As his new sitcom debuts, he tells EW Online about acting tips he learned from Roseanne and why he loves to work dirty

By A.J. Jacobs and Josh Wolk
Updated March 24, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
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Norm Macdonald was booted off ”Saturday Night Live” last year because NBC president Don Ohlmeyer didn’t think he was funny. Now Macdonald is testing the sense of humor of executives at a whole new network, ABC, where he’s debuting his sitcom ”The Norm Show” (Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.). Macdonald, 36, plays an ex-NHL player charged with tax evasion and sentenced to work as a social worker. But don’t let the words ”social worker” make you worry that Macdonald has become cuddly now that he’s moved to prime time. EW Online talks with him about acting tips he picked up from his old boss Roseanne (he wrote for ”Roseanne”), his passion for dirty jokes, and his deep love for the word ”whore.”

How would you describe ”The Norm Show”?
It’s a combination of ”The Dick Van Dyke Show,” ”The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” and ”Diagnosis Murder.” We should have gotten Dick Van Dyke.

How do you like it over at ABC?
I like ABC because it’s the American Broadcasting Company. I think that’s nice. NBC, they don’t tell you what nationality it is. And CBS…that’s a bunch of f—ing Colombians. (Note: CBS stands for the Columbia Broadcasting System.)

How are you adjusting to sitcom life?
On ”Saturday Night Live” they put a giant cue card a foot from your face, and you just read it directly into the camera. On this you have to memorize the script. And they’re rewriting it, so you can’t memorize it. On show night, (costar) Laurie Metcalf’s struggling with what she’ll do, where her character is and all this. I’m just trying to remember the words.

How’s your acting technique coming?
Roseanne once said (the secret of acting was) if you’re supposed to be sad, you frown. If you’re supposed to be happy, you smile. I watched her, and it was true. But I can’t frown, I can’t do sad. I’m halfway there — I smile when I’m happy, plus when I’m sad. But that gives me somewhere to go in year eight.

Are you getting plenty of opportunities to say your favorite word: ”whore”?
In the first two shows, I said whore and it got a big laugh every time I said it. Then the producers go, you don’t want to do that every show. I say, why don’t we wait till the audience stops laughing, and then we’ll stop doing it.

Well, you could always turn it into a famous catchphrase. Fonzie had ”Ayyy,” and you could have ”Whore.”
Good idea. ”Where’s the whores?” Something like that. I just don’t want to use any of those words that nobody uses but they use on TV, like ”tush.” Remember on ”Hill Street Blues,” that one character was supposed to talk like he was from the street? He’d say, ”Look, you dirtball. You scuzzy dirtball.”

Why didn’t you do a show for cable, where you can swear all you want?
I was either gonna go to HBO or do a sitcom, but I found out you make way more money on a sitcom. I love ”Dennis Miller Live,” because you can be as dirty as you want. I’m always amazed that some people go on his show and don’t be dirty. It’s like crazy, y’know?

Why is being dirty so funny?
It’s just with stand-up, you can talk about anything you want to. So it’s weird you would talk about losing your luggage.

Norm

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