Inside Bob Dylan and Norm Macdonald’s Mysterious Friendship
It’s Bob Dylan’s birthday today, and while most folks are busy highlighting his contributions to popular music, we’d like to talk about Dylan’s taste in comedy. Clearly, the guy who once made a music video co-starring Santa Claus has a pretty good sense of humor. Well, it turns out that the iconic songsmith was also a big fan of one of our favorite comic minds of all time: Norm Macdonald.
Back in 2015, Macdonald published a lengthy Twitter thread about the time he met Dylan, recounting how he was “summoned” for lunch because Dylan was a fan of his stand-up, then he ended up staying the night in the legend’s guest house. While he didn’t reveal when this actually happened, Macdonald noted that he was “very unknown at the time.”
Macdonald’s story is beautifully written and reads like some kind of surreal old-timey parable, painting Dylan as a mystical genius who questions Macdonald about Bible verses and offers him deep philosophical insights that ultimately he opted not to share on Twitter. His tale is full of random, Kafkaesque details — three unnamed musicians eating dinner in silence, a mysterious “girl” cooking beef stew and a guard that Dylan instructs to tell Macdonald “the story.”
One piece of wisdom Dylan gave “permission” to Macdonald to share with his friends, on the subject of writing: “Don’t be fooled by typists.”
Soon after posting the thread, Macdonald deleted the whole thing for some reason. Did he change his mind about sharing the details of such a meaningful encounter? Or was the whole thing a complete fabrication, another one of Macdonald’s tall tales, like the time he bribed Lorne Michaels with “seven grams of government-grade morphine.”
After Macdonald passed away in 2021, producer Frank Smiley cleared up a few things in an interview with Conan O’Brien. It turns out that the story was true. “Dylan was a fan of Norm’s and invited him to his house” in Malibu, where he stayed “for like two days.” Smiley also noted that Macdonald was “a giant Dylan fan,” so the experience was obviously a “thrill.” He pointed out that Macdonald, somewhat uncharacteristically, didn’t publicly speak about this experience except for those deleted Tweets: “He talked about almost everything. He never really talked about Dylan. It just shows you how much he did love him.”
Macdonald was so aloof about the whole thing that not only did he not talk about his friendship with Dylan in public, he actively downplayed that he even liked Dylan at all, claiming in an oft-repeated anecdote about going to see Dylan in concert that A) he was there only to see the opener, and merely “stayed for Bob Dylan”; and B) he didn’t actually know the name of a single Dylan song. This seems odd, considering the two men had a literal slumber party together.
To be fair, an irrepressibly mischievous caginess is just another trait these two legends shared.
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