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 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.