Norm Macdonald’s Unlikely Summer Jobs Included Logger, Furniture Mover and Hedge-Fund Manager
When Norm Macdonald was a kid, he didn’t realize “comedian” was an actual job. Sure, there were 5 to 10 guys who owned nice sweaters who told jokes on Johnny Carson from time to time, but it didn’t occur to Macdonald that it might be a way to earn an actual living. That’s why young Macdonald held down a number of odd jobs, at least according to a compilation of interview clips on the I’m Not Norm YouTube channel. While Macdonald is famous for telling a tall tale or two, we’ll assume he’s mostly shooting straight when he talks about summer jobs from his earlier years.
Macdonald insisted that he had done a lot of manual labor. One of his cooler jobs was at a logging company as a chokerman. What is a chokerman? We’d define it as the guy who attaches chokers, or cables, to logs to get them ready for hauling. Macdonald, meanwhile, said it’s a job where a tree can fall on you. The money was good — $17 an hour back in what we’re guessing is the mid-1980s, or about $48 an hour today. That satisfied Macdonald until one day when he was talking to the camp’s dishwasher, Old Sam, and asked him how much he made.
“Seventeen dollars an hour,” said Sam.
“What???” Macdonald responded. At this point, all the loggers decided they wanted to be the dishwasher, where the likelihood of a tree falling on you was greatly diminished. “Turns out there was a huge waiting list (for the dishwasher job) that included almost everyone in the logging camp.”
“I did a lot of manual labor,” Macdonald told Tom Snyder. “I moved furniture. That’s a hard job because the stairs are never right for the contours of the giant couch you have to lift out. The people that I worked with, man, they loved lifting furniture.”
“One time I was working with this old guy; his name was Gus,” continued Macdonald. (We suspect whenever an old guy named Gus or Sam enters the picture, the truth might get fuzzy.) “We had to move this thing up a ladder to a balcony because we couldn’t get it up the twisting spiral staircase. So Old Gus, he’s on the balcony with a rope holding this giant refrigerator. I’m on the bottom, climbing up the ladder and pushing the refrigerator. I slip off the ladder and fall down, and Old Gus has the entire weight of the refrigerator. All his muscles were shooting out, he wouldn’t let go.”
Here, Macdonald took a beat: “That wasn’t a good story.”
One summer, Macdonald’s father decided that it was time for his boy to become a man. Translation: Macdonald needed to get a job. While his dad had done well in real estate, he’d recently moved into the new field of hedge-fund management. We’re not sure what qualifies a young man for the gig, but Macdonald’s dad offered him a summer job in the field. “In three months that summer, I made $280,000 for the firm,” Macdonald claimed — and got paid $190,000 for his trouble.
That’s pretty good money for a summer, but Macdonald was still aggrieved: “I did all the work and made barely 60 percent of the money. But it taught me a valuable lesson: The people in control of the money are the ones who make money.”