Norm Macdonald Dies: Influential Comedian & Former ‘SNL’ Weekend Update Anchor Was 61
Norm Macdonald Dies: Influential Comedian & Former ‘SNL’ Weekend Update Anchor Was 61
Norm MacDonald dead

Norm Macdonald, whose laconic delivery of sharp and incisive observations made him one of Saturday Night Live‘s most influential and beloved cast members, died today after a nine-year private battle with cancer. He was 61.

Macdonald’s death was announced to Deadline by his management firm Brillstein Entertainment. The comedian’s longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with him when he died, said Macdonald had been battling cancer for nearly a decade but was determined to keep his health struggles private, away from family, friends and fans.

“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra 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.”

Macdonald was scheduled to be in the New York Comedy Festival lineup in November.

He was an SNL cast member from 1993-98, making his greatest impact as the anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segments for three seasons. Remembered for his droll style — and for his refusal to go easy on O.J. Simpson despite reported pressure from NBC execs — Macdonald would prove one of the most impactful “Update” anchors, pivoting away from the slapstick approach of Chevy Chase and toward the more barbed political approach of his successor, Colin Quinn.

Born on October 17, 1959, in Quebec City, Macdonald started his show business career in the comedy clubs of Canada, developing the deadpan style that would become both his trademark and a highly influential touchstone for a generation of comics. After being a contestant on Star Search in 1990, he landed his first regular TV writing gig on The Dennis Miller Show, fronted by the man who anchored “Weekend Update” from 1986-91.

Macdonald was hired to write for Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne for the 1992-93 season before landing the coveted gig at NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Among his most popular SNL bits was a gum-chomping impression of Burt Reynolds, complete with charming smile, bolo tie and wiseguy attitude, often at hilarious odds with Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek. If his Reynolds was his best, other impressions were nearly on par: Macdonald’s roster included Andy Rooney, Clint Eastwood, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Bean and Rod Serling, among others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *