Comedian Norm MacDonald died on Tuesday after privately battling cancer for the past nine years.
His death was confirmed to Deadline by his management team at Brillstein Entertainment.
The 61-year-old’s longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra was with him when he passed. He told Deadline that Macdonald had been battling cancer for nearly a decade but remained adamant about keeping his diagnosis from family, friends and fans.
‘He was most proud of his comedy,’ Hoekstra 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.’
The famous comedian was best known for his work on Saturday Night Live where he worked as a cast member from 1993- 1998 and starred as the show’s anchor on its Weekend Update segment.
In 2004, Comedy Central named him as one of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. Many famous comedians have named Macdonald’s dry and witty deadpan comedy as an inspiration to their own careers.
His death and secret cancer diagnosis was confirmed by his longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra (pictured: Macdonald co-hosting the view on September 13, 2018)
The former SNL star has died after a nine year secret battle with cancer. He is pictured at an event in Los Angeles in 2003 (pictured: Macdonald hosting the second annual Much Love Animal Rescue comedy charity event at Hollywood’s Laugh Factory July 29, 2003)
Norm Macdonald starred as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1993 -1998. He is pictured with fellow SNL alumni Chevy Chase and Colin Quinn at a reunion in 2012 (pictured: Colin Quinn, left, Chevy Chase, center, and Macdonald, right, during the 2012 Comedy Awards on April 28, 2012)
Macdonald began his comedic career performing the circuit of comedy clubs in Canada where he developed his signature deadpan style. He was a contestant on Star Search in 1990 and secured his first television writing job on The Dennis Miller Show.
He then went on to write for Roseanne from 1992- 1993 before he joined the SNL cast.
Chevy Chase, who created SNL’s Weekend Update, named Macdonald as the best anchor to ever host the segment. Macdonald’s time at the helm of Weekend Update pushed the popular news commentary away from Chase’s slapstick comedy take on to the more politically charged sharp approach that is still seen today.
He was noted for his strong commentary on O.J. Simpson despite reported instance from NBC executives to tone it down. After Simpson was found not guilty, Macdonald joked, ‘Well, it is finally official: Murder is legal in the state of California.’
His sharp comedic criticism is believed to have led to his firing from the show in 1999. It is also alleged to have been one of the few decisions regarding the show that was not left to producer Lorne Michaels.
Macdonald was succeeded by comedian Colin Quinn who took over the coveted post.
The stand-up comedian went on to launch two failed sitcoms in the early 2000s: Norm and A Minute With Stan Hooper. But his career was eventually revived as he went on to star in a long list of popular movies and television shows up until 2020.
He had recurring roles on The Middle from 2010- 2018, Mike Tyson Mysteries from 2014- 2020, Sunnyside in 2015, Skylanders Academy from 2016- 2018, and The Orville from 2017- 2019, among others.
Macdonald often acted alongside fellow former SNL cast members in his films such as Billy Madison starring Adam Sandler, The Animal starring Rob Schneider, Dirty Work with Chevy Chase, and Dr. Dolittle starring Eddie Murphy.
His expansive career also had him in commercials and his podcast Norm Macdonald Live.
During an appearance on Conan in 2014, Macdonald told what many have since considered to be his best joke. He rambled on for several minutes about shaggy-dog tale about Quebec, beluga whales, and baby dolphins as the audience and host Conan O’Brien erupt in laughter.
The popular comedian made frequent appearances on late-night televisions shows where he was known for consistently having the hosts cracking up. But several years he was cancelled from appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon due to remarks he made about the #MeToo movement during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Macdonald said he was ‘happy the #MeToo movement had slowed down a little bit,’ claiming that people used to receive a second chance, but that the #MeToo movement gave ‘no forgiveness.’
Macdonald said he had arrived early to tape a segment, just hours after he told the Hollywood reporter he wanted Louis CK and Roseanne Barr to get together and commiserate because they had lost everything to the #MeToo movement. These comments made senior producers at the Tonight Show cry, he said (pictured: Macdonald, left, on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, right, on June 7, 2017)
Macdonald said he and Fallon agreed he would not do the show as not to damage the brand, after Fallon revealed the staff’s distress that Macdonald would appear (pictured: Macdonald, left, on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, right, on July 22, 2015)
Macdonald said he had linked up Louis C.K, who was accused of sexual misconduct, and Roseanne Barr, who was fired from her show in May for racist comments, so they could talk about what had happened.
‘There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day,’ he said.
‘Of course, people will go, “What about the victims?” But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that.’
Macdonald was slammed online for his remarks, by people who thought he was dismissing those who had revealed themselves to be victims of sexual assault, and by others who saw his comments as trying to defend CK and Barr.
He then went on Howard Stern’s radio show and told him that his appearance on The Tonight Show had been cancelled because his remarks on the social movement had made senior producers cry.
He later apologized for his comments in a tweet: ‘Roseanne and Louis have both been very good friends of mine for many years. They both made terrible mistakes and I would never defend their actions. If my words sounded like I was minimizing the pain that their victims feel to this day, I am deeply sorry.’
According to his IMDB page, the Canadian star was slated to voice Grandpaws in the ‘animated re imagining of one of the largest wildfire evacuations in Canadian history’ titled Back Home Again which is currently in post-production.
He was scheduled to perform at the New York City Comedy Festival November 11- 14.
Since the shocking news of Macdonald’s death broke, friends and fans have taken to Twitter to share their heartbreak.
Conan O’Brien tweeted: ‘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.’
Fellow Canadian comedian Eugene Levy posted on Twitter: ‘Today the world lost a very, very funny man. We miss him already. R.I.P Norm Macdonald.’
Seth MacFarlane shared a touching tribute writing: ‘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.’
Macdonald made guest appearances on Family Guy.
Canadian star Dave Foley tweeted: ‘Can’t believe Norm MacDonald is dead. First met him in the mid 80s. I thought he was way too funny to be successful. I was half right. My deep sympathy to his family, close friends and his fans. #ripNorm’
Fellow former SNL star Adam Sandler posted a photo of him starring alongside Macdonald in Billy Madison on Twitter. He wrote: ‘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.’
Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole tweeted a photo of him laughing as he stands next to Macdonald dressed as the senator on the set of SNL. Dole captioned the photo: ‘Norm was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL. *Bob Dole* will miss Norm Macdonald.’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a tribute to the Canadian star writing: ‘The world was a much funnier place because Norm Macdonald was in it. We’ve lost a comedic genius, and a great Canadian. Sending my condolences to his loved ones and countless fans mourning his passing.’
Reporter David Gardner shared a quote on cancer from Macdonald’s standup special: ‘I’m pretty sure, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer dies at the same time. That’s not a loss. That’s a draw.’
Macdonald is survived by his son Dylan Macdonald.