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Funnybone Emcee Sean O'Brien And His Incredible Norm Macdonald Story

Categories: Jesters
Sean O'Brien headshot.jpg
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Sean O'Brien is, in some ways, the clown ambassador for St. Louis
Comic Sean O'Brien is a big, burly, fast-talking loudmouth -- and he must be, for in his post as emcee at The Funnbyone in Westport, he's the cheerleader, clown ambassador and authority figure for the club, and in a sense, for the entire local scene. We caught up with him last week.

Daily RFT: One of your tasks as emcee is to chauffeur around celebrity standups when they come into town.  Got any good stories?

Sean O'Brien: I always tell people this one. I don't know how well you know Norm Macdonald. But whatever protocol is, he goes against that. 

So we're at KTVI Fox 2. It's Friday morning.  There was this bubbly kid - I think it was Tim Ezell. And this was live.

So this kid's like, 'So Norm, how's Los Angeles?'

And Norm goes, 'What? I'm in St. Louis. I don't know.'

And you can see this kid just come unglued.

He says like 'Alright, well, you were a Saturday Night Live news anchor, what was that like?'

And Norm goes, 'Uh, I don't know. I don't do that anymore.'

Norm Macdonald.jpg
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Norm Macdonald
So the kid goes, 'Allright, well you're going to be at the Funnybone--' and Norm interrupts him: 'Hey. You ever go hitchhiking?'

And the kid, completely caught off guard, says, 'Uh, no.'

And Norm says, 'I went hitchhiking once. It was in the fifties in Iowa. I was at a party and I left. And I walked to the side of the road and stuck my thumb out and a guy pulled over. And you know what we call those type of guys? Secretly gay.'

And then it was like, 'ALLRIGHT we're gonna cut to commercial!' Papers are flying. I'm getting screamed at by some production lady. I'm like, 'Hey I'm just the driver! Don't get in my face!'

And Norm looks over at me, with that smile, and he goes, 'That was good, wasn't it.'

I recently learned that an emcee is low in the comedy hierarchy, but to the audience, the emcee seems like a huge deal.

You're the first face they see. Half of those people have never been to a comedy show. So they don't know what's going on, they don't know when to laugh.  And I just try to grab their attention immediately.

I just try to sell it with excitement -- enthusiastic, but not over the top. You just gotta let people know they made a good purchase decision. You gotta get wound up with them.

And that's just my personality. There are other guys who can write the shit out of a joke better than me, but they just don't have that cadence and presence.

Well you're a big guy, and the way you get up there and dismantle the mic stand and 'own the stage,' as they say -- unlike others before you that particular night, there was no question who was in charge.


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