Norm MacDonald Has Died, But the Laughs Live On


Joseph Malanaphy, Editor

Canadian stand-up comedian and actor, Norm MacDonald, passed away at the age of 61 on Sept. 14 after a private 9-year-long battle with cancer. MacDonald, who’d mastered the art of non sequitur jokes, was known for his deadpan style of humor, quick wit, and often controversial takes, making him a household name in the 1990s.
Though MacDonald began his career doing comedy clubs in Canada, he was eventually hired as a writer by former SNL alum, Dennis Miller, on The Dennis Miller Show. For MacDonald, however, his most notable gig would come after landing a job on SNL in 1993. MacDonald became the anchor of “Weekend Update,” a position he would hold during most of his time on the program.
A rumor in comedy circles and amongst SNL alum strongly hints that MacDonald could have possibly stayed on much longer as anchor, but Don Ohlmeyer, NBC executive and friend of O.J. Simpson, was less-than-pleased with MacDonald’s constant barbs at Simpson. In his first show back after Simpson had been aquitted of double murder, MacDonald took to his desk and opened with this gem: “Well, it’s official: Murder is now legal in the state of California.”
Simpson took quite the beating from MacDonald over the years, but some other frequent targets on the receiving end of these jokes were former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and for some unknown, yet I’m sure hilarious reason, Frank Stallone. Stallone’s brother, Sylvester, even took exception to this and at one point suggested the comedian stop making jokes at his brother’s expense.
Some of MacDonald’s most notable film work includes “Dirty Work,” in which he starred alongside fellow comedian and actor, Artie Lange, “Billy Madison” with Adam Sandler and “Screwed,” which co-starred the likes of comedian/actors Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, and Sherman Hemsley. MacDonald forayed into podcasting in 2013 with his show “Norm MacDonald Live,” as well as having his own Netflix talk show “Norm MacDonald Has a Show” (2018.) MacDonald also made quite the name for himself over the years as a popular, yet unpredictable talk show guest. Among his many appearances, some of the best had taken place on The Late Show with David Letterman along with the many iterations of Conan O’Brien’s show.
Norm MacDonald was one of the most hilarious people that ever walked this Earth. If he wasn’t doing impersonations of Burt Reynolds a.k.a Turd Ferguson on “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” Bob Dole, Larry King or David Letterman, MacDonald was likely making you laugh at his awkward pauses while laughing at his own jokes on “Weekend Update.”
MacDonald was a very rare kind of comedian. He wasn’t phased in the slightest about corporate backlash, or losing one of the biggest television gigs, and was never concerned about what anyone thought of his humor. As sad as it is losing such a sincere and uniquely-thinking brain, Norm MacDonald’s legacy will live on forever through his comedy and the world was lucky to have had him…or so the Germans would have us believe!