Norm Macdonald, the Canadian born comedian who went on to become an influential actor in Saturday Night Live after arriving in 1993, passed away. He was 61 years old.
His brother Neil said Macdonald died Tuesday in Los Angeles from leukemia, which he was diagnosed with “a long time ago.”
“He was silent because he didn’t want it to affect his comedy,” Neil, former parliamentary and foreign correspondent for CBC News, said by phone from Los Angeles.
âHe didn’t want it to affect the way he was viewedâ¦ He wanted to continue. He was very careful to hide it from everyone except his family. Cancer is a roller coaster. We were hoping he would live longer. long time than him, but it took a worse turn last month, and he went to the hospital and never came out. “
Macdonald was born in Quebec on October 17, 1959, the son of two teachers, and spent his early years as a stand-up comedian touring across Canada.
He went on to write for TV shows such as Roseanne and Dennis Miller Spectacle in the early 90s before hosting SNLThe iconic “Weekend Update” segment from 1994 to 1997 on NBC.
Macdonald was fired from the show early the following year by NBC director Don Ohlmeyer, a friend of – at the time – OJ Simpson, whose murder trial made headlines in the mid-years. 90.
Ohlmeyer wouldn’t have liked Macdonald to perpetually make Simpson the butt of his jokes – like when, after Simpson’s acquittal in 1995, he joked, “Well, it’s finally official. Murder is legal in the world. ‘State of California. “
“I was never bitter,” Macdonald said of his dismissal in the book Live from New York, a story of Saturday Night Live, released in 2002.
“I always understood that Ohlmeyer could fire me, because he was the guy who owned the cameras, so I didn’t mind. I was always happy that SNL gave me a chance. “
This dark and sometimes difficult kind of comedy was Macdonald’s style, according to comedian and actor Ron Josol, who has acted with Macdonald on several occasions.
WATCH | Josol remembers Macdonald as a mentor:
âNorm will talk about topics that might be darkâ¦ but he also talked about things that you didn’t find funny at all until he gave you his opinion on it,â Josol told CBC News.
âMost comedians usually make jokesâ¦ they know the audience would like it. Norm has done things that [were the] contrary.”
After leaving SNL, he created and starred in the comedy The spectacle of the norm for ABC, playing a former NHL player kicked out of the league for gambling and tax evasion and forced into community service as a social worker.
âNorm was the first row, the first row of our generation,â said Mark Breslin, co-founder of the Yuk Yuk’s comedy club chain.
“He was still trying to find the joke that wasn’t the easiest way to tell the joke, but the hardest way to tell the joke.”
WATCH | Macdonald had âgravity and dignity,â Breslin says:
Macdonald was known for his laconic, deadpan voice and for his impressions – including his portrayal of Burt Reynolds, which brought the character of Will Ferrell to heartache in Alex Trebek on SNLThe recurring “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch. He also imitated Bob Dole, Larry King, and David Letterman.
He was the last comedian to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman, where he had been a frequent guest. At the end of this performance, Macdonald became overcome with emotion and cried as he remembered Letterman.
“I know Mr. Letterman is not for the cutesy, and he does not have a truck for the sentimentalists,” Macdonald said on the show. âBut if something is true, itâs not sentimental. And I truly say, I love you.â
The two kissed at the end of the show.
Other artists and fans took to Twitter on Tuesday to share messages of condolence and grief.
âNorm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so funny and uncompromising. I will never laugh so hard again. I am so sad for all of us today,â said Conan O’Brien .
I am absolutely devastated by Norm Macdonald. Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so funny and uncompromising. I will never laugh so hard again. I am so sad for all of us today.
Norm was into his own kind of comedy. No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his business. He was one of a kind
I can’t believe Norm MacDonald is dead. I first met him in the mid 80’s. I thought he was way too funny to be successful. I was half right. My sincere condolences to his family, close friends and fans. #ripNorm
For so many people in comedy, myself included, there was no one funnier than Norm MacDonald. You always wished he would hang around after the job was done, just so you could hear his stories and laugh. So hilarious and so generous with his personality. I’ll miss him.
I was late for the Norm Macdonald train, but since then I’ve had a fight with people who tried to say he wasn’t funny. He was HILARIOUS. Book-> great. Special-> amazing. And he seemed to be living a busy life while being himself, that’s all we can ask for. TEAR.
My dear friend Norm MacDonald has passed away after a courageous 10-year battle. It was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love it.
Noooo. In 1997, my first months in comedy, I saw Norm perform live in Boston. I was delighted. I waited for him outside the show & asked how I could have a stand-up career like him. He said, “Like me? I’m on Saturday Night Live and still play in clubs. Let me know if you find out.” ð¤£ pic.twitter. com / Fy8R6zMgyN
“Of all the comedic spirits I have encountered in real life, Norm Macdonald was by far the most unique,” Brent Butt wrote.
“Today the world has lost a very, very funny man. We already miss him,” added Eugene Levy.
Seth Rogen said he “basically scammed [Macdonald’s] delivery “when he started playing.
âWe lost a comedy giant today,â Rogen wrote.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called him a “comedic genius” and said “the world was a much funnier place because Norm Macdonald was in it.”
Despite his cancer, Macdonald continued to work as a comedian and was scheduled to appear at the New York Comedy Festival in November.
He hosted his own podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, from 2013 to 2018, and his own Netflix series – Norm Macdonald has a show – in 2018. He also lent his voice to the animated series The mysteries of Mike Tyson until his final last year.
WATCH | Back to Macdonald’s comedy: