There's a fine line between being a stand-up comic and stand-up tragic," says SI special contributor Norman Chad. For two years, 1983 and '84, Chad was both, appearing at comedy clubs in and around the Washington, D.C., area, often before hostile audiences. "Norman went over about as well as Public Enemy would at a David Duke rally," says longtime friend David Perel, who writes a soap opera gossip column for The National Enquirer. Chad's defense? "I didn't do jokes, I did attitudes," he says.
For the last month, Chad has been doing attitudes in our SCORECARD section, writing a column that showcases his mordant mind-set. "My pieces are part television, part sports, part life, part death and part stuff," says Chad, who concocts the columns in his Washington town house.
Chad claims he chooses his topics by playing spin the bottle with his television remote control. "If it winds up facing the TV, I write about TV," he says. "If it faces the kitchen, I write about what I had for dinner. If it faces the bedroom, I write about my divorce."
Anyone who's familiar with Chad's previous work in The Washington Post and The National knows that he doesn't write to make friends. "As far as friends go, the over-and-under at any given time is 4½," he says. "My high was eight friends when I was eight. My low was two from 1981 to '89." Lately, he has been holding steady at five.
February 10, 1992
Chad, who's 32 years old, says that he's no more cynical than the next guy. But in this case the next guy is Ralph Nader. "Norman has no tolerance for mediocrity," says Perel. "And he deals with that by copping an attitude."
He has been copping attitudes since his boyhood days in Wheaton, Md. "My sister, Linda, wouldn't speak to me," Chad says, "and my older brother, Steve, spent his entire adolescence in his bedroom lip-synching to Doobie Brothers records." His mother, Perla, is "the only woman ever to burn lettuce while fixing a meal." His father, Sy, was a psychologist for the Internal Revenue Service ("I guess he analyzed tax returns," says Norman) before turning travel agent. "As a kid, I had no idea what my dad did except bring home 40,000 U.S. government pens," says Chad. "No wonder we have a budget deficit!"
While at the University of Maryland, Chad majored in American studies and learned to hate William Faulkner ("The Sound and the Fury is one run-on sentence") and to love Albert Camus ("He never watched one Final Four, but boy could he write!").
Among Chad's current dislikes are golf and every TV sports analyst except John Madden. His current likes run from poker to the beers of Latrobe, Pa., to his Holy Trinity of TV play-by-play men: Al Michaels, Pat Summerall and Marv Albert. "Everyone else," he says, "is a game-show host waiting to happen." He doesn't have much use for exercise, either. "I hate working out," Chad says. "My idea of strenuous activity is to watch TV without the remote."