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Comedian Norm Macdonald stirs controversy with comments on #MeToo, Roseanne

The acerbic stand-up said he was happy the #MeToo reckoning seemed to have "slowed down a little bit."
by Daniel Arkin /

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LOS ANGELES — Norm Macdonald, the deadpan comedian and former "Saturday Night Live" player, stoked controversy on Tuesday after the publication of an interview in which he appeared to deride the #MeToo movement and defend fellow entertainers Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr.

Macdonald, whose new Netflix talk show debuts on Friday, told The Hollywood Reporter that he was happy the #MeToo reckoning with sexual misconduct seemed to have "slowed down a little bit," lamenting that prominent people accused of wrongdoing were seeing their careers cut short.

"The model used to be: admit wrongdoing, show complete contrition and then we give you a second chance. Now it's admit wrongdoing and you're finished," Macdonald told the trade publication, later adding: "I do think that at some point it will end with a completely innocent person of prominence sticking a gun in his head and ending it."

As examples, Macdonald pointed to C.K., who last November admitted to sexual misconduct against five women, and Barr, who was fired from the reboot of her ABC sitcom in May after racist tweets about Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to former President Barack Obama.

Image: Norm Macdonald in San Diego
Norm Macdonald in San Diego on Sept. 16, 2017.Amy Harris / Invision/AP file

"Roseanne was so broken up [after her show's reboot was canceled] that I got Louis to call her, even though Roseanne was very hard on Louis before that. But she was just so broken and just crying constantly. There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day.

"Of course, people will go, 'What about the victims?' But you know what? The victims didn't have to go through that," Macdonald said, adding that C.K. and Barr had said they had a "good conversation" and shared advice.

In the hours after the interview was published, those comments were criticized online as flippant and insensitive, with many saying it sounded like Macdonald, known for his wry social commentary, had lost touch with the mood of modern America.

Macdonald's scheduled appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" was canceled in the wake of his comments "out of sensitivity to our audience," a spokesperson for the show said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The appearance was nixed even after the comedian publicly expressed contrition, tweeting that he "would never defend" C.K. or Barr and adding that he was "deeply sorry" if it "sounded like I was minimizing the pain that their victims feel to this day."

Macdonald has ties to both C.K. and Barr. C.K. wrote the forward to Macdonald's semifictionalized memoir, "Based on a True Story," and Barr gave Macdonald one of his first jobs in Hollywood as a writer and story editor on the original run of "Roseanne."

In the interview, Macdonald also appeared to defend Chris Hardwick, the AMC talk show host who was briefly suspended by the cable channel earlier this year after his former girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra, accused him of being emotionally and sexually abusive.

Macdonald, for his part, told The Hollywood Reporter that he believes Hardwick "got the blunt end of the stick there." He did not elaborate.

He also weighed in on another hot topic in the comedy world: "Nanette," a recent Netflix stand-up special in which Australian performer Hannah Gadsby dissects the unspoken prejudices of comedy and blasts the way women and queer performers have been marginalized in the entertainment industry.

Macdonald said he had "never seen the 'Nanette' thing because I never wanted to comment on it," but he went on to criticize the special as a "slap in the face of a traditional stand-up comedian who thinks that comedy by dictionary definition is about laughter."

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