The Onion AV Club published a review recently of a Norm MacDonald film. I’m not a huge fan of Norm, but his brother Neil is another story. Believe it or not, one of America’s most gormless comic clowns is the brother of Canada’s hardest-ass newsman.

Neil MacDonald has been reporting for CBC News for as long as I’ve been watching it, and his pieces are always gruff, hard-hitting, and eminently watchable. He’s a national treasure.

At the CBC bureau in March 2004, associate producer Heather Loughran sits in the edit suite watching a Macdonald story before it goes to air on Canada Now. It’s a report about Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor, agreeing to testify publicly before the 9-11 Commission, while President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney plan to do so in private. At the end of his standup, Macdonald says: “In fact, so high are the stakes here that Bush himself has now agreed to appear before the Commission along with Vice-President Cheney, but the President’s appearance will have two conditions: It will not be public and the President will not have to swear to tell the truth.” Loughran and her editor chuckle. “That is a Neil Macdonald line,” she says. “He delivers the news with bite, and sometimes his viewers don’t even catch it.”

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