Comedy Legend Norm Macdonald Lost a Secret, Decade-Long Battle with Cancer

Norm MacDonald, one of the greatest comedians of our time, passed away yesterday after nearly a decade-long battle with cancer.  He was 61.  No, you didn’t miss anything.  Norm had been battling cancer for nine years, but he told almost nobody, including family and friends.

His longtime producing partner said, “Norm 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.  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.”

Norm got his break in Hollywood writing for “Roseanne” and “The Dennis Miller Show” in 1992.  He joined “Saturday Night Live” a year later, and hosted its “Weekend Update” segment for three seasons.

Although he was with the show through 1998, he lost the “Update” gig in 1997, supposedly because he made jokes about O.J. Simpson, who was a good friend of an NBC executive named Don Ohlmeyer.

Norm had his own sitcom, called “Norm”, which debuted on ABC in 1999 and ran for three seasons.

He also appeared in several films, including “Dirty Work”“Funny People”“The People vs. Larry Flynt”“Man on the Moon”, and “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo”.  He voiced Lucky the Dog in 1998’s “Dr. Dolittle” and its sequels.

He also played Colonel Sanders in a few KFC ads and had a Netflix talk show in 2018 called “Norm Macdonald Has a Show”.  He was planning to shoot a Netflix special at the time of his death.

(Remember Norm Macdonald through two of his best moments:  The epic “moth joke” he told to Conan O’Brien in 2017, and his hilariously subversive and uncensored set at the Bob Saget roast.  Here’s the video.)

(And here’s a list of Norm’s most memorable moments.)


The comedy universe was devastated by the death of Norm MacDonald.  Here’s just a small sample of the tributes that poured in yesterday:

Adam Sandler:  “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.”


Conan O’Brien:  “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.”


David Letterman:  “In every important way, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best.  An opinion shared by me and all peers.  Always up to something, never certain, until his matter-of-fact delivery leveled you.”


Jon Stewart:  No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald.  Hilarious and unique.  [Eff] cancer.”


Seth Rogen:  I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting.  I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows.  He was the funniest guest of all time.  We lost a comedy giant today.  One of the all-time greats.  RIP.”


(Check out more tributes here and here.)


(Hollywood ReporterDeadline)