Norm Macdonald Was Right About New Year’s Resolutions

In 1996, Norm resolved to get a haircut and watch garbage TV
Norm Macdonald Was Right About New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that special time of year when we all hastily attempt to make radical life-altering decisions to coincide with a timetable laid out by a dead Roman Emperor. Yes, the arrival of a brand spanking new year means that many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions, solemn declarations that we will endeavor to be slightly less terrible people going forward. Incidentally, these promises usually last about as long as the time it takes to sweep the confetti and empty liquor bottles out of Times Square.

Before you go and rush into a resolution to, say, begin a new exercise regimen, or become fluent in a foreign language, or quit habitually hiding plastic bags full of dog shit in your noisy neighbor’s tailpipe, we’d urge you to stop and listen to one of the best ever takes on New Year’s resolutions, one that comes to us via that beloved wellspring of O.J. Simpson jokes and sick Carrot Top burns known as Norm Macdonald. 

In early January 1996, back when Macdonald still had a job as Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update anchor, the Canuck comic appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. Despite the fact that he was a little under the weather thanks to a bout of laryngitis, Macdonald cheerfully joked about Christmas presents, recounting how he received a Laserdisc player from his good, totally real friend “Fred Johnson,” to whom he had merely gifted “one of those Chia heads.”

When the subject of New Year’s resolutions came up, Macdonald told Letterman, “I always make resolutions,” while also pointing out that resolutions in general are often a big problem because people “overreach” and “set their goals too high,” which then “set themselves up for failure.” Macdonald’s goals, on the other hand, were purposefully modest, that way, he knew that he could “reach them.”

Macdonald’s two ‘96 resolutions? Well, for one thing, he resolved to get a haircut, which, yeah, seems pretty attainable. His second resolution was to “watch that TV show Runaway with the Rich and Famous,” a reality series that documented C-list celebrity’s luxury vacations, and was already wildly dated in 1996. 

Macdonald may have been joking, but he was totally on to something.

More recent research has shown that New Year’s resolutions tend to stick about as well as roller skates on a Crisco factory. Reportedly, “only 9 percent of Americans that make resolutions complete them.” Worse still, 43 percent of people quit their resolutions by the end of January, and 23 percent give up after just one week. Which sure seems to stretch the definition of the word “resolution.”

Experts have suggested that New Year’s resolutions may actually be bad for people because, as one life coach and counselor pointed out, a lot of them aren’t “sustainable or realistic.” When they are, almost inevitably, dropped, the resolutions create a “cycle where you become more critical of yourself.” Doctors, too, have stressed that “small, incremental changes,” not major ones, are the key to making resolutions that don’t completely blow up in your face just days into the new year. 

So Macdonald wasn’t just being funny here, he was inadvertently providing a valuable tip for maintaining one’s mental health and well-being during the holiday season. The rest of the appearance, which was taken up by a prolonged anecdote concerning the time Macdonald’s cat suffered a heart attack, arguably contained less salient advice, beyond his realization that 9-1-1 is “just for people.”

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