I am going to share my election day thoughts through an unlikely filter: the comedic stylings of Norm Macdonald.
For many of my formative years I was a latchkey kid. Back then, Comedy Central had a campy afternoon lineup to which my weird-ass unsupervised self was naturally predisposed: SNL reruns, Kids in the Hall, etc. When I first became a Norm Macdonald fan I was probably 11 or 12. Safe to say I was outside his target demographic. He recently came out with a new book so he’s been in the public eye, which prompted me to go down a YouTube rabbit hole and binge watch a bunch of Weekend Updates from the 90s.
I knew that I internalized that wry, smart sense of humor, so I was expecting the old clips to make me feel invigorated and nostalgic. And mostly, they did. But what I did not realize was the old shtick was fraught with misogyny. I internalized that, too.
I was floored at how one-note the jokes became when they were directed at women. Janet Reno? Rikki Lake? Hillary Clinton? Vessels for cankles, fat asses, and ugliness. The running Hillary joke was how intensely Bill Clinton must have disliked her on account of her status as a mean fat bitch (and his as a fun-lovin’ skirt-chasin’ draft-dodgin’ hillbilly). When a plane she was on had to make an emergency landing due to a frayed fuse, Norm imagined President Clinton on the phone with officials angrily demanding to know why “Operation Frayed Fuse” was a failure.
To be clear, these kinds of things still make me laugh out loud. I am not a beacon of political correctness. But back then, it told me something different: it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, but if you’re a woman with an average body or a surly face then you are “less than.”
Of course, TV was just one of many influences, but for a long time, I did believe things like that. I equated my personal value with male attention. I thought that the greatest a woman could be was invisible: not dumb enough to be derided, not smart or strong or bold enough to challenge men. I didn’t fully understand differently until I was an adult, and that is a fucking tragedy.
This election is a stupid spectacle, but watching 1990s Norm Macdonald made me realize I have a dog in this pig fight. It’s that I’d rather live in a world where someone’s status as a mean old bitch and career politician doesn’t nullify their determination, hard work, or lifetime of public service. It’s better than one where girls grow up seeing powerful politicians dismiss women entirely and cover up their own hatred and ineptitude with bravado, distractions, and the church.
So yeah, there are many reasons to be displeased with either candidate, but I’m glad to live in a time where I can vote for a lady president.
And I’m glad that Norm Macdonald has new material too. I’m posting an unrelated clip as a palate cleanser. Best joke ever starts about a minute in.