Saturday Night Live alum Norm Macdonald died Tuesday at age 61 after a nine-year private battle with cancer.
Macdonald’s longtime friend Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with him when died, told Deadline that the comedian “had been battling cancer for nearly a decade but was determined to keep his health struggles private, away from family, friends and fans.”
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra said. “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.”
Macdonald, who was known for his, wry, acerbic wit, was scheduled to perform in a New York Comedy Festival in November.
Macdonald was an SNL cast member from 1993-98, making his greatest impact as the anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segments for three seasons. Remembered both for his droll style — and for his refusal to go easy on O.J. Simpson despite reported pressure from NBC execs — Macdonald would prove one of the most impactful “Update” anchors, pivoting away from the slapstick approach of Chevy Chase and toward the more barbed political approach of his successor Colin Quinn.
Born on October 17, 1959, in Quebec City, Macdonald started his show business career in the comedy clubs of Canada, developing the deadpan style that would become both his trademark and a highly influential touchstone for a generation of comics. A contestant on Star Search in 1990, he was hired to write for Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne for the 1992-93 season before landing the coveted gig at NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Macdonald’s departure from the show was controversial in itself, and he often attributed his firing to his continued lambasting of Simpson as a murderer despite what he said was the displeasure of Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC’s West Coast division, who Macdonald said was a friend of the former football great.
After leaving SNL in 1998, Macdonald starred in his own comedy series, The Norm Show, from 1999-2001. He also did a one-season talk show for Netflix, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, in 2018.
While he’ll be remembered best for his comedy, MacDonald was also a Christian who didn’t shy away from talking about his faith. “Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God,” he tweeted in 2017. “Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.”
The announcement of MacDonald’s death sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment world as friends, fans and colleagues grieved on social media, and paid tribute to some of his funniest moments.
Here is that performance:
MacDonald’s appearance on Conan in 1997, is also considered a classic.
Here is MacDonald talking about his faith on the Larry King Show.
Here is over an hour and a half of MacDonald’s comedic genius.