The voice is instantly recognizable: dry, a bit nasal, with a tone that combines disdain and, well, more disdain. Whether as a “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live,” Rusty Heck on “The Middle,” a judge on “Last Comic Standing” or the voice behind the animated Pigeon on “Mike Tyson Mysteries,” Norm Macdonald has a unique voice.
Not surprisingly, his faux memoir, “Based on a True Story,” has a unique voice as well. The straight-faced recollection of his life — except for the parts about going to prison, defending O.J. Simpson’s innocence and who knows what else — is a funny and, at times, unnerving journey.
The gracious Macdonald will be at the Patchogue Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 20, when comedian Robert Smigel, the man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, will moderate a Q&A with him. (Newsday spoke with Macdonald before the news of his house sitter’s death on Thursday.)
Your book is nonfiction comedy, but what with the uproar over fake memoirs like James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” why call it a memoir?
That was my idea. “A Million Little Lies” [was controversial because it] purported to be true. Whereas I insisted mine be called a memoir because there is truth in this book and I wanted to make sure everyone knew it was not [just] a flight of fancy, that it was a combination of truth and falsehood. And I knew I could say true things about people and they could not charge me with libel because then I’d go, “Well, what about this other chapter? It’s all crazy, you know?”
In the book you characterize yourself as a has-been. Yet your tour schedule has dates in big rooms, you’re on TV, your podcast began a new season . . .
I wasn’t looking for pity — well, maybe I was looking for pity [laughs]. When I started writing the book it was supposed to take a year, which was, like, five years ago. And at that point my career had pretty much gone full circle: I was actually playing rooms I had played when I started out. I went off the rails a little bit with my gambling and wasted a lot of time. So that’s gone — my gambling [addiction] is gone.
Do you have a videotape of your first stand-up performance?
Oh, yes, I did. The [club owner] had it in a safe and he wouldn’t let anyone have it. And I said, “I need it for a documentary and I’ll send it right back to you.” So he sent it to me and I destroyed it.
See, now I don’t know whether that’s a true story.
Oh, no, it’s true. I destroyed my first tape because I didn’t want anyone to see it.
You were born Oct. 17, 1959, but until recently told people 1963. Why?
Heh heh heh heh! . . . Well, when I started doing stand-up, [reporters would] interview me before the show and I’d tell everyone a different story: I’m a juggler or I’m a bagpipe player. I’d just make up things. Basically I just wanted to get a bunch of newspaper clippings that all said [crazy] things about me and put them on my wall. I think that’s where it started, and then whoever writes Wikipedia put it in and I just agreed with it.
I love you as Pigeon on “Mike Tyson Mysteries.”
[Laughs] Pigeon! You know, what’s funny about that is that I’ve never met Mike Tyson, because he does [his voice on the animated series] from his giant mansion in Vegas. And so then they did this [San Diego] Comic-Con things, and I didn’t go but he did and when he got there he said, “Where’s Norm Macdonald? Where’s Pigeon? Are you Pigeon? I don’t understand. Where’s Norm Macdonald?” He said he’s obsessed with meeting me [mimics Tyson’s voice] “because, like, everywhere I go people say, you work with Norm Macdonald? Hey, you know where Norm Macdonald’s house at?” And then the greatest quote ever is, he goes, “I don’t know Norm Macdonald from a canned ham! All I know is he’s very famous!”
WHAT “A Conversation With Norm Macdonald”
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St.
INFO $20-$40; 631-207-1313, patchoguetheatre.org