Norm Macdonald, comedian and former SNL star, dies aged 61

Canadian’s producing partner says comedian had cancer, which he kept private

Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald has died aged 61. Photograph: Michael Nagle/ The New York Times

Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald has died aged 61. Photograph: Michael Nagle/ The New York Times

 

Norm Macdonald, the acerbic, sometimes controversial comedian familiar to millions as the Weekend Update anchor on the US sketch programme Saturday Night Live from 1994 to 1998, died Tuesday in Los Angeles aged 61.

His manager, Marc Gurvitz, confirmed the death. Lori Jo Hoekstra, his longtime producing partner, told Hollywood news outlet Deadline that the cause was cancer, something he had been dealing with for some time but had kept largely private.

Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the stand-up circuit, first in his native Canada and then in the United States. By 1990 he was doing his routine on Late Night With David Letterman and other shows.

His big break came in 1993 when he secured an interview with Lorne Michaels, a fellow Canadian, for a job on Saturday Night Live.

“I knew that even though we hailed from the same nation, we were worlds apart,” Macdonald wrote in Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir (2016).

“He was a cosmopolite from Toronto, worldly, the kinda guy who’d be comfortable around the Queen of England herself. Me, I was a hick, born to the barren, rocky soil of the Ottawa Valley, where the richest man in town was the barber.”

He got the job, and by the next year he was in the anchor chair for the Weekend Update segment. In sketches, he impersonated Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole and played other characters.

In early 1998 he was removed from that same anchor chair, reportedly at the behest of Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC Entertainment, West Coast, who was said to have been annoyed by Macdonald’s relentless mocking of his friend OJ Simpson. – This article originally appeared in the New York Times