It’s one of the greatest moments in “roasting” history if that’s a thing. Norm MacDonald refused to do any means jokes at the 2008 Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget. At the time, it felt like a subversive jab at “roast culture.” MacDonald upended the format by doing the most shocking thing he could do at a roast: be nice. But in light of both of their recent all-too-soon deaths — Norm in September and Bob this week — the reality of the moment is much more human.
Bob Odenkirk, a comedy star before becoming a dramatic leading man in Better Call Saul, tweeted about MacDonald’s roast following news of Saget’s death. Police found Bob Saget dead on Sunday at a Florida hotel.
“Just beautiful. Sweet, too…and now, well, sad. But still…it made me laugh again,” Odenkirk wrote.
If you watch MacDonald’s entire set, you’ll notice that some people get it right away and others are less amused. At least at first. It’s eight minutes of absolute bombing with some of the worst ribs from a 1940s kid’s joke book. But at some point, it goes from being odd and maybe bemusing to an act of true comedic bravery to actual affection between friends. Norm MacDonald could rip your world apart with a single joke — ask Carrot Top — and no one could question his comedy chops. So, this wasn’t him misreading the room.
Comedians enjoy watching each other bomb. Everyone does it, it’s just a part of the process. The worse a set is going, the more comics you’ll see at the back wall laughing. MacDonald called Saget and told him that he wouldn’t be mean at the roast. He couldn’t be mean to his friend. He was going to eat it in front of millions of people because it would make his friend laugh.
Bob Saget and Norm MacDonald Were Incredibly Close
The two comic’s careers go back further than you probably realize. They were friends long before they were famous, crossing paths in tiny clubs in Canada in the early 1980s. And After Full House and America’s Funniest Videos, Saget went back to doing his NSFW stand-up act and directing TV and movies. He directed Norm MacDonald’s first movie Dirty Work in 1998.
When Norm MacDonald died in September after a secret near-decade-long battle with cancer, Bob Saget eulogized his friend on his podcast.
“Last week, I got a text and it just said ‘I love you.’ And I didn’t say much back. I just said, ‘I love you, Norm.’ And that was my [final] communication with him,” Saget said. “One of the gifts of my life is that he loved me and that I loved him.”
We don’t know what MacDonald would have said if he’d outlived Saget. But at the end of his set at the 2008 roast, MacDonald summed up his feelings for Saget.
“In all seriousness, Bob was the first comedian that I ever saw perform, when I was boy, live, and I loved him. But one thing that bonds us as comedians is we’re bitter and jealous, and we hate everyone else that has any success,” Macdonald says to close out the segment. “But Bob, honestly, has never had an unkind word for anybody, and I love him, and I hope everyone else does, so I just wanna say that. Thank you.”