Comedian and television personality Norm Macdonald, a razor-sharp stand up who reached his widest audience from the Weekend Update desk on Saturday Night Live, died today following a nine-year battle with cancer. Macdonald was 61.
Norm Macdonald was a Canadian comic who had honed a dry and deadpan delivery style for his jokes. He was unafraid to go after any topic, and often put subjects that other comedians were afraid to touch in his crosshairs. Macdonald famously spent months of his stint on the Weekend Update desk of Saturday Night Live ridiculing former NFL legend O.J. Simpson while the athlete was on trial for murder. This despite the fact that NBC’s President of its West Coast Division, Don Ohlmeyer, was close friends with Simpson.
Confirming Norm Macdonald’s death, the comedian's longtime producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra said to Deadline:
He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.
Before joining Saturday Night Live as the host of the segment he lovingly referred to as “the fake news,” Norm Macdonald worked the Canadian comedy club circuit and eventually landed a gig writing for Roseanne Barr’s short-lived sitcom, Roseanne. If and when Macdonald dabbled in film work, it often was to collaborate with his Saturday Night Live friends, from Adam Sandler (Billy Madison, Grown Ups) to Rob Schneider (the two Deuce Bigalow movies). His team up with Artie Lang, 1998’s Dirty Work, became a beloved cult classic over the years.
Norm Macdonald enjoyed other successes in television over the course of his career. He was the lead of the sitcom Norm from 1999-2001. He frequently appeared in The Middle, and lent his voice to The Orville and Mike Tyson Mysteries. But his most popular on-screen character likely will be the exaggerated impersonation of Burt Reynolds, breaking Alex Trebek’s (Will Ferrell) balls on the SNL skit Celebrity Jeopardy. This comedy was vintage Norm Macdonald.
Tributes to Norm Macdonald already are flooding across social media. There’s no question that his comedic timing and unique delivery influenced so many stand-up comedians and actors working in the industry today. Very few would be able to replicate Macdonald’s line of thinking. Like so many that came before him, Macdonald saw the world through a different lens, and his commentary helped him stand apart. We send our thoughts and support to those deeply affected by Macdonald’s loss, and lament the years of humor and insight that would have come from this genius mind, had cancer not taken him from us too soon.