Toronto's Stevie Ray Fromstein, the "Holy Atheist," got things going; taking shots at — you guessed it — religion, Fromstein had the theatre howling throughout his 20-minute set.
Coming out of the gates hot for his third appearance at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Norm Macdonald launched right into his set, dressed in red with a black leather jacket and wearing a garish pair of aviator sunglasses. Using the glasses, an unlit cigarette and a lighter throughout the evening to subtle, yet hilarious effect, Macdonald delivered nearly two hours of his classic brand of comedy gold.
Less of a tight, structured set and more a meandering comedic workout, Macdonald's set featured almost entirely new material, with a few reworked favourites from recent years. Between bits on Luka Magnotta that he's been working out on his podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, to his now classic bit about the rope store and the rickety stool shop, the bulk of Norm's set featured new, unheard material.
A rabid sports fan, Macdonald engaged the audience with some talk about the local NHL Jets, why he hates the Vancouver Canucks, and how his fantasy sports picks have gone all to hell. Throughout the evening, Norm made use of the audience as a means of setting off on a new course in his seemingly directionless set. But Macdonald has always been adept at presenting himself as someone who "doesn't know shit," while acknowledged by his peers as one of the smartest comedians in the biz.
His material in recent headlining gigs has often been dark, with death creeping around every corner. (Perhaps working on his memoirs has Macdonald looking back on his "two score and 11 years" of life has something to do with it?) And while he did spend some time on the subject, much of his material wasn't quite so heavy. Norm's set had a decidedly positive bent to it, even when discussing his failing sex drive ("my cock don't work"). He seemed to be genuinely enjoying every minute he was on stage, and was reluctant even to leave. The applause that followed him off stage, back to horrible shell of "real life" we all took refuge in laughter from together for a few hours, was a testament to the love an audience can feel for a performer who gives it all up for the audience, extended stories of whacking off, warts and all.