Norm Macdonald - A Crazy Voice of Reason
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
No. What? Impossible. Surely this is a cruel joke, something this man might do. I scrambled to grab my phone to verify - it was true. Comedy legend Norm MacDonald has died at the age of 61.
On Tuesday September 14, the stand-up comic succumbed to his nine year battle with cancer. Many had no idea that such a battle was going on but that was Norm. He was all about the work, he rarely ever divulged into his personal life.
Norm’s dead-pan style coupled with long-winded, yarn styled jokes that were popular in the 1930’s and ‘40s, gave him a voice that wasn’t like any other. He had a remarkable ability to articulate the inner monologues of everyday citizens into something funny.
Born in Quebec City, Norm got his start touring comedy clubs in Canada. From there he started to write for “The Dennis Miller Show,” during this time Dennis Miller was the Weekend Update anchor on “Saturday Night Live,” a job Norm would take over soon enough.
“Roseanne” came next, where he established a life-long friendship with Roseanne Barr. However, he was still only writing, it wasn’t until "Saturday Night Live" that Norm was finally thrust into the spotlight for performing. He quickly became a household name, with his side-splitting turn as the Weekend Update anchor and his Burt Reynolds impression arguing with Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek.
His stint on SNL was cut short when he got fired for “allegedly” refusing to stop making OJ Simpson jokes. Getting fired would become something of a staple in his career, Norm said what he wanted to say when he wanted to say it, that’s what made him enduring to so many people. Regardless, nothing ever slowed him down. He continued to work. In 1998, he got his own sit-com titled “Norm,” which ran for three seasons, he had recurring roles on Netflix’s “Girl Boss,” ABC’s “he Middle,” and Seth McFarland’s “The Orville.” He appeared in such films as “Dirty Work,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Billy Madison,” “Jack and Jill,” and “The Animal.”
He made several appearances on "Conan" and “Late Night with David Letterman.” David Letterman would introduce Norm as "Norm MACdonald." Norm's tearful tribute to the late night legend on his last episode pulls at your heartstrings.
Considered one of the best stand-up comics of all time, in 2004 Comedy Central named him on their list of "100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time," he had several stand-up and comedy album specials, his most recent was in 2017 for Netflix titled “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery.”
Starting in 2013 Norm, with his trusty side-kick Adam Eget - manager of the famed Comedy Store, had been hosting a podcast where he invited numerous comedic colleagues to discuss their processes and journeys and to just be funny - that was what was most important to Norm, the comedy, making people laugh. At the end of each episode he presented jokes, written by him and his staff, to his guests, often having them read either very bad jokes or very raunchy jokes, putting them on the spot in the most comedic way. The podcast was picked up for one season on Netflix. Norm had a rare ability to make his guests feel so comfortable that they would share almost anything.
Nobody liked to stir the pot quite like Norm. If he walked into a room full of people who believed the Earth was round, he would be a flat-earther just to be different, to make you think, and to make you laugh.
Norm was a hard worker, well respected on the comedy scene, and an amazing story teller. He brought joy and entertainment to millions, even during his personal suffering - something we should all aspire to as performers.
The Actor Society echoes the many messages that have come in from celebrities all over:
“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.” - David 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.” - Adam Sandler
“We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind.” - Steve Martin
“Devastated. Met Norm in Ottawa when he was in my audience at 17 years old. Been close for decades. We have lost a comedic genius. No other voice in comedy has been as uniquely prolific, brazen, dark, hilarious, and heartfelt. Love you forever, Norm.” - Bob Saget
“Norm is the pinnacle of bravery and originality.” - Whitney Cummings
“We know how funny he was, and what a nice guy he was. Now we understand how brave he was.” - Harry Shearer
“This awful news took my breath away. Sending love to his family and friends.” - Nancy Sinatra
“No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique.” - Jon Stewart
“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.” - Seth MacFarlane
“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.” - Conan O’Brien