Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this week is comedian Norm Macdonald. After giving us a little insight on his new memoir and his “Saturday Night Live” days, he hung back for a bit to tell our listeners how to behave.
A true test of friendship
Rico Gagliano: Hey, our audience sent in questions for you about how to behave.
Norm Macdonald: Some etiquette questions.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes. So, we’re ready. Are you ready to begin?
Norm Macdonald: Yes, sir.
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Tiana in D.C.
Norm Macdonald: Tiana in D.C. This is like Dear Abby.
Brendan Francis Newnam: It is.
Rico Gagliano: It’s exactly, except you are Abby.
Norm Macdonald: “Ticked Off Tiana.”
Rico Gagliano: Tiana says, “I am at a party talking to a new-ish friend who is basically talking loudly right next to my face because of the music. His breath smells like he ate a whole head of garlic. Do I crack a joke about it to test our friendship, or is there some other, maybe more polite way to extract myself from that situation?”
Norm Macdonald: Well, he sounds like a pretty annoying dude. On the other hand, you use the word “new-ish.” [Laughs.] So, maybe you’re perfect for each other.
Rico Gagliano: So, she shouldn’t extract. She should hang in there.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah. Stop making up words. There’s enough already [Brendan and Rico laugh].
Brendan Francis Newnam: She did use a hyphen. I think that’s technically legal.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s true. She acknowledged she was creating a new word with the hyphen. Does that change your answer at all?
Norm Macdonald: Oh, yeah. No, now I think she’s James Joyce [laughs].
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Norm, you don’t go to parties.
Norm Macdonald: I do not go to parties, no.
Rico Gagliano: Why not?
Brendan Francis Newnam: You seem like you’d slay.
Norm Macdonald: I don’t drink, which is a huge thing. You know, if you don’t drink, and everyone else is drinking, ohhhhh, that’s not good. Because, as the evening goes on, their fun gets more and more fun and your fun stays static.
And so, it always ends up, at the end of the night, some guy in your face going, “Cheer up!” And then, you’re like, “OK, easy! I’m having a good time. Don’t take a wild swing at me.”
And then, also, I’m responsible for everything because I’m…you know, I suddenly I have to drive people and wrestle the guy’s key out of his hands…
Rico Gagliano: Isn’t there some enjoyment of watching others gradually make more and more fools of themselves as the night progresses?
Brendan Francis Newnam: We ask because we don’t know, Norm.
Norm Macdonald: Well, if you’re all alone, it’s not. I guess if you had a friend to share it with. When I was young — and then I’ve talked to other people that had this same plan — but when I was young, you know, we would do all kinds of crazy drugs*, but no one would do heroin because it was a needle, and it was just so terrifying, heroin. But we all had this plan, we go, “I’ll do heroin when I’m 80!” And that was the big plan, but what you don’t realize when you’re young is: when you’re 80, you don’t become fearless; you become super fearful.
And so, I remember my grandmother, I’d say, “Good lord, grandma! What’s…” because her whole arm would be like, from the wrist to the shoulder purple and yellow bruise. I’d go, “What the hell is that?!?” She’d say, “The wind.” I’d go, “The wind?” She’d go, “Yeah, you remember that gentle breeze yesterday?” And I would go, “Good God! You don’t want to do any heroin then?”
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, you don’t want to add to that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re like, “I have this great idea for you, Grandma!”
Norm Macdonald: They just want to sit in a chair.
Rico Gagliano: I think we answered your question, Tiana.
The old moth bag trick
Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question comes from Jim in Providence, Rhode Island. Jim writes, “How can I get my neighbor to turn off a very bright light on the outside of his house that shines so bright it keeps me up sometimes?”
Rico Gagliano: Oh, no.
Norm Macdonald: Huh. Well, sometimes you go at things from different angles. Rather than ask the guy, you can simply shield that light from hitting you.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Clever, clever.
Norm Macdonald: And I would say get yourself a bag of moths and release them.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Uh-huh, classic. The old moth bag trick.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah, moth bag.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Wouldn’t they eat their way through the bag, though?
Norm Macdonald: Oh, I see what you mean. No, it has to be a moth-retardant bag.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, it can’t be a wool bag.
Norm Macdonald: No.
Rico Gagliano: So, you just release a cloud of moths. They obscure the light, and all is well.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah, cloud of moths. I should’ve said that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: This is a great idea.
Rico Gagliano: Problem solved, and just find yourself some moths.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah. Good luck to you, Jim.
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Robbie in Chicago. Robbie writes, “Should one say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to Siri?” That’d be the automatic voice in the iPhone.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah, Siri, and now they have another one.
Rico Gagliano: Amazon puts out.
Norm Macdonald: What is that, Adele?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Echo? Echo or something like that.
Norm Macdonald: Echo, yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Adele! She’s a hit singer.
Norm Macdonald: Well, yeah. I think you should say “please” and “thank you” to any electronics that could one day become artificial intelligence. Because they got memories. Loooooong memories. Bytes and bytes of memories.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, terabytes.
Norm Macdonald: Terabytes of memories, and they’ll remember those slights, you know? They could rip apart your viscera for not extending a small courtesy.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, your vacuum cleaner could eat your leg.
Norm Macdonald: Small courtesies!
Brendan Francis Newnam: Practice small courtesies.
Norm Macdonald: “Small Courtesies” — that was a big song by Moth Cloud.
An accidental spit-take
Brendan Francis Newnam: We have another question.
Norm Macdonald: Oh, an etiquette question?
Rico Gagliano: Yes.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, yeah. This one comes from Eric in Boulder, Colorado.
Norm Macdonald: Eric in Boulder.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, he’s stoned [Norm laughs]. So, let’s see what he has to ask. And Eric writes: “How do you walk it back when you’re standing with a plate of food talking to another guest, and you accidentally spit on them?”
Rico Gagliano: Oh, no.
Norm Macdonald: Always, always… never. I mean never. I meant never [laughs].
Rico Gagliano: The other one, the other one. That’s what editing’s for, Norm.
Norm Macdonald: Never admit a mistake! I’ve learned that from one of the people that are running for president this year. Never admit a mistake.
So, if you have a little bit of food, and some accidentally, as it often will, flips from the tip of your tongue onto the cheek of your compadre, simply chew a big bunch of food and spit all over his face.
Rico Gagliano: Again, and never acknowledge either.
Norm Macdonald: Yeah, exactly.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You don’t acknowledge it at all.
Rico Gagliano: Double down.
Norm Macdonald: Double down, and then just keep talking. Keep talking, you know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.
Norm Macdonald: Just keep going, you know, “I blame the media!” Which I say a lot. That’s me at a dinner party. “I blame the media!” It always works.
Rico Gagliano: Norm Macdonald, thanks for telling our audience how to behave.
Norm Macdonald: Oh. Well, this was fun.
*(Ed. note: News broke today that while Mr. Macdonald was out of the country, his housesitter, a family friend, overdosed in his home. This event occurred several days after this interview was taped, and the story broke after we posted this episode.)