Who is Mark Normand? Well, he won Caroline Comedy Club’s March Madness competition, and he was voted the Village Voice’s “Top Comedian of 2013” – yes, THAT Village Voice – the first alternative newspaper in the United States; the one that Norman Mailer co-founded.
You might be thinking, “Ah, so he’s probably a club comic. That’s why I haven’t heard of him.” Why you may be thinking that is your business, but you should know that Mark has made television appearances on (among others), Conan, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing, and most recently a Half Hour special on Comedy Central.
You might be thinking, “Oh, wow. He must have mass appeal.” You’re correct, and it’s because he jokes about everything. Normand’s first album, Still Got It, serves up an all-you-can-eat buffet of jokes about race, sexism, homophobia, religion, trying to relate to the opposite sex, alcohol, drugs, sex, animals, the elderly, and generally being a social outlier – the last of which he manages to apply to just about everything, even day jobs. He’s been a bus boy, a furniture mover, a construction worker. One of his most observant and hilarious bits comes from his experience as a janitor, where he explains to a businessman who slipped on a wet floor that they are both the “Slippery When Wet,” sign. Certainly working fringe jobs can make one more observant, but what makes Normand a good comedian is his relentlessly punchy writing and expert delivery. One of his most-consistent delivery tools is a pause he takes right before a punchline, as though reeling the audience into a small vacuum before shooting them out in a different direction. His terrific pacing is a result of extremely tight writing and a persona that – as he describes it – makes him sound like a “1940’s-style auctioneer.”
One might compare Normand to Jerry Seinfeld, though Normand’s point-of-view is a little more solid than Seinfeld’s. Normand’s jokes can get – to paraphrase his own words – “dicey.” He spends a lot of time prefacing jokes with “I think we should be able to joke more about such-and-such issues (such as race), because they are difficult to deal with in everyday life.” It’s debatable whether he’s enriching a joke, or giving service to the belief that all comedians have a right to joke about sensitive subject matter.
This is only to say that Normand is often just short of advocacy in his bits, which is not a weakness. Rather, a testament to the marriage of this incredible comic to his own experiences, which are varied, interesting, and incredibly informative about the subjects he observes. No matter where we fall on the socio-political spectrum, this relationship between stagecraft and viewpoint is to be ultimately admired, and Mark Normand and his incredibly fine-tuned material will only rise from here.