It was unexpected sad news last week when it was announced the comedian Norm Macdonald had died. He had secretly been fighting a nine-year battle with cancer. Most comedians today consider him an iconic talent and he’ll be greatly missed. But he obvioulsy had at least one aversion and that was driving. He really never drove a car.
The Saturday Night Live alum was from Canada, and living there he never learned to drive. Coming to New York with its great subway system for Saturday Night Live he had little need to drive. MacDonald figured he had driven six times in his life and been involved in four accidents. Wow!
You can see Norm MacDonald has some real fear getting around Willow Springs raceway
So it is with this background that another comedian; Jay Leno, decided to teach MacDonald how to finally drive a car in 2020. Of course, Leno used lessons as one of his many YouTube shows. Leno picked up an Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan as the best car for the challenge. With a 2.0-liter turbo-four, it was thought to be a better choice than the Quadrifoglio model with over 500 hp.
At Willow Springs racetrack, Leno showed MacDonald the basics, right down to how to start the car. Also, where the pedals were and what to do with them. Macdonald slowly built up speed beginning at around 20 mph. At least Willow Springs has wide courses allowing MacDonald plenty of room to get acquainted, or reacquainted with driving.
MacDonald got the Alfa up to 78 mph
He was being tepid at first. You can tell he is somewhat frightened by driving. But MacDonald was pretty happy with himself once he reached speeds of 78 mph. That pride turned to horror once Leno took the wheel and slapped the Alfa around the track mostly at over 100 mph. MacDonald’s sharp wit combined with obvious fear makes for some great moments.
The thing about Norm Macdonald was that he was up for just about anything according to friends like Conan O’Brien. He relished going where few comedians would go. If he thought a joke or gag was good, even though it hadn’t gone over well previously, he’d do it again. Whether it was for the thrill or affect, he would sometimes do the opposite of what was expected when interviewed. Show hosts who booked him knew he might go where network sensors or the show’s producers didn’t want him to go.
So it came as little surprise that he went for Leno’s offer to learn how to drive. He liked going out where some of his jokes might not do well and probably thought that driving might be a similar dare. He was a comic genius and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Norm.