Saturday Night Live veteran Norm Macdonald has died following a private battle with cancer. He was 61.
Macdonald was reportedly battling an undisclosed cancer for almost a decade, which he chose not to disclose to friends, family or fans.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Macdonald’s longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo 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 an SNL fixture from 1993 to 1998, and served as sole anchor of Weekend Update for three seasons. As for his sketch work, he’s perhaps best remembered for playing Burt Reynolds, foe of Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek, on Celebrity Jeopardy!
“Today is a sad day,” a SNL spokesperson said in a statement. “All of us here at SNL mourn the loss of Norm Macdonald, one of the most impactful comedic voices of his or any other generation. There are so many things that we’ll miss about Norm — from his unflinching integrity to his generosity to his consistent ability to surprise. But most of all, he was just plain funny. No one was funny like Norm.”
Prior to SNL, Macdonald was a contestant on Star Search in 1990, then went on to write for ABC’s Roseanne during the 1992-93 season.
Following SNL, Macdonald headlined ABC’s The Norm Show, which ran for three seasons between 1999 and 2001. He also recurred as Rusty Heck on fellow ABC comedy The Middle. More recently, he hosted the Netflix talk show Norm Macdonald Has a Show, and voiced Yaphit on the Fox-turned-Hulu sci-fi saga The Orville.
On the big screen, he appeared in the cult classic Dirty Work, as well as several Adam Sandler films, including Billy Madison, Grown Ups, Jack and Jill and The Ridiculous 6.
Macdonald was also a frequent late-night guest. He appeared 24 times on CBS’ The Late Show With David Letterman, and 25 times opposite Conan O’Brien (across NBC’s Late Night and The Tonight Show, and TBS’ Conan).
“In every important way, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best. An opinion shared by me and all peers,” Letterman said in a statement. “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.”
O’Brien also eulogized Macdonald on Twitter, writing: “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.”