Norm Macdonald, the Canadian stand-up comic and Saturday Night Live cast member known for his deadpan delivery, died of cancer Tuesday at age 61.
The comedian had been living with cancer in private for nearly a decade, according to his longtime friend and producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with him when he died. “He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra told Deadline. “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 renowned for his laconic, dry style, particularly in impressions of such figures as television star Burt Reynolds, which became a touchstone for a generation of comics. “I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting,” actor and fellow Canadian Seth Rogen tweeted in remembrance. “I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the all time greats.”
Born to two teachers on 17 October 1959 in Quebec City, Macdonald first started performing in comedy clubs around Ottawa. An appearance on Star Search in 1990 led to a writing gig for comic Roseanne Barr’s sitcom, Roseanne, during the 1992-1993 season. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1993 and performed on the show until 1998, serving as a cohost of Weekend Update for three seasons.
After his time on SNL, Macdonald starred in his own ABC sitcom, The Norm Show, from 1999 until 2001, and appeared as a notably funny guest on numerous talk shows, from Conan to the Howard Stern Show. In 2018, he hosted a Netflix talk show, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, that echoed his video podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, which ran from 2013 until 2017.
Actor Josh Gad was one of several comedy figures to express condolences on Tuesday. “Absolutely gutted. One of the most underrated and hilarious SNL performers,” he tweeted.
“Of the many addictive rabbit holes you can disappear down on the internet, the most pleasurable is ‘Norm MacDonald chat show appearances,’” tweeted writer and director Edgar Wright. “Thanks for all the laughs Norm, very sorry to see you go.”