When the sudden news broke that comedic actor Norm Macdonald had died, ripples erupted through the comedy world and Hollywood.
Macdonald was just 61. As first reported by Deadline, his death comes following a private nine-year fight against cancer. The news was confirmed by Brillstein Entertainment, his management firm, and his longtime producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra.
“He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him,” Hoekstra told Deadline. “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 Québec City, Québec in 1959, Macdonald fostered a rich career in comedy in which he became known for his deadpan delivery. He laid his standup roots in his native Canada before making his way to the U.S. to compete on Star Search. The comedian’s true big break came when he was scouted by Lorne Michaels while writing for ABC sitcom Roseanne. Macdonald left the gig for Saturday Night Live where he held a legendary stint as a “Weekend Update” anchor and delivered celebrated impressions of Burt Reynolds, Quentin Tarantino and Larry King, among others.
After Saturday Night Live, Macdonald went on to appear in numerous movies and TV shows, including Dirty Work, A Minute with Stand Hooper, My Name is Earl, The Middle, Mike Tyson Mysteries and his own series, Norm and Norm Macdonald Has a Show. In 2016, he published Based on a True Story, semi-fictional memoir that made the New York Times best sellers list.
The impact of his 30-plus years in the business was clear across social media. Early today, comedy legend Steve Martin called Macdonald, “One of a kind.”
Tributes poured out on Twitter. Seth Rogen admitted, “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.”
Others, like Questlove, reminisced over Macdonald’s talent. “Comedy nerds know that the one step beyond #TheAristcrats was the time Norm Macdonald decided to commit to doing a kitschy mediocre roast for Bob Saget. It was beyond trolling.”
Tweets from those closest to Macdonald revealed the gravity of his death. “My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle,” Jim Carey tweeted. “He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.”
See more reactions below.
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.— David Letterman (@Letterman) September 14, 2021
No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. Fuck cancer.— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) September 14, 2021
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind. https://t.co/0sXoCLEtuG— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) September 14, 2021
NOOOOO GODDAMIT. Oh my God what is even happening.— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 14, 2021
Good bye, Norm. You were never not 100% hilarious. https://t.co/loW3QsEjgW
Oh fuck. 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 the all time greats. RIP.— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) September 14, 2021
Today the world lost a very, very funny man. We miss him already. R.I.P Norm Macdonald.— Eugene Levy (@Realeugenelevy) September 14, 2021
I love the science of comedy. Comedy nerds know that the one step beyond #TheAristcrats was the time Norm Macdonald decided to commit to doing a kitschy mediocre roast for Bob Saget. It was beyond trolling.— B.R.O.theR. ?uestion (@questlove) September 14, 2021
My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle. He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 14, 2021
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.— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) September 14, 2021
Battling cancer for 9 years without telling anyone is the most Norm Macdonald shit ever.— Anthony Jeselnik (@anthonyjeselnik) September 14, 2021
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm's show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald pic.twitter.com/DToJCUBdU2— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) September 14, 2021
I think about these two and a half pages from Norm Macdonald’s book constantly. When I reviewed it, I wrote that they would “make for a fine eulogy”—and I swear I didn’t mean anything by it. But they do. pic.twitter.com/vxLRAd2OeP— Sean O'Neal (@seanoneal) September 14, 2021
Of the many addictive rabbit holes you can disappear down on the internet, the most pleasurable is 'Norm MacDonald chat show appearances'. Thanks for all the laughs Norm, very sorry to see you go. https://t.co/ahxZNRdJEw— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 14, 2021
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.— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) September 14, 2021
Let me pause my meaningless online arguments to say Norm was one of the greatest comedians to have ever lived. One of the best moments of my career was when he found something I did funny. Very few comics will ever possess that level of mastery. RIP. https://t.co/VrsnVRCUZ9— Tim Dillon (@TimJDillon) September 14, 2021
Norm is the pinnacle of bravery and originality. https://t.co/UfeNoEUlUv— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) September 14, 2021
Photography by: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images