Stand-up comedian Norm Macdonald has died at 61 after what had been, until this news, a private and ongoing nine-year battle with an undisclosed variety of cancer. The Canadian comic’s death was first announced by Deadline, which received a statement from a statement from Macdonald’s longtime producing partner and friend, Lori Jo Hoekstra.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra, who was with Macdonald when he died, said. “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.”
Although Macdonald got his start as a writer on The Dennis Miller Show and the original Roseanne series, it was his gig as Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live from 1993 until early 1998 that cemented his reputation and made him a household name. A singular talent with a deadpan wit and unparalleled strengths as a writer, Macdonald went from SNL to a memorable run of screwball movies (Dirty Work) and his own ABC sitcom in the late ’90s. For the decade, there was no greater career height for a comedian.
Macdonald also proved to be a popular, reliably hilarious, and always unpredictable guest on talk shows including Late Night with David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, and Conan. One doesn’t have to search for long on YouTube to find clips of Macdonald effortlessly “saving” another guest whose interview might be stumbling. Letterman and Macdonald teamed up on the latter’s criminally short lived 2018 Netflix show, literally titled Norm Macdonald Has a Show.
Macdonald was scheduled to perform in the New York Comedy Festival lineup in November.