A famous line from Norm MacDonald is recirculating after the deadpan comic died following a private nine-year cancer battle.
Norm Macdonald, the deadpan stand-up comic and beloved Saturday Night Live star from 1993 to 1998, has died after a private nine-year battle with cancer. He was 61.
The one-time Weekend Update anchor’s passing was confirmed to Deadline by his management team at Brillstein Entertainment.
The Quebec City native’s friend Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with Macdonald when died, said the performer had been fighting cancer for nearly a decade but was determined to keep his struggle away from family, friends and fans.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra, who was also his longtime producing partner, said. “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.”
Jim Carrey was devastated by the news, tweeting: “He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.”
Macdonald summed up his career in trademark style in this excerpt from his book, Based on a True Story: A Memoir, released in 2015.
“I’m a stand-up comedian and have been for over a quarter of a century. I’ve performed thousands of hours, from a small club in Ottawa, Ontario, all the way to a small club in Edmondton, Alberta,” he wrote.
“Sometimes I get big laughs and think I’m the best stand-up in the whole world, and other times I bomb, and I think I’m not even in the top five.”
He is also wellknown for this quote about cancer, which is particularly poignant on the day of his passing.
“When I hear a guy lost a battle to cancer, that really did bother me, that that’s a term,” MacDonald said. “It implies that he failed and that somebody else that defeated cancer is heroic and courageous.”
Macdonald launched his show business career in the comedy clubs of his native Canada, where he perfected his signature laconic style, and went on to compete on the early reality TV competition series “Star Search “in 1990.
He was in the infamous writer’s room for fellow stand-up Roseanne Barr’s hit sitcom “Roseanne” during 1992-93 season — before scoring his coveted gig on Lorne Michael’s iconic NBC sketch comedy series.
Macdonald was known for his “SNL” impressions of Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino and many more during his five-year run on the show.
“I would love to stay at SNL forever — but you can’t stay in the same place,” he told TV Guide in 1997. “People think you’re a loser.”
After exiting “SNL” — and being replaced as Weekend Update anchor by Colin Quinn — in 1998, Macdonald starred in his own sitcom, “The Norm Show.”
He starred as social worker Norm Henderson, a former NHL player who was banned from the sport life for thanks to gambling and tax evasion. The show ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001.
He later hosted a one-season talk show — with the appropriately dry title “Norm Macdonald Has a Show” — on Netflix in 2018. He told The New York Post at the time: “I’m an old man. I’m just an old chunk of coal. I don’t even know how to use my phone.”
He was famous for his sarcastic style — and he was not opposed to using himself as a punchline.
“I was in my peak physical condition when I was about like, uh — one,” he once quipped. “Oh God, I looked good, young and fresh! You wouldn’t know me now if you’d seen me when I was one, you know? I even looked good for my age. People would come up to me and go, ‘what are you, zero?’ And I’d go, “no, I’m one over here!”
When he published his “memoir” in 2015, he revealed what percentage of it was true in his signature deadpan style: “Oh, zero,” he told The New York Post. “I wanted to write a novel, but they wouldn’t let me. But there are facts in the book that are true, (like) ‘a river is made of water’.”
Macdonald, who never graduated from high school, told The Post “the scariest [part about writing a book] is I have no education and so I really feel like to be a good writer, you need education.”
He admitted at the time, “I would really like to go to school. I never got the chance. I’ve never worked so hard. It was very hard for me to keep a whole book in my head. I could keep a sketch in my head or even a movie … but a book. It’s so hard to keep that whole thing at once in your head.”
— New York Post
Originally published as Dead comedian Norm MacDonald’s brilliant quote about cancer