'Saturday Night Live' Star Norm Macdonald Dies At 61. He Silently Fought Cancer For 10 Years

'Saturday Night Live' Star Norm Macdonald Dies At 61. He Silently Fought Cancer For 10 Years

The cause of his death was revealed as cancer and he had been dealing with it for nearly a decade but he wanted to keep it private.

Norm Macdonald, best known as the anchor of the "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live from 1994 to 1998, has passed away at the age of 61. Macdonald's management firm Brillstein Entertainment told the entertainment news outlet Deadline about his death. Lori Jo Hoekstra, his longtime producing partner, and friend, confirmed that the cause of his death was cancer. He had been dealing with the diagnosis for nearly a decade but wanted to keep it private. 

“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 had mastered the art of deadpan humor that went on to become his trademark and influenced a new generation of comics. Although he made a name for himself on SNL with his evergreen jokes and controversial takes, he thought of himself first and foremost as a stand-up. “In my mind, I’m just a stand-up,” he stated in a 2018 interview. “But other people don’t think that. They go, oh, the guy from ‘S.N.L.’ is doing stand-up now.” He continued to work as a comedian throughout his career. After his departure from SNL, he went on to star in his own comedy series, Norm, from 1999-2001. 


Macdonald was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time by Comedy Central in 2004. He has worked as a writer including for shows like the 1990s sitcom, Roseanne and the late-night talk show The Dennis Miller Show and even wrote the 1998 film Dirty Work, in which he starred as well. He has also made special appearances in shows such as My Name Is Earl, Real Rob, NewsRadio, The Drew Carey Show, and The Larry Sanders Show. He also had recurring roles on Netflix’s Girl Boss and, from 2010-18 on ABC’s The Middle. He has even provided his voice to animated projects as well.


His impressions of Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Bean, Rod Serling, among others were some of his best. Macdonald also became known for his relentless critique on the O.J. Simpson case despite objections from the president of NBC. After the not-guilty verdict was rendered, he had famously said, “Well, it is finally official: Murder is legal in the state of California.” His departure from the show was thought to be because of his bold stance on the case. “I never wanted fame at all, I just wanted to do stand-up,” he told The Ottawa Citizen in 2010, as per The New York Times. “I found when I came to Los Angeles to do more stand-up comedy that people wanted me to do other things, which I really didn’t want to.” 


Macdonald was born on October 17, 1959, in Quebec City, Canada. He started his stint in show buzz at comedy clubs in Canada. His brother, Neil Macdonald had said that the comedian had almost landed a job at a newspaper. “He once said he was interested in discovering the truth, but he hoped it would be within walking distance,” he had stated and went on to reveal that he had deliberately botched an interview with the newspaper because he was not serious about the profession. He was a contestant on Star Search in 1990, which helped him land his first regular TV writing gig on The Dennis Miller Show, which was fronted by the man who anchored “Weekend Update” from 1986-91. He is survived by his mother, a son, and two brothers.


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