The Avalon Theater’s Tribute to Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald was the funniest comedian we had. The laughs he could get out of a lengthy pause or a weird over-pronunciation were a sight to behold. Not to mention his elaborate, bizarre jokes, his phenomenal talk show appearances, his inspired comic novel/memoir, or really just his entire hilarious ethos. In 2019, I drove out to Cleveland to see him do a show. After the set, he announced that he was at the end of his career and that he wasn’t going to tour anymore. He said it in that ridiculous way of his, and I assumed it was a joke. When I got the notification that he had died on Tuesday, I learned that he had actually been battling cancer since 2012. Wait, wrong word. Not “battling.” To quote Norm himself: “In the old days, they’d go, ‘Hey! That old man died. Now, they go ‘Hey, he lost his battle.’ That’s no way to end your life. ‘What a loser that guy was. The last thing he did was lose.’”
Norm was the best, and I don’t say that lightly. Don’t believe me? Start with his run on Weekend Update, which was disgracefully cut short when he was fired for joking about O.J. Simpson being a murderer too much. Then witness his triumphant, vengeful return as a guest host. Or this his 12-minute serial killer joke. Then the Mangrate. And, of course, his magnum opus: The Moth Joke. And that’s only a small sampling the Norm oeuvre.
And here in Milwaukee, the Avalon Theater is screening Norm’s 1998 movie Dirty Work this weekend. We’re sad that he’s gone, but we’re glad that Milwaukee is paying well-deserved tribute to this king of comedy.
Roll Train Skates Under the Interstate
Roll Train, a local skating/exercising business run by Terrance Clarke and Ellen Fine, had a rough pandemic year. They lost their studio after COVID and ran out of skates to sell due to supply chain failures. But recently, they found a new way to bring skating to the people. They set up their classes under I-794 by the Milwaukee Public Market with high-intensity skating workouts set to bumping music.
Now I would never include a news story in this column solely for the purpose of using it as a segue for a rambling and entirely unnecessary anecdote about my childhood, but this story does remind me of my first and only experience skating.
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I was nine years old. My eyes were wide. My heart was full. And I had yet to cross that painful line dividing cute from weird-looking. I went to a yard sale, where I bought an old pair of bright orange, inline skates. When I returned home full of confidence, I strapped them to my feet and began awkwardly stumbling down the block in fits and spurts. I made it to the corner, about one hundred yards from my house, before the left skate flew out from under me. I went flying to the sidewalk below, skinning my right leg from ankle to knee and brutally twisting my ankle. I cried out in anguish. I tried unstrapping the skates and found that I could only get the left one off. My right ankle hurt way too much to force the skate off it. I tried standing, but with one skate still on, it was hopeless. In sudden desperation, I looked to the houses around me and screamed, “HELP.” And God laughed. The ghost of Kitty Genovese shook her head ruefully. I was on my own. I crawled home, dragging my injured, bloody leg behind me. And as I crawled, the naivete left my young soul like hot butter from a freshly cooked chicken Kiev. I saw that we are doomed to pain and the world will look on indifferently. I saw the bitter self-reliance that is each man’s due until his cruel, undignified death. I saw that Suzie from school would never like me because I had ripped my shorts playing dodgeball and everyone laughed. I gazed into the abyss, and when finally I returned home and my father ripped that damned skate from my foot, the abyss gazed also into me.
So yeah … this story reminded me that.
Christian Yelich Gives Away 10,000 tickets
Christian Yelich spent about twice my annual salary on Brewers tickets for the upcoming series against the Cardinals. The star player then gave them all away to fans as a thanks for how cool we are. I would have snagged one, but the online giveaway had technical difficulties that screwed up the process. By the time, I got back on the site, the tickets had all been claimed. It’s just like my old great-uncle always used to say: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” I wonder whatever happened to him?
The Shamrock Shuffle Returns
Stately, plump Archer Parquette came from the masthead, bearing a column on which Ups and Downs lay printed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the column aloft and intoned:
–After being delayed in March, the annual Shamrock Shuffle bar crawl is back on Sept. 18 (“halfway to St. Patrick’s Day”). This out-of-season celebration fills me with the desire to celebrate Irish culture in the only way I know how: pointless and uncalled for literary references.
Santa took a haymaker to the jaw this week, when Milwaukee’s Christkindlmarket was cancelled for the second year in a row. According to the folks behind it, they’d been planning for months now, but there just weren’t enough vendors interested in participating. (I’d like to just point out that my vendor application was rejected. Apparently: “Big Frank’s Used Socks Emporium” isn’t good enough for their little market.)
The announcement ends by pointing out that there will still be a Christkindlmarket in Chicago this year. I realize that this was included to helpfully point out that there is still a nearby option for people who want to go, but to my sensitive Milwaukeean ears, it feels just a little bit like a taunt.