During the years I lived in Boston, I had a roommate who was obsessed with watching stand-up comedy (hi, Nick). We used to kill so many hours in the day watching set after set of our favorites. But no matter the day or the time, we always made our way back to Norm MacDonald. We loved his specials, new and old. And while neither of us went into stand-up or got to interact with Norm on any level outside of a few degrees of separation, we felt like we knew him.

Norm's power was in his stories. They were long, rambling, but had the best payoffs and punchlines. When I heard the news of his passing, I went back to the old routine. I watched dozens of videos. I mourned the loss of one of our greatest storytellers. And I picked up a few lessons along the way. 

I also ran across this video from Nerdwriter. Check it out, and let's talk after. 

Some Comedy Storytelling Lessons from Norm MacDonald 

There's so much any writer, director, or producer can learn from the art of stand-up. Not only does the delivery of stand-up lend itself to pitching, but it also has a distinct structure and rhythm that mirrors movies and TV pilots. There's an introduction of characters, motives, rising action, and descending action, until you leave your audience with a killer ending. 

But you can learn that from any comedian. I think one of the mean things to take from Norm is the idea that you should never pander to the audience. Norm believed in his act and his jokes. He never changed for what people wanted, he just perfected what he did and let his audience find him.

It can be so hard when you're starting. You have to find the patience to stay the course. Develop your voice, and the rest will follow. One thing Norm did that we all should do is hone his craft. 

Norm was devoted to his humor. He worked it over decades. Getting better and better. He also just became our Norm. You know what his brand would be. There was a distinctive comfort in his jokes, his deliveries, and his constructs. 

But that doesn't mean Norm changed. He developed. He went from shorter and punchier jokes to these long, rambling, hilarious pieces. He began to play with added details. Details that made us feel the joke more, that made him have to emote more. Details that allowed him to control our imaginations and take us on a trip. 

Finally, the last lesson we can get from Norm as storytellers is the idea of sophisticated construction while still being easy to understand. When you are writing, directing, or producing, remember that sometimes the most complicated story should still have an easy way in and out. Work to make sure the audience has a throughline, and the rest can just be fun. 

Above all else, go back and watch a lot of Norm. Not for the lessons, but just to be entertained. We lost a legend. But his comedy will live forever. 

Source: Nerdwriter