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Actor-comedian Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)


jakeem
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Norm Macdonald, who became the sixth anchor of the popular "Weekend Update" segment of "Saturday Night Live," has died of cancer at the age of 61. The Canadian product, who had been battling the disease privately for nine years, died today, his management firm Brillstein Entertainment told the website Deadline Hollywood.

“He was most proud of his comedy,” his longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra said in a statement. “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 is survived by his son, Dylan.

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A regular on "Saturday Night Live" from 1993 to 1998. Macdonald succeeded Kevin Nealon as the "Weekend Update" anchor in 1994.  He was forced out of the segment three years later by NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who said Macdonald was not funny. Observers pointed out that the comedian frequently delivered jokes about the acquitted double-murder suspect O.J. Simpson, a friend of Ohlmeyer's. The "Weekend Update" duties went to Colin Quinn.

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Although he left SNL in 1998, Macdonald later made occasional appearances as Burt Reynolds on the sketch show's "Celebrity Jeopardy!" bits. Macdonald said he came up with the idea for the "Jeopardy!" spoofs, basing them on "Half Wits," a 1980s "SCTV" send up of a Canadian teen game show hosted by Alex Trebek.

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Macdonald was never a breakout film star, but he appeared in several projects through the years. His screen debut was in the 1995 comedy "Billy Madison," in which he played the best friend of the title character (SNL's Adam Sandler).

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In 1998, Macdonald (pictured below with Artie Lange) starred in the comedy film "Dirty Work," which the comedian co-adapted from a Roald Dahl short story titled "Vengeance Is Mine, Inc." Macdonald and Lange played financially strapped buddies who started a revenge-for-hire business. Directed by the actor-comedian Bob Saget, the film was neither a critical nor commercial success. But it has become a cult favorite. The picture, which also featured Jack Warden, Traylor Howard, Chris Farley, Christopher McDonald, Chevy Chase, Don Rickles. John Goodman and Sandler, is currently available on HBO and HBO Max. 

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In 2015, Macdonald became the second performer to take on the role of KFC founder Col. Harland Sanders in television commercials (the first was another SNL alumnus, Darrell Hammond). Sanders, who died in 1980, has since been portrayed by other actors, including Jim Gaffigan, Rob Lowe and Reba McEntire.

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Macdonald, who began his career as a standup comic, became a favorite guest on late-night talk shows. In a 2016 Sirius XM radio interview with Howard Stern, Macdonald discussed some of his appearances, including a memorable 2015 finale on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman."

 

In every important way, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best. An opinion shared by me and all peers. Always up to something, never certain, until his matter-of-fact delivery leveled you.
 
I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze.  (I’m trying to avoid using the phrase, “twinkle in his eyes”).  He was a lifetime Cy Young winner in comedy.  Gone, but impossible to forget.
Dave Letterman
 
Every one of us loved Norm. Some of the hardest laughs of my life with this man. Most fearless funny original guy we knew. An incredible dad. A great friend. A legend. Love u pal.
 
“Norm @normmacdonald was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL. *Bob Dole* will miss Norm Macdonald.”
 
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I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald. Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I'm so sad for all of us today.
 

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We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind.
 

 

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No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. **** cancer.
 

 

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To so many people in comedy, me included, there was nobody funnier than Norm MacDonald. You always hoped he would hang around after the work was done, just so you could hear his stories and get a laugh. So hilarious and so generous with his personality. I’m gonna miss him.
 

 

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Of the many addictive rabbit holes you can disappear down on the internet, the most pleasurable is 'Norm MacDonald chat show appearances'. Thanks for all the laughs Norm, very sorry to see you go.
 
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McDonald's running SNL Weekend Update joke during the Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole '96 election gave us the historical epitaph to Dole's political career that's still quoted to this day (esp. during the Biden-Trump election)  :

"On the campaign trail, Bob Dole lashed out this week against Bill Clinton's economic policies...Clinton responded 'Yeah, you're probably right, and oh, btw, I'm going to win ANYWAY.'"    😄

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"And now, for our Weekend Update entertainment news, the Critics' Corner--My review of Tom Cruise's 'Interview with the Vampire':  Not gay enough."  😄

Apart from SNL, I saw him hosting a 90's ESPN awards, roasting the then, um, varied sports programming on the network:
"Where else do you get the chance to see Philippine Kickboxing, a unique world sport that combines the hard-hitting power, grace and strategy of boxing with, um........kicking?"

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Comedy is really, really hard. You can't copy. There are no "cover" comics. You can sing other people's songs. You can act by repeating other people's play and movie roles. But comedy has to always be fresh, new and original. It's like being an artist. Nobody cares if you can copy the Mona Lisa. Comedy is like painting. It must be unique.

I consider it the most difficult performance art form.

Norm McDonald was an original. He did almost all his own stuff. He didn't graduate from high school. He just made it up from his own brain.

Comedy doesn't get enough credit.

Some will say...oh, he was JUST a comedian. No he wasn't. He was actually an incredibly, brilliant guy. It is really, really hard to make people laugh....hard....over and over. To laugh, is the greatest human emotion.

Think about it. We weep...cry...feel incredible sorrow. Human beings are cursed with the ability to feel deep, horrible pain. But when we laugh...it's so liberating. It is joyful and we always remember what makes us feel great. Comedy is a gift we all can share and remember forever.

Norm McDonald will be missed.

I am sad.

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1 hour ago, MrMagoo said:

Comedy is really, really hard. You can't copy. There are no "cover" comics. You can sing other people's songs. You can act by repeating other people's play and movie roles. But comedy has to always be fresh, new and original. It's like being an artist. Nobody cares if you can copy the Mona Lisa. Comedy is like painting. It must be unique.

I consider it the the most difficult performance art form.

Norm McDonald was an original. He did almost all his own stuff. He didn't graduate from high school. He just made it up from his own brain.

Comedy doesn't get enough credit.

Some will say...oh, he was JUST a comedian. No he wasn't. He was actually an incredibly, brilliant guy. It is really, really hard to make people laugh....hard....over and over. To laugh, is the greatest human emotion.

Think about it. We weep...cry...feel incredible sorrow. Human beings are cursed with the ability to feel deep, horrible pain. But when we laugh...it's so liberating. It is joyful and we always remember what makes us feel great. Comedy is a gift we all can share and remember forever.

Norm McDonald will be missed.

I am sad.

Beautifully written and insightful commentary here, Magoo. So true.

R.I.P., Norm.

(...just one thing though and re your "The are no 'cover' comics" comment...Rich Little and every other comic who specialized in impressions, might disagree with you on this)  ;)

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This hit me sudden and hard when  a friend texted me a link to the story late this afternoon. Wow, Norm was a funny guy. I love, love, loved him on his Weekend Update days, although Don Ohlmeyer, a golf buddy of OJ Simpson, apparently did not.  He was maybe not so much as actor as he was a comedian and celebrity personality, but I found his impersonations of Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole in particular quite uncanny and distilled for maximum comic potential. RIP.

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Haha the Canadian man I had dated awhile always hated MacDonald for stealing his girlfriend away years earlier. Although I liked the guy I was dating, my response to her switch would always be, "who wouldn't?" 

I also liked your thoughtful post Magoo, Norm was one-of-a-kind. 

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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I love, love, loved him on his Weekend Update days, although Don Ohlmeyer, a golf buddy of OJ Simpson, apparently did not.

Regarding Ohlmeyer, the comment by David Letterman to MacDonald is a classic. In one of MacDonald's 1998 appearances on Letterman's show, Ohlmeyer's was being discussed. MacDonald was being demure about the matter, calling Ohlmeyer "one of these creative types" or something like that, and Letterman said he had worked for Ohlmeyer at NBC and said "here’s a guy who couldn’t create gas after a bean dinner.”

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  • jakeem changed the title to Actor-comedian Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

Well, as I suspected,  most everyone responded with "he was the greatest...."   which of course, he wasn't.

But he was pretty talented and was especially great at portraying certain types of characters.  Like the woebegone not so sterling charactered younger brother "Rusty" of Mike Heck on the TV sitcom THE MIDDLE.   He was brilliant in that type of role.  And for a short time he was the replacement for Gabe Kaplan on some poker program my wife and I would watch until our cable service dropped The Game Show Network.  

I never saw him on SNL as I found any cast after the mid 80's hard to stomach.  

But keeping his fight with cancer private must have been difficult and a good sign of a class act. 

Rest In Peace, Norm.

Sepiatone

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  • 5 months later...
On 9/14/2021 at 8:02 PM, MrMagoo said:

Comedy is really, really hard. You can't copy. There are no "cover" comics. You can sing other people's songs. You can act by repeating other people's play and movie roles. But comedy has to always be fresh, new and original. It's like being an artist. Nobody cares if you can copy the Mona Lisa. Comedy is like painting. It must be unique.

I consider it the most difficult performance art form.

Norm McDonald was an original. He did almost all his own stuff. He didn't graduate from high school. He just made it up from his own brain.

Comedy doesn't get enough credit.

Some will say...oh, he was JUST a comedian. No he wasn't. He was actually an incredibly, brilliant guy. It is really, really hard to make people laugh....hard....over and over. To laugh, is the greatest human emotion.

Think about it. We weep...cry...feel incredible sorrow. Human beings are cursed with the ability to feel deep, horrible pain. But when we laugh...it's so liberating. It is joyful and we always remember what makes us feel great. Comedy is a gift we all can share and remember forever.

Norm McDonald will be missed.

I am sad.

 

that thing about him not graduating highschool is a joke and seems to be spread around as factual.

his parents were teachers.   he graduated hs at the age 14-15, and he went to college too.

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