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Understanding What’s Important

Mark Normand's only agenda is making people laugh, recognizing that performing from a soapbox isn't fair to fans.

by Chuck king
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NEW YORK – Mark Normand’s quest to remain unimportant is precisely what makes his comedy vital and refreshing.

It’s important precisely because of his desire to be unimportant.

“I’m not one of these important comedians who has a message,” Normand said, with a self-deprecating grin, “I’ve got no message. Just jokes.”

Jokes aplenty. Jokes that land with metronomic consistency.

Considering all the current topics that have Americans at odds, the whole point of his performances is humorous pointlessness.

It’s not that Normand intentionally steers clear of controversial subjects. Far from it. He’ll cleverly let his brain and tongue slice through politics, America’s current state of social unrest, and even abortion. But audiences never develop a certainty about Normand’s true beliefs on any subject.

“I think a lot of comics with a message aren’t funny, so they have to substitute their comedy for some weird preachy substance,” Normand said. “We all just want to laugh. We want to be entertained.”

He assuredly isn’t interested in entertaining from a soapbox.

“I feel like that’s a little indulgent,” Normand said. “I feel like it’s inconsiderate to an audience that’s here to yuck it up.”

On Wednesday night at the Salty Dog in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, Normand was nothing if not considerate. A native of the South who’s adopted New York as his home, Normand quietly slid up to the bar shortly after the start of the Sadman Comedy Productions show and immediately blended into the crowd enjoying South Florida comics Nadeem Awad and Zach McGovern.

The shear size of New York offers anonymity. Not long ago Normand lived in Brooklyn but had never been to Bay Ridge, which he immediately described as a museum dedicated to preserving 1986 – replete with cameros, track suits and rock music.

Still, the new setting felt comfortable.

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“I like coming to places I don’t know well,” Normand said. “It’s fun. The cool thing about New York is you can go somewhere that’s 10 minutes away and you’re like, This is a whole different world.”

Be it 1986 or present day, Normand’s precise wit and borderline goofy delivery still kills. Normand followed Awad and McGovern with 45 minutes of non-stop humor.

“I thought that it was a solid show and Mark Normand really wowed the crowd,” show producer and host David Sadman said. “He is a true professional. We’re really lucky to have him here tonight and enjoyed his set tremendously.”

As New York emerges from the pandemic – with an array of mask and vaccine card mandates, parts of the Big Apple doing so more quickly than others – Normand was simply happy to be performing inside a real building.

A veteran guest on CONAN, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Normand’s comedy special “Out To Lunch,” boasts more than 7 million views since it’s 2020 debut. His third such special, “Out To Lunch” showcases Normand where he appears most comfortable – on stage with a microphone in his hand.

During the pandemic Normand performed as often as he could – often in driveways and parks, or on roof tops – but his true element is the great indoors.

“I came up doing shows like this,” Normand said. “This is normal. These are fun. You can get loose. You can get weird. F*ck with the crowd. Do your act. Try new sh*t.”

The new, let’s say, stuff didn’t include much talk about COVID.

“I think the pandemic made people realize that they like comedy. We kind of took it for granted. Now comedy’s back,” Normand said. “People are like, (A) we need to laugh, (B) we missed comedy, and (C) the world is f*cking nutty right now so people want to laugh at that.”

How strange is the world becoming? Hours before Normand took the stage in Brooklyn, 90-year-old William Shatner, AKA Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, boldly went where dozens had gone before, blasting into space for a few minutes aboard the Blue Origin.

“Good for him,” Normand said. “Who’s had more of a wacky life than William Shatner? He’s done it all.”

Normand’s career might be on a similar arc to a young Shatner’s – which is to say, potentially meteoric – but he has no desire to follow Shatner into the forefront of space tourism travel.

“Nope. No. No way,” Normand said. “There’s nothing to do there. What’s the upside? You’ve got to go and come right back. Maybe you float a little bit. I like floating. Tang? If there was, like, space whores, that would be something. There’s got to be a goal to hit, you know? Just going up and coming down does nothing for me.”

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