My dad was the funniest bloke I knew. I dedicated my book “Slippery” to him, for “teaching me to think clearly and laugh loudly”. And when he passed away in 2011 there was a hilarious shaped hole in my heart, something that would not be easy to fill as Peter Joseph Carroll was indeed supremely gifted with the SuperDad power of being able to make me laugh louder than anyone.
Well, perhaps it was PJC-inspired divine intervention, or far more likely it was the YouTube algorithms sensing what content suggestions to promote to me that would best ensure I stayed glued online, but a year or so after losing Dad, the Canadian comic genius Norman Gene MacDonald entered my orbit. I quickly went from knowing nothing of the man to becoming completely obsessed. There are literally hundreds of hours of Norm comedy gold captured forever on YouTube, and I have devoted every spare moment of my life since discovering him to watching and rewatching those hundreds of hours again and again and again, keeping the hilarious hole in my heart filled to the brim with nothing but side-splitting perfect gags.
It was then with immense sadness that I learnt on Wednesday that the man I’ve never met but felt so incredibly close to, and indebted to for all the laughs, had passed away at 61 years of age. I was snowed under with a huge amount of my own work commitments that day, none of which could be shirked, all of which were absolutely urgent, and the numbness which permeated me to the core in knowing Norm was gone had simply to be put on ice until the time was right to truly grasp what a gigantic loss Norm’s passing really is. Now, a few days later, it’s still far from sinking in.
Not only is Norm gone, but with his death it was announced simultaneously that he’d been entrenched in a secret battle against cancer for the past nine years, the entirety of the time I’d ever even known about him. I just don’t understand what it is about funny bastards and a propensity to keep terminal news close to their chest, but my dad did a similar thing, and finding out this added detail about Norm really cut me deep. The desire to somehow reach through time and space to give him, as well as my dad, a big hooroo hug is overwhelming. And when someone does invent a time machine, I’ll be setting the destination for those bromantic bear hugs as my first two stops.
I completely respect the pair of them, and everyone else in human history who’s taken the same course of action, fearing that it’s somehow narcissistic or poor form to be open with your health troubles as though you’re seeking pity but for every person you feel is treating you differently and with a tinge of pity or feels it’s poor form to be open with your health, I can guarantee there are far more friends, fans and sincere well-wishers who are grateful for the chance to properly tell you how much they care about you, how much you mean to them, and to make sure that if there is no next time, that if the fat lady unfortunately is ready to start singing, well, just know this mate, I love you.
And speaking of love, Norm was incredibly open about the deep love he had for his son. He said once in a radio interview that I always think about, that he was a man who lived a very ascetic life, he had no interest in things and stuff and that he was very happy in a small apartment with little more than a bed, couch and a laptop. The host wasn't buying what Norm was saying, finding it impossible to believe that a comedy superstar was actually not only living in, but happily residing in, a 2bed apartment with close to no possessions. And when she probed Norm further on what stuff he actually had to try and prove he was lying, he levelled her and everyone listening with this, “The only things I value and possessions I hold on to are the gifts my son has given me.”
I can’t begin to describe how monumental Norm MacDonald and Peter Carroll (and every other funny bastard I’ve ever met) have been on me, on how I think, how I see the world, and on what I truly value. The cliché that “laughter is the best medicine” is clearly not true, otherwise both these blokes would have made mincemeat of Cancer, Covid, AIDS and even Man Flu. No, sadly medicine remains steadfast as the best medicine. But having people in your world that can see the funny in everything is priceless, and I’ll be forever grateful to have had people of their calibre in my life.
My deepest condolences to Norm’s son, mother and brother. I did actually send Norm a copy of “Slippery” and perhaps his agent threw it in the trash, very likely, but perhaps it’s somewhere in his office, so if you find it one day you’ll read on the inside cover I wrote to Norm, told him how much I loved him, and that if he ever got over his fear of flying that I’d be honoured to welcome him to the Land Down Under, have a surf, skip with kangaroos, neck ice cold VB's, the usual. Please know that invitation is open to the entire MacDonald clan. You’re all always welcome in Oz and, much like Larry Flynt, I’ll be sure to take care of you!
Rest in Peace Norm MacDonald, you too Turd Ferguson.