‘SNL’ veteran and comedian Norm Macdonald dies of cancer at 61

‘SNL’ veteran and comedian Norm Macdonald dies of cancer at 61
Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm Macdonald died Tuesday after a private battle with cancer, his manager Marc Gurvitz confirmed to USA TODAY. He was 61 years old.

Lori Jo Hoekstra, Macdonald’s friend and producing partner, told Deadline she was with him at the time of his death and that the comedian had been fighting cancer for nine years, but did not wish to share his health struggles with the public.

“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 is best known as a cast member on “SNL” from 1993-98, and especially his role as anchor of the show’s popular “Weekend Update” segment for three seasons. His trademark dry, sarcastic humor and gravelly voice also was featured in several sitcoms and animated series.

“He’s eccentric, but he’s always had his own voice, and I respect that,” “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels said in 2018. “He likes the part of the curmudgeon, but he is truly funny.”

Macdonald was born October 17, 1959, in Quebec City, Canada, and got his start doing stand-up comedy. He was a writer on ABC’s “Roseanne” from 1992-93 before landing a spot on “SNL.”

During his time on the sketch-comedy series, Macdonald was known for his impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole, among others. His take on the mustachioed Reynolds was an indelible part of the popular “Celebrity Jeopardy!” sketches, which also featured Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, and he reprised that role in the “SNL” 40th anniversary celebration in 2015.

More:Norm Macdonald talks Netflix, Judge Judy and why political correctness hurts comedy

Macdonald was famously removed from the “Weekend Update” desk at “SNL” in 1998 by then-NBC chief Don Ohlmeyer, and the comedian publicly said he believed it was because Ohlmeyer didn’t like Macdonald’s jokes about O.J. Simpson, who was a friend of Ohlmeyer’s. Macdonald later left “SNL” altogether.

After his stint on the sketch-comedy institution, Macdonald wrote and appeared in the film “Dirty Work” (1998), and voiced Lucky the Dog in Eddie Murphy’s version of “Doctor Dolittle” (1998). His sitcom “The Norm Show” aired on ABC from 1999-2001, co-starring Laurie Metcalf.

In the last two decades Macdonald made many appearances on late-night shows such as “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Conan” and had recurring roles on TV series including ABC’s “The Middle” and Fox’s “The Orville.” One of his last projects was Netflix’s “Norm Macdonald Has a Show,” a pared-down talk show that debuted in 2018 in which the comedian interviewed celebrity guests including Jane Fonda, Drew Barrymore and Letterman for wide-ranging, half-hour conversations.

“Whenever I did those sitcoms, I’d be like, ‘Let me just be a side character or not in it at all. Let me just write it for someone,'” Macdonald told USA TODAY in 2018. “So that’s why this (Netflix) show is good, because this is about as close to stand-up as you can get, just talking to someone without a script, which is what I’m good at. Good at? I’m the best at it.”

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The comedian was not without his share of controversy. In the wake of the #MeToo movement he faced backlash for comments defending disgraced comedians Roseanne Barr and Louis CK, and appeared on “The View” in September 2018 to apologize for a joke about Down syndrome. “It’s always bad when you have to apologize for an apology,” he said.