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Norm Macdonald's Most Underrated Projects, Ranked

Updated June 8, 2020 2.6k votes 807 voters 83.2k views7 items

List RulesVote up the Norm Macdonald projects you think are the most underrated.

From Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy to Adam Sandler and Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live has given rise to some of the biggest names in American comedy. For some, SNL is a stepping stone to greatness. For others, it's still a rocky road through show business. For deadpan comic Norm Macdonald, former host of SNL's "Weekend Update," the path has been filled with a variety of beloved but commercially unsuccessful projects in movies, TV, and online media.

Norm never reached the heights of fellow SNL alumni like Will Ferrell or Chris Rock, but he has carved out an enduring niche in the world of humor. With the power of hindsight, we can reevaluate Norm's misses and see them for the gems they were. Below are the biggest Norm Macdonald movies and Norm Macdonald shows, ranked in order of the most underrated.

  • Photo: NBC
    1

    Weekend Update

    Years: 1994-1997

    How It Ended: Norm was fired from Saturday Night Live in 1997, allegedly because NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who was close with OJ Simpson, grew tired of Norm's jokes at OJ's expense.

    Why It Was Underrated: While his exit from the show was controversial and the "Weekend Update" franchise has grown to the point that NBC started doing occasional full-length primetime specials in 2008, Norm is still regarded as one of the best "Update" hosts in SNL history. Original anchor Chevy Chase even went so far as to say that Norm was the best at the job since Chase left SNL.

    670
    70
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  • Photo: MGM

    Release Date: June 12, 1998

    How It Ended: Dirty Work was a box-office dud, costing $13 million to produce, but making only $10 million in the United States. 

    Why It Was Underrated: Norm's film debut is a certifiable cult classic, thanks to audiences discovering it via home video and online video clips. The Bob Saget-directed film, in which Norm plays the head of a revenge-for-hire business, has even retroactively charmed some critics, like Nathan Rabin in his AV Club column, "My Year of Flops." More than a decade after the film's initial release, Rabin lovingly called Dirty Work "a sly, funny meta-commentary on slobs-vs.-snobs comedies with stock characters and stupid plots."

    486
    78
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  • Release Date: May 12, 2000

    How It Ended: Screwed made slightly over $7 million, significantly less than its $10 million budget.

    Why It Was Underrated: Even less financially successful than Dirty Work, by all rights, Screwed should have been a bigger hit. The cast and crew behind the movie about a kidnapping gone wrong has a stellar cast that includes Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, Sarah Silverman, and Elaine Stritch. It was directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the writers behind The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ed Wood, and Dolemite Is My Name. Instead, it has a shabby 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was the end of Norm's career as a leading man in Hollywood. Of course, in the corners of the internet where Norm fans congregate (like the subreddit r/NormMacdonald) the movie is held in far greater esteem for its pitch-black comedy.

    256
    73
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  • Photo: ABC

    Lasted From: March 24, 1999-April 6, 2001

    How It Ended: ABC moved The Norm Show from a cushy slot after the hit sitcom The Drew Carey Show to Friday nights, one of the lowest-rated nights on the TV schedule at the time. The Norm Show was canceled at the conclusion of its third season.

    Why It Was Underrated: The Norm Show, which was eventually shortened to just Norm toward the end of its run, sees Macdonald star as a former NHL hockey player who is sentenced to five years as a social worker to atone for his gambling and tax evasion. It's a wild premise for a sitcom, one that asks audiences to imagine regular guy Norm Macdonald as a professional athlete. Where it shines, though, is its working-class heart and sentimentality. The Norm Show was co-created by The Drew Carey Show's Bruce Helford, who was also an executive producer on the similarly blue-collar Roseanne. The Norm Show's three-year run might not have set records, but it was the most traditionally successful of Norm's post-SNL ventures.

    250
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