Norm Macdonald, influential comic and ‘Saturday Night Live’ star, dead at 61

Norm Macdonald, stand-up comic, actor, and one of the most influential and well-remembered anchors on Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update” news desk, has died. He was 61.

Macdonald’s management team, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, confirmed Macdonald’s death to ABC News.  Macdonald reportedly had been privately battling cancer for nearly 10 years, and kept it hidden from fans, friends, and even family.

“He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him,” said Macdonald’s producing partner and friend, Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with the comedian when he passed away, in a statement. “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.”

Born in Quebec City, Canada, Macdonald developed a dry style on the stand-up stage, which eventually led him to a 1990 appearance on Star Search, and eventually into the writers room of another stand-up, Roseanne Barr. Macdonald wrote for the sitcom Roseanne in 1992 before landing the Saturday Night Live gig.

In addition to his landmark stint behind the Weekend Update desk — where his constant questions about O.J. Simpson during the latter’s murder trial reportedly landed him in hot water with NBC executives — Macdonald’s imitation of Burt Reynolds also made him a fan favorite.

Macdonald also appeared on the big screen over the years, with roles in his SNL co-stars’ movies like Adam Sandler‘s Billy Madison and Rob Schneider‘s The Animal, as well as voicing a droll dog in Dr. Doolittle with another SNL vet, Eddie Murphy.

David Letterman once called Macdonald his favorite guest. Macdonald — who made his TV stand-up debut on Letterman’s Late Night in 1990 — made a famously tearful appearance on Dave’s final Late Show, in which Norm’s voice cracked when he told Letterman he loved him.

In recent years, Macdonald appeared in the sci-fi comedy series The Orville, and voiced a pigeon on the quirky Mike Tyson Mysteries animated series from 2014 to 2020.

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