Norm Macdonald, the longtime “Saturday Night Live” funnyman known best as the host of “Weekend Update,” died Tuesday. He was 61.
Macdonald succumbed to a nine-year cancer battle that he kept private, his management team told Deadline.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra told the outlet. “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 started his career as a writer on “Roseanne” before being hired at “SNL” in 1993, where he stayed for five years.
When Macdonald was taken off the Weekend Update desk in 1998, the network blamed low ratings, but the comedian took it personally, publicly accusing Don Ohlmeyer, the president of NBC West Coast, of firing him over jokes about O.J. Simpson.
“He thinks of himself as a straight shooter, even though he’s a liar and a thug,” Macdonald told the Daily News of Ohlmeyer in 1998.
A Macdonald idea continued at “SNL” long after he left. Macdonald created the “Celebrity Jeopardy!” sketches, the first three of which featured his Burt Reynolds exasperating Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek. After Macdonald left, Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery — who appeared in the first sketch — became Trebek’s tormentor.
In his 2011 Comedy Central special, “Me Doing Stand-Up,” Macdonald even touched on cancer and the heroic descriptors used around patients.
“In the old days, they’d go, ‘hey, that old man died.’ Now, they go, ‘hey, he lost his battle,’” Macdonald said. “That’s no way to end your life. What a loser that guy was! Last thing he did was lose. He was waging a brave battle but at the end I guess he got kind of cowardly.”
In the later years of his career, Macdonald starred in his own comedy series, “The Norm Show,” from 1999 to 2001 alongside co-stars Laurie Metcalf, Artie Lange, and Ian Gomez, and had a recurring role on “The Middle” as Mike Heck’s brother, Rusty.
His Fox sitcom “A Minute with Stan Cooper” lasted just six episodes.
Macdonald recently voiced Yaphit, a Gelatin Lieutenant, in Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” and was a popular guest on late night shows, particularly those hosted by Conan O’Brien.
“I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting,” Seth Rogen tweeted. “I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the all time greats.”
“No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald,” tweeted Jon Stewart. “Hilarious and unique. F--k cancer.”
“Of the many addictive rabbit holes you can disappear down on the internet, the most pleasurable is ‘Norm MacDonald chat show appearances,’” wrote director Edgar Wright. “Thanks for all the laughs Norm, very sorry to see you go.”
“One of a kind,” Steve Martin tweeted.