Norm Macdonald, the Canadian stand-up comedian and cast member of Saturday Night Live known for his impassive childbirth, died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 61.
The comedian had been living with cancer in private for nearly a decade, according to his longtime friend and production partner Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with him when he died. “He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra told Deadline. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect how the public or anyone close to him saw him. Norm was pure comic. He once wrote that “a joke should surprise someone, it should never flatter”. He certainly never flattered. Norm will be sadly missed.
Macdonald was renowned for his terse and dry style, especially in the impressions of figures such as TV star Burt Reynolds, who became the touchstone of a generation of comics. “I basically ripped off his performance when I first started acting,” Canadian actor and compatriot Seth Rogen tweeted in memory. “I would stay awake specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest ever. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the greatest of all time.
Born to two teachers on October 17, 1959 in Quebec, Macdonald began performing in comedy clubs around Ottawa. An appearance on Star Search in 1990 led to a writing position for the Roseanne Barr comic book sitcom, Roseanne, during the 1992-93 season. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1993 and starred on the show until 1998, as the co-host of Weekend Update for three seasons.
After his stint on SNL, Macdonald starred in his own ABC sitcom, The Norm Show, from 1999-2001, and appeared as a particularly funny guest on numerous Conan talk shows on the Howard Stern Show. In 2018, he hosted a Netflix talk show, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, which echoed his video podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, which aired from 2013 to 2017.
Actor Josh Gad was one of many comedy figures to express his condolences on Tuesday. “Absolutely devastated. One of the most underrated and hilarious SNL artists, ”he said. tweeted.
“Of the many addicting rabbit holes that you can vanish on the Internet, the most enjoyable are ‘Norm MacDonald’s appearances on the talk show,'” tweeted screenwriter and director Edgar Wright. “Thanks for all the laughs Norm, so sorry to see you go.”