Norm Macdonald’s Network TV Debut on ‘Letterman’ Is Delightfully 1990

Norm earned his late-night stripes with quips about Christie Brinkley and ‘The Dating Game’
Norm Macdonald’s Network TV Debut on ‘Letterman’ Is Delightfully 1990

Like everything Norm Macdonald did, the late, legendary comic’s network television debut was both timeless and topical — emphasis on “topical.” And “timeless.”

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On May 9, 1990, Macdonald made the first of a great many memorable appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, three years before he became one of Saturday Night Live’s strongest players of the decade, and eight years before he was fired from that same show for making too many O.J. jokes. Following the debut, Letterman quickly became one of Macdonald’s biggest fans, saying of the late comic, “If we could have, we would have had Norm on every week.” But in 1990, Macdonald was a regionally successful comedian from Quebec and a failed Star Search contestant who had yet to earn his spot atop the list of greatest late-night guests of all time. 

Macdonald’s tight five that night is a time capsule, not just of the comic’s immortal and immutable style, but of the type of topics in 1990 that tickled him — all the game-show references and Christie Brinkley banter are a nostalgia bomb from the H.W. Bush administration perfectly preserved in 480p.

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