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An Emotional Bob Saget Shares Awesome Story Behind Norm Macdonald Bombing At Comedy Central Roast

Norm Macdonald speaks on Conan O'Brien

Comedy Central Roasts are known for their raunchiness, where the gutter is the starting point for the A-through-D-list roasters, so when Comedy Central took aim at former Full House dad Bob Saget, the gloves were off. But it was Norm Macdonald’s set that became the most infamous, as he took the stage in front of his longtime friend and told squeaky clean, completely cornball jokes, absolutely bombing in the most hilarious way. In the wake of the beloved comedian's death at age 61 of cancer, Bob Saget shared the heartwarming story behind that particular performance.

Norm Macdonald was just 17 years old when he first met Bob Saget. The two became friends while doing standup and went on to work together on the cult classic Dirty Work in 1998. Saget posted an emotional tribute to his friend, who died September 14 after a long, private battle with cancer. The comedian got choked up as he shared the story behind Macdonald’s hilarious fail at The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget in 2008, which was so objectively — and intentionally — bad that it’s now remembered as one of the funniest moments of Macdonald’s lauded career. According to Saget:

When I got roasted [on Comedy Central], I talked to him a week before the Roast and he called me and he said, ‘Uh, Saget, I can’t say mean things about you, you’re my friend. I don’t even want to do it, but I’m going to do it because it’s you.' ... We’d gone through so much together, ups and downs. So at the roast, he called me a week out and said, ‘I’m just gonna read jokes from a '40s joke book,’ and I said, ‘Norm, that’s fine. I mean, you know what you’re doing, but you gotta curse.’ ‘I don’t want to do that.’ I said, ‘Well just throw in an arbitrary ‘fuck’ now and then.’ ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that.’

Norm Macdonald’s jokes that night may have come straight from a book, but it was the deadpan delivery and perfect comedic timing that drove home the hilarity. From making fun of Cloris Leachmann’s car to saying Greg Giraldo was “for the birds,” Macdonald went on for about 20 minutes to a mostly silent room, Bob Saget said in his tribute. Comedy Central cut Macdonald’s set down to around 7 minutes for the telecast, which is all anyone outside of that venue got to see. But Bob Saget loved that on a night that was full of “horrible dick jokes" and "really wrong stuff,” Macdonald “chose the path of dignity.”

How fucking brilliant because it was so anti-roast, because he didn’t want to roast his friend, and he also didn’t want to do a roast, so, you know, it was a good toss-up whether he was doing it because he didn’t want to hurt his friend and also he didn’t want to do a roast. He didn’t love the form. He didn’t mind listening to the old ones, but he wasn’t equipped mentally or care enough to make fun of someone. It just seemed like, ‘Oh okay, that’s the joke? Making fun of somebody? Oh, great. Great format.’

In his candid 37-minute tribute to Norm Macdonald, Bob Saget struggled to use the past tense when talking about his friend, chastising himself for slipping back into present tense and not being able to accept reality.

At the end of the thing, he got emotional, and he doesn’t mean to do it, he doesn’t know what he’s going to say and he doesn’t do it that often. Now I’m in present tense, right? Because I can’t accept that he’s gone, and that’s the shock that we’re going through. 61. That’s a sin. It’s a sin for all of us that he’s gone. Anyway, to just finish that one thought, he told me he loved me, and he told me publicly. And I loved him. And I love him, and, I don’t know. What do we do with that when we lose someone, especially before their time?

Norm Macdonald’s set on The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget remains my favorite moment of all of the Comedy Central roasts. Macdonald didn’t go over the top or try to out-raunch the other comedians; he did something unexpected that has aged far better than a lot of those dick jokes have. Hearing Saget give the story behind that night makes it even more special. Our thoughts go out to all who are mourning Norm Macdonald’s passing, and our hopes go to Comedy Central releasing the entire 20-minute set.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.