Norm Macdonald, ‘SNL’ and ‘Weekend Update’ Star, Dies at 61
Norm Macdonald, the popular comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member and Weekend Update anchor, has died. He was only 61 years old. Macdonald had been battling cancer for nine years, but kept his personal health issues quiet. His diagnosis only became public with his death on Tuesday.
Macdonald’s passing was reported by Deadline, who shared this statement from Macdonald’s producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra:
He was most proud of his comedy. 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 was born in Canada, and started doing standup around the country in the 1980s. Early standup success got him enough attention to land a job as a writer on Roseanne, but he left that not long after to begin his tenure on Saturday Night Live.
He joined the show as a writer and a featured player in 1993. In 1994, he was promoted to a full cast member and replaced Kevin Nealon as the anchor of Weekend Update, where he became one of the segment’s signature hosts. His jokes about O.J. Simpson, Bill Clinton, and other celebrities were relentless and fearless.
Macdonald eventually lost the Weekend Update anchor gig in January 1998; he left the show entirely a few months later. In 1998, he also starred in the cult comedy Dirty Work; the following year, he got his own network sitcom, The Norm Show, which lasted for three seasons on ABC. A few years after that, he starred in a second, short-lived sitcom, called A Minute With Stan Hooper. In 2011, also briefly hosted a Comedy Central series called Sports Show With Norm Macdonald, that applied a sort of Weekend Update approach to the sports world. Like a lot of Macdonald’s work, the show was edgy and funny and canceled way too soon.
In recent years, Macdonald started his own video podcast and later hosted one season of a talk show on Netflix called Norm Macdonald Has a Show. He was also one of the best talk show guests of his generation, and he made many very memorable appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and its various subsequent versions on NBC and TBS.
This is just devastating news for comedy fans. Although he hadn’t been a major mainstream presence for many years, Norm remained a brilliant comedian doing standup, comedy specials, podcasts, and appearing on talk shows right through the end of his life. The world will be a little less funny without him.