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Norm Macdonald, one of Saturday Night Live's most beloved alumni, died on Monday after a nearly decade-long battle with cancer. He was 61.
Macdonald's death was announced to Deadline by his management firm, with the comedian's longtime friend and producing partner, Lori Jo Hoekstra, explaining he wanted to keep his health struggles private. He was scheduled to perform in the New York Comedy Festival lineup in November.
"He was most proud of his comedy," Hoekstra, who was by the actor's side when he passed, shared. "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's manager referred to the statement on Deadline when reached by Yahoo Entertainment.)
Macdonald was an SNL cast member from 1993-98, best known for his wit and sharp tongue anchoring Weekend Update. That sharp tongue reportedly led to his firing as he took no mercy on O.J. Simpson during his high-profile murder trial. (NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer was a longtime friend of the former football star.) Macdonald had no problem transitioning to film, stealing scenes in movies like Billy Madison, and television. He starred on Norm from 1999-2001, the popular show The Middle (2010-2018) and lent his voice to The Orville (2017-2019). He also hosted Norm Macdonald Live, the podcast and streaming show in recent years. But what he "loved the most" was being a standup comedian.
"I sort of have open invitations from a lot of people to do TV. But it's very hard for me to do roles in sitcoms and movies because I'm not a great actor, so if the material isn't good I'm in torment while I do it," Macdonald told the New York Times in 2010. "I like to do talk show appearances where I get to just be myself, and I do stand-up where I can completely be myself. That’s what I’ve always loved the most, of anything."
Look no further than Macdonald's infamous roast of Bob Saget during the 2008 Comedy Central special, which is considered one of the best sets in the show's history.
Norm Macdonald’s roast of Bob Saget remains the single greatest roast of all time.
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) September 14, 2021
Saget was among the many stars who paid tribute to Macdonald on Monday.
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. pic.twitter.com/V44nyouhQN
— bob saget (@bobsaget) September 14, 2021
Rob Schneider, who briefly overlapped with Macdonald on SNL, shared an emotional message about his close friend's passing.
Norm, I didn’t just like you.
I loved you.
You didn’t just make me laugh.
You made me cry with laughter.
I’m still crying today.
But when I think of you,
my tears will run down my face with all the memories of all the laughter and all the joys that you brought to all of us.
— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) September 14, 2021
Seth Rogen honored Macdonald, revealing the SNL legend was a huge inspiration: "Oh f***. I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting. I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the the all time greats. RIP."
Jon Stewart tweeted, "No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. F*** cancer."
Adam Sandler, David Letterman, Sarah Silverman, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin and more mourned the loss of the "one of a kind" comedian.
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. pic.twitter.com/2Pftw28uPc
— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) September 14, 2021
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 (@Letterman) September 14, 2021
Norm didn't just make us laugh, he made us laugh hard. Rest well, you crazy bastard.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) September 14, 2021
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 (@SethMacFarlane) September 14, 2021
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 (@ConanOBrien) September 14, 2021
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind. https://t.co/0sXoCLEtuG
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) September 14, 2021
Truly one of the funniest moments on TV. That was awesome, Norm ruled https://t.co/ZqmwyCpGtY
— Mr. Bob Odenkirk (@mrbobodenkirk) September 14, 2021
My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle. He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 14, 2021
RIP Norm MacDonald. I saw him perform live when I was in college. It was one of the most memorable performances I've ever seen. A complete mastery of standup comedy performance and an unparalleled passion for the art of writing jokes. Never met him. Love to his friends & family. https://t.co/gpWlNy2hwN
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) September 14, 2021
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm's show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald pic.twitter.com/DToJCUBdU2
— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) September 14, 2021
Love you, Norm.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) September 14, 2021
NOOOOO GODDAMIT. Oh my God what is even happening.
Good bye, Norm. You were never not 100% hilarious. https://t.co/loW3QsEjgW
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 14, 2021
Oh my God. We lost a legend. Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic. RIPNormMacDonald https://t.co/u3nkFjs099
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) September 14, 2021
Norm is the pinnacle of bravery and originality. 💔 https://t.co/UfeNoEUlUv
— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) September 14, 2021
Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his stuff. He was one of a kind of all time
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) September 14, 2021