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Norm Macdonald, Comedian and “Saturday Night Live” Alumnus, Dies at 61

He was 61 years old.

Deadline was the first to break the news.

Macdonald had been battling cancer for several years but kept his diagnosis confidential, his friend and production partner Lori Jo Hoekstra told CNN in a statement.

“He was very proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect how the audience or anyone close to him viewed him,” Hoekstra said. “Norm was pure comic. He once wrote that a joke should surprise someone, it should never flatter.” He certainly never flattered. Norm will be sadly missed. “

Born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, he started in the entertainment business as a stand-up comedian who worked in the Ottawa club circuit before branching out into clubs across Canada.

He quickly became known for his straightforward and sardonic performance and in 1987 he had the opportunity to perform at the “Just For Laughs” comedy festival in Los Angeles.

This first taste of LA made an impression, and Macdonald moved to town, intending to break into Hollywood. He found work writing for the original sitcom “Roseanne” in 1992.

He joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” the following year, where he became known for his impressions of David Letterman, Larry King, Burt Reynolds, Quentin Tarantino and others.

But it was as the presenter of the “Weekend Update” news segment that Macdonald took off.

He held the position from 1994 to 1998.

Macdonald was pretty abruptly and unceremoniously dropped as the anchor for “Weekend Update,” a move made by NBC West Coast Chairman Don Ohlmeyer. Although it was reported that the executive just didn’t like Macdonald in this role, it was reported that he had to make jokes Macdonald had been telling about OJ Simpson, who was one of the longtime friends of Ohlmeyer.

In a 1998 interview with the David Letterman show, Macdonald said Ohlmeyer told him, “You’re not funny,” adding, “He also thinks OJ is innocent.” Years later, Macdonald told the New York Times he believed that the “experimental” nature of his material, and not the connection with Simpson, was the reason Ohlmeyer had soured against him.

Other comedians Jon Stewart, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen and many more paid tribute to Macdonald on Tuesday.

“Oh my God. We have lost a legend”, Jim Gaffigan tweeted. “Norm was terribly funny. A unique and completely organic special point of view. RIPNormMacDonald.”
“I am absolutely devastated by Norm Macdonald”, Conan O’Brien tweeted. “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so funny and uncompromising. I will never laugh so loudly again. I am so sad for all of us today.”
MacDonald was among the comics scheduled to perform at the upcoming New York Comedy Festival in November.