R.I.P. Norm MacDonald, SNL Weekend Update anchor whose deadpan style influenced a generation of comedians

He was a favorite late-night guest and played a washed-up hockey player in his own sitcom 'Norm.'

The Everett Collection

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If there was one thing Norm MacDonald was never afraid of, it was staying quiet. No one was safe from his jabs as an anchor on Saturday Night Live’s mock-news segment Weekend Update, even if it drew the ire of NBC executives. But MacDonald always wanted his comedy to be the focus, so he kept his cancer diagnosis private. After a nine-year battle, MacDonald passed away this week at the age of 61.

MacDonald was born in Quebec City, Canada, in 1959. He started performing comedy in his native city and eventually won a slot as a contestant on Star Search in 1990.

MacDonald’s first real gig in television would prove prophetic: he joined the writers’ room of The Dennis Miller Show in 1992, a comedy show with a political bent. Miller was just coming of his own long run as Weekend Update anchor. After his time on the short-lived talk show, MacDonald became a writer on the sitcom Roseanne before joining Saturday Night Live in 1993.

MacDonald’s time behind the Weekend Update desk skyrocketed him to fame. His deadpan, sarcastic musings on the news of the day became a staple of the show in the mid-Nineties. His impression of Burt Reynolds sporting a leather jacket and bolo tie in sketches like “Celebrity Jeopardy!” is still one of the best remembered impressions from that era of SNL.

MacDonald could often be seen on late-night TV during the week as well — he was a favorite guest of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. Their offbeat styles and sarcasm worked well together. His many late-night appearances continued throughout his career.

After his success on Saturday Night Live, MacDonald got his own sitcom, Norm (originally called The Norm Show). It followed a former hockey player who was banned from the league for gambling and tax evasion. To avoid prison, Norm must do five years of community service as a social worker — a job that goes about as well as you might think. The show lasted three seasons from 1999-2001.

MacDonald recently collaborated with his former SNL costar Adam Sandler in movies like Grown Ups and had a recurring role as Rusty Heck on the Patricia Heaton sitcom The Middle. MacDonald also hosted the talk show Norm MacDonald Has a Show for Netflix.

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BorisK 2 days ago
This is so confusing ... I liked Norm MacDonald's stuff now and then, and all the media are now eulogizing him with tears, yet barely 3 years ago he was nearly burned at the stake by the press over his rational opinions about #metoo (which oddly enough everyone now seems to agree with). Which is it, media? Is he an outcast or a Saint? How perplexing.
UTZAAKE 3 days ago
"Deadpan" is a word best use to describe Buster Keaton, Steven Wright and Perry Mattfeld in The CW's In the Dark, but not Norm MacDonald. No one will ever say "Scram, you damn freak" as perfectly as he did, either.
jimmyvici 4 days ago
Loved his Burt Reynolds character from the Jeopardy SNL skits. Fantastic. He will definitely be missed. Rip Turd Ferguson.
Big3Fan 4 days ago
His moth joke is classic. Rest in peace, Mr. MacDonald.
kevomatic 4 days ago
I didn’t even know he was sick.
You weren't supposed to know. That's the way he wanted it.
It's a punchline from one of his jokes:
AnnieM 4 days ago
I too loved his Burt Reynolds. I also got a kick out of how during 'Weekend Update' he frequently found a way to work in the phrase, "Germans love David Hasselhoff." He will be very much missed.
Pacificsun AnnieM 4 days ago
Yeah, but it also was his expression that went with the phrase. You'd have to see it to understand. Like Chris Farley doing his "down by the river" sketch. The words didn't make sense until he turned it into hilarious desperation!
AnnieM Pacificsun 19 hours ago
Very true!
KellyTenace 4 days ago
Norm was a class, that's for sure.
mackjaz 4 days ago
"If there was one thing Norm MacDonald was never afraid of, it was staying quiet."

What the heck does that mean? That he kept his mouth shut? That seems to be exactly the opposite of what he was. "Norm" -ally, I wouldn't nitpick, but it's the first sentence of the story.
LoveMETV22 mackjaz 4 days ago
Just a play on words, or pun in the first sentence. Lol on your ."Norm" -ally pun, also a play on words.
Pacificsun mackjaz 4 days ago
If they wanted to take that point of view a better opening would've been:

"One thing about Norm MacDonald is that he let his work speak for itself."

Those of us (in the era) who knew his work, characters on SNL and more, understood he had a unique comedic personality and approach. And times weren't as radicalized as they are now. The writers probably haven't had a chance to enjoy him in the moment, when SNL's material was fresh for every week. The Game Shows, the parody on long standing hosts. It was and easy, fun Show to watch. That's all that was necessary!
daDoctah 4 days ago
After playing Burt Reynolds in those SNL Celebrity Jeopardy sketches, Norm was picked to play "Little Chubby", the son of Burt's character Chubby on "My Name Is Earl".

Season three of "The Orville" is going to be even more disappointing than it's already shaping up to be now that we know Yaphit won't be there to ooze through the odd scene or two.
cperrynaples daDoctah 4 days ago
Yep, and I'll miss his Pidgeon on The Mike Tyson Mysteries!
Can anyone explain to me how Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist, got a cartoon series?
Pacificsun 5 days ago
He helped make SNL what it was. Not what it's like today.
KJExpress 5 days ago
Too many obits lately. 😔
nd1irish KJExpress 3 days ago
Do you know who may be next? You guessed it. Frank Stallone.
MrsPhilHarris 5 days ago
Loved his Burt Reynolds on Jeopardy!
Oh that was the best ever!
David MrsPhilHarris 4 days ago
Turd Ferguson will never die!
Peter_Falk_Fan 5 days ago
I thought he was great as Rusty Heck on "The Middle". R.I.P. Norm MacDonald. Thanks for the laughs.
denny 5 days ago
Well this is sad, only 61. RIP Norm.
David denny 4 days ago
RIP Norm, I'm glad he didn't go the way John Belushi and Chris Farley did, or Phil Hartman.
Pacificsun David 4 days ago
There's no "good" way to go.
BrittReid 5 days ago
Norm was very funny and always told it like it was. R.I.P.
Stoney 5 days ago
RIP. I enjoyed his era on SNL.
Michael 5 days ago
He's exactly six days older than me (and Weird Al and Martin Luther King III).
LoveMETV22 5 days ago
R.I.P. Norm MacDonald. He was great on The Weekend Update. Hillarious on the Celebrity Jeopardy skit.
MrsPhilHarris denny 5 days ago
Fun! Thanks for posting this.
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