’t just that MacDonald delivered a set of kitschy, clean jokes (which he did) – it was that he was unique and charming in the process. He could have taken the stage and delivered a set of debasing jokes belittling each of the other B, C and D-list celebrities on stage, but he didn’t. He went up and decided to surprise everyone by being imaginative and not following precedent…now I’m not saying he had a Lenny Bruce moment or anything, but in today’s Dane Cook-saturated market of in your face comedy, MacDonald’s roast wasn’t just a simple change of pace – it was a genuinely hilarious change of pace.

Concluding backstage with a brief wrap-up interview MacDonald mentioned of the other roasters, “I think it got over the line a little bit, if I’m not mistaken I heard some people cussing.” To the end, his performance was brilliant; it’s just too bad that pretty much everything else the series has offered the past five years hasn’t been.