Norm Macdonald Has Died After Long, Private Battle With Cancer

by Madison Vanderberg
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The great deadpan comedian Norm Macdonald has passed away at the age of 61

Norm Macdonald, one of Saturday Night Live‘s most influential cast members, who carved out a niche in Hollywood with his dry, astute, and hilariously laconic delivery, died today after a nine-year battle with cancer. The comedian was 61 and had not previously opened up about his cancer struggle. The comic never revealed his cancer diagnosis publicly.

His longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra told Deadline that Macdonald kept his nearly decade-long battle with cancer a secret from the public because he didn’t want it to distract from his comedy.

“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.”

Macdonald was an SNL cast member from 1993-98, making his greatest impact as the anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segments for three seasons. After leaving the show, Macdonald starred in his own comedy series, The Norm Show, from 1999-2001 and later did a season of Norm Macdonald Has a Show for Netflix in 2018.

Though most fans will remember him for his numerous talk show appearances.

It was clear just how much the audience and his peers loved Norm when he graced a talk show set. How he tickled the show’s host with his droll style and was unlike any other guest to sit on the couch.

As Conan once described to Bill Simmons, Norm Macdonald was “one of the great talk show guests of all time, he invented something, this amazing thing that I’ve never seen someone do before or since, he split the atom it was so revolutionary. Instead of telling a real story…Norm tells old jokes as stories that happened to him. Like, really old jokes from the 1920s. I know what he’s doing. I’m laughing that he has the balls to do this, the audacity. I don’t even care if the joke lands or not. He doesn’t care in a way that is exhilarating and scary at the same time.”

Additionally, his roast of Bob Saget will go down in infamy as one of the funniest, weirdest, and most memorable Comedy Central roasts ever.

The tributes have begun to roll in on Twitter, with many fans and colleagues toasting the late comedian’s hyper-specific voice, unique brand of comedy, and how he held a singular space in Hollywood as a true one-of-a-kind talent.

Per Variety, his most recent work was voicing Lieutenant Yaphit on Fox’s sci-fi comedy The Orville. A third season of the show is set to release on Hulu.

RIP to an absolute legend.