. – Norm Macdonald, a well-loved comedian hosting the popular “Weekend Update” segments of “Saturday Night Live,” died Tuesday at age 61, according to multiple reports citing his manager.
Deadline was the first to report the news.
Macdonald had been battling cancer for several years, but kept her diagnosis private, her friend and producing partner, Lori Jo Hoekstra, told CNN in a statement.
“He was very proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the public or any of his loved ones viewed him,” Hoekstra said. “Norm was a pure comedian. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never be lenient.’ He certainly never did. We will miss Norm very much.”
Born in Quebec City, Canada, he got his start in show business as a comedian on the Ottawa club circuit, before extending his work to clubs across Canada.
He quickly became known for his sarcastic and sarcastic humor, and in 1987 he had the opportunity to perform at the Los Angeles “Just For Laughs” comedy festival.
That first contact with Los Angeles impressed him, and Macdonald moved to the city with the intention of entering Hollywood. He found work writing for the comedy “Roseanne” in 1992.
The following year he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” where he became known for his impersonations of David Letterman, Larry King, Burt Reynolds, and Quentin Tarantino, among others.
But it was as the host of the 1994 to 1998 satire news segment “Weekend Update” that Macdonald reached his peak.
Macdonald was abruptly fired from “Weekend Update,” a decision made by then-NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer. Although it was reported that the executive simply did not like Macdonald in that role, there were reports that the decision had to do with jokes that Macdonald had told about OJ Simpson, who was an old friend of Ohlmeyer’s.
In a 1998 interview on the David Letterman show, Macdonald said Ohlmeyer told him, “You’re not funny,” adding, “He also thinks OJ is innocent.” Years later, Macdonald told The New York Times that he believed the reason for Ohlmeyer’s estrangement had been the “experimental” nature of his material, and not the connection to Simpson.
Macdonald went on to star in his own comedy series, “The Norm Show,” which aired between 1999 and 2001. He also appeared in such films as “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Dr. Dolittle 2,” and “Deuce Bigalow: European. Gigolo”. In 2018 he had a short and controversial show on Netflix called “Norm Macdonald Has a Show.”
Jon Stewart, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen and other comedians paid tribute to Macdonald on Tuesday.
Oh my God. We lost a legend. Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic. RIPNormMacDonald https://t.co/u3nkFjs099
– Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) September 14, 2021
“My God. We’ve lost a legend,” Jim Gaffigan tweeted. “Norm was extremely funny. A unique and completely organic special point of view. RIPNormMacDonald.”
“I am absolutely devastated by the Norm Macdonald thing,” Conan O’Brien tweeted. “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever come across and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh so hard again. I am so sad for all of us today.”
Senator Bob Dole also paid tribute to him, tweeting a photo of him and Macdonald in character as Dole.
“Norm @normmacdonald was a great talent, and I loved to laugh with him on SNL. * Bob Dole * will miss Norm Macdonald,” Dole tweeted.
“Norm @normmacdonald was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL. * Bob Dole * will miss Norm Macdonald. ” pic.twitter.com/gPsdyJ5tS9
– Senator Bob Dole (@SenatorDole) September 14, 2021
“In all important respects, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best. An opinion shared by me and by all the colleagues. Always up to something, never sure, until his objectivity puts you at the height,” he wrote David Letterman on Twitter.
Macdonald was among the comedians who would perform at the upcoming New York Comedy Festival in November.
–Brian Lowry contributed reporting.