Comedian Norm Macdonald, best known for his role as a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor, has died at age 61.
The news was relayed to Deadline by his management firm, Brillstein Entertainment. According to his producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra, Macdonald had been battling cancer for nine years, but kept his medical matters private.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” said Hoekstra, who was with Macdonald when he died. “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 began his career in comedy as a writer for Roseanne, where he worked for a year before joining the cast of SNL in 1993. The following year, he began appearing in the role of “Weekend Update” anchor, where he offered memorable impressions of personalities, including David Letterman, Burt Reynolds, Larry King and Quentin Tarantino, among others.
His tongue-in-cheek style jokes frequently centered on popular figures of the era like Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson, the latter most of whom Macdonald ridiculed heavily. Macdonald reportedly alleged this was the reason for his dismissal from SNL in 1998, since the president of NBC’s West Coast division, Don Ohlmeyer, was a friend of Simpson’s.
After leaving SNL in 1998, Macdonald launched his own series, The Norm Show, which ran from 1999-2001. Most recently, he participated in a 2018 program that aired on Netflix, Norm Macdonald Has a Show.
In 2016, SNL creator Lorne Michaels noted that Macdonald rarely repeated his jokes, “which, of course, is what a pro is supposed to do,” he said.
“He is funny in a way that some people inhale and exhale,” David Letterman said of Macdonald in 2015. “With others, you can tell the comedy, the humor is considered. With Norm, he exudes it. It’s sort of a furnace in him because he’s so effortless. The combination of the delivery and his appearance and his intelligence. There may be people as funny as Norm, but I don’t know anybody who is funnier.”
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.