Norm MacDonald has become something of a Twitter savant, equally comfortable trolling his fans with droll sports play-by-play or sparking hashtag fun among his followers (#LateNightNorm). He also has become adept at the art of Twitter storytelling: last summer, he offered some personal remembrances of Robin Williams which some called "the best tribute" to the late comedian. Norm struck again this week with an even weirder, more poetic story, all about hanging out with Bob Dylan early in his career.
On Monday, Macdonald made 23 consecutive Tweets that told the story of how he ended up spending two surreal days in the company of Dylan, discussing literature and the Bible, eating beef stew, and listening to Billy Joe Shaver. It was filled with poetic descriptors ("When Bob Dylan speaks, his words seem chosen long ago, his sentences are spare, and he looks right at you, and his countenance is stone") funny asides, and enigmatic phrases ("I don't want to say what Bob Dylan said to me but one thing that he gave me permission to tell my friends was, 'Don't be fooled by typists'"). It was horribly compelling and fascinating.
But as quickly and coherently as he tweeted the story, he deleted the whole thing before most people had a chance to read it. Macdonald's followers went apoplectic trying to piece together what had been tweeted; some were furiously asking people to recap the yarn, some didn't believe he told any story in the first place, others were just gracious to have read the tale before it disappeared. Macdonald, as is his wont, proceeded to immediately retweet hundreds of these confused and ecstatic replies. You can see them all on his Twitter feed, but we picked out a few below.
.@normmacdonald's account of meeting Bob Dylan is perhaps the coolest thing I've ever read on Twitter.
— Matthew Lewis (@matthewjlew) January 20, 2015
@normmacdonald At first I was sure you'd completely lost your mind. Then I became fully engrossed in the story. Thanks so much Norm.
— Tommy Redd (@whothewhatnow) January 20, 2015
@normmacdonald tells an amazing story then goes and deletes it. I mean this guy was a real jerk.
— J-Red (@JredTheBeast) January 20, 2015
Telling my kids @normmacdonald's Dylan story. Keeping oral tradition alive.
— Peter Karlin (@heykarlin) January 20, 2015
Apparently @normmacdonald just told some great Dylan story and then deleted the whole thing. I guess you could say the story is...Norm-ore.
— Steve Leichman (@SteveDashOh) January 20, 2015
@normmacdonald I'll bet Bob Dylan wrote a song about that meeting, but he only sings it to himself by himself when nobody is listening.
— Branden Sterling (@imnotahoser) January 20, 2015
So funny - @normmacdonald told epic Bob Dylan story, then deleted. Those of us who were there will know forever, everyone else misses out.
— Jeff B@AoSHQ (@EsotericCD) January 20, 2015
.@normmacdonald is to Twitter like Andy Warhol was to art in 60's: transformative his move creates a 'need' not to miss ordinary
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZitoTrib) January 20, 2015
There's no proof that the story isn't just an elaborate joke (Dylan's camp certainly wouldn't comment on such a thing), but based on everything I've read (and personal stories I've heard) about Dylan, it certainly has the strange-but-true ring of real life.
And it truly felt like an embiggening of Macdonald's ever-maturing storyteller persona; as fan Matthew Lewis wrote, "Like his penchant for telling jokes that are long and filled with suspense...Norm has somehow transformed a medium that is supposed to be concise and shallow into one that allows for rich, suspenseful, and meaningful stories that unfold over time."
We weren't able to get screengrabs of the Tweets at the time (BDCwire did), but we were able to copy down the entire story line by line. So even if it doesn't quite recapture the ephemeral magic of stumbling upon a personal anecdote regarding the most mysterious artist of the 20th century in real time, you can at least read the tale now and take comfort in the fact that the mercurial Dylan is exactly as confounding and brilliant in person as you've always hoped.
Next to Billy Joe Shaver, I consider Bob Dylan to be the greatest songwriter ever. I spent two days with him, once, and here's the story how
Word ha come to me early in my career that he liked my standup, but it seemed impossible to believe.
I was asked if I wanted to have lunch with Bob Dylan at his home. Asked if I ate meat. Thought I should say no but said yes.
When people say "surreal" they mean "real", it's just most of your life is not very real, just repetition and routine.
I went to his house and I met him.
Only musician I'd eve met was one of my best friends, Billy Joe Shaver, and I told Dylan and he laughed and said he loved Billy Joe.
Then he left and came back with an old vinyl of "Honky Tonk Heroes" and put it on and we listened to it, all the way through, and didn't talk
Then he talked to me at length. At length.
When Bob Dylan speaks, his words seem chosen long ago, his sentences are spare, and he looks right at you, and his countenance is stone.
He spoke to me for many hours over two days. There was no alcohol or drugs consumed. He was interested only in writing.
I remember wishing I had secretly recorded him, and I remember trying as hard as I could to remember every word he said.
I remember he talked over and over about verbs and about "verbifying", how anything could be "verbified".
He asked me my favorite book of the Bible and I said Job, and he said his favorite was Ecclesiastes.
He then told me that the book of Job I was familiar with was not the original, and then he told me the original.
I began to notice his speech was naturally rich with imagery, and that listening to him had a mesmerizing effect.
I noticed when looking at his face while listening to his words that it was like looking at an impressionistic painting.
I cannot repeat any of what I heard that evening, but he invited me to stay the night and we ate dinner in silence.
A girl cooked a beef stew and there were three other men, who I later learned were musicians.
When Bob Dylan retired for the evening, I spoke freely with the three men.
They took me to a recording studio in a guest house and I listened to them play. I asked them for their favorite Dylan stories.
They told me, and the night happened and i didn't sleep.
i was very unknown at the time and asked why Bob Dylan had summoned me for this visit. One of the men told me.
The next morning, when Dylan reappeared, the big house seemed full again. He told me he wanted me to meet someone.
He took me to the guard shack and I met the guard and Dylan told the old man to tell me "the story". He did and it was very funny.
While the old man was telling his funny story, Bob Dylan kept looking right at me and he was laughing hard and I was too. it was very funny.
We went back to the house and Dylan poured two cups of black coffee and we each drank coffee.
And that is when Bob Dylan began speaking about being a writer. He said most "writers" were what he called "stenographers".
He would put a record on his player and have me listen to it. He would have me silently read a passage from a classic book.
Then Bob Dylan would explain why this was not writing, why it was stenography. One piece of fiction he had me read was one of my favorites.
I saw that I had been wrong about one of my favorite pieces of fiction. Bob Dylan showed me how I had been deceived.
I told him that I understood, but I did not, and I lied to Bob Dylan.A week later, I understood, and phoned him and explained and he laughed
I don't want to say what Bob Dylan said to me but one thing that he gave me permission to tell my friends was, "Don't be fooled by typists."
And for good measure, here's Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson singing "Honky Tonk Heroes."