Norm Macdonald, actor, writer and comedian who hosted Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment from 1995 to 1997, died Tuesday after a private nine-year battle with cancer. He was 61 years old.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” said Lori Jo Hoekstra, production partner and longtime friend of Macdonald (via Deadline). “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect how the public or anyone close to him viewed him. Norm was pure comic. He once wrote that a joke should surprise someone, it shouldn’t. never flatter.
“He certainly never flattered. Norm will be sadly missed.
Widely regarded as one of the best and most influential comics of all time, Macdonald was also known as an avid sports fan and gambler. The Quebec native even played a former professional hockey player who was suspended by the NHL for gambling and tax evasion on his ABC sitcom “The Norm Show” (he played “Norm”), which aired from 1999 to 2001.
Macdonald also hosted a short-lived “Daily Show” style show on Comedy Central in 2011, the “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald”. The first joke of the first episode tells you everything you need to know about Macdonald’s tone and style of humor:
Macdonald has been involved in many classic sports-related moments throughout his career, ranging from tennis with Jon Lovitz to portraying Marv Albert on SNL. Here are our five favorites (plus a little bonus at the end):
1. ESPY’s monologue: “This is something that no one can ever take away from you … “
Macdonald was reportedly unofficially banned from ESPN after hosting the show in 1998. His monologue was a bit too close to the line for the athletes in attendance, including his jokes about the loyalty of Frank Gifford, fellow professional golfers at Tiger Woods and , of course, his legendary Charles Woodson monologue joke:
Macdonald also did it a bit later on the show with Will Ferrell, who poked fun at John Elway’s teeth as he played former Cubs host Harry Caray. Ferrell later referred to it as a time when he might have gone too far with his comedy:
It is widely believed that after hosting Macdonald, ESPN decided to “play it safe” with ESPY in the future, asking hosts not to be too angry or offensive. So Norm not only hosted the best ESPYs ever, but he also ruined it forever, which they can never take away from him.
2. OJ Simpson jokes: “Well, it’s finally official …”
The OJ Simpson trial was the biggest news event of the ’90s, and Macdonald was the host of SNL’s “Weekend Update” at the time. His weekly teardowns and breakdowns of Simpson and the trial were fixtures, as few comedians were so fearless or incisive.
These clips will probably make you uncomfortable in 2021 – damn it, they made people uncomfortable in 1995 – but Macdonald didn’t care, because he was following his first two (and only) comedy rules. : be funny and tell the truth.
Macdonald’s opening “Weekend Update” joke in the series after Simpson’s acquittal is widely regarded as one of the best “Weekend Update” jokes of all time (and, yes, he said of “fake news “long before it became fashionable):
It is believed that Macdonald was ultimately fired from “Weekend Update” due to NBC President Don Ohlmeyer ‘s friendship with Simpson. Ohlmeyer and the network claimed it was because they didn’t think Macdonald was funny.
When Macdonald was invited again the following year to host “SNL,” he asked a simple question, “How did I manage in a year and a half not to be funny enough to even be allowed? It’s funny that do I now host the show? How did I suddenly get so funny?
Wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that last question?
3. Oscar Pistorius bit: “Apparently … but, also, really …”
This is by no means a legendary cultural moment, but it’s the kind of esoteric niche that true Norm (and / or Conan) fans know and love.
He’s also a prime example of Macdonald’s timing, style, and comedic brilliance. At first he seems to ramble, and members of the audience aren’t sure whether to laugh, cringe, or boo. He laughs on the way, but the crowd is still not entirely with him.
Then, like it was his plan from the start (was it?), He knocks Conan and Andy Richter down, passes them off as fools, and gets the biggest laugh of all. And of course it does it with old slang:
4. Blake Griffin press conference: “There’s kind of a curse with Rookie of the Year …”
Seeking to hone his reporting skills, Macdonald made a surprise appearance at Griffin’s Rookie of the Year press conference in 2011 after the then-Clippers forward won the award.
“It’s a question from Blake’s good friend Norm,” Macdonald told Griffin, who was already laughing before Macdonald even grabbed the microphone.
Griffin had previously appeared on the “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald” as part of the “Blake Like Me” segment. The track was a sporty takeoff on the famous sketch from Eddie Murphy’s mock “SNL” documentary “White Like Me”.
Griffin shared his thoughts on Macdonald in a tweet posted Tuesday night, calling Macdonald about his comedy heroes and noting that Norm’s question was his “favorite press conference moment.”
tear mcdonald standard. one of my first comedy heroes. every time I’ve seen him, whether it’s in person or on TV, he has always exceeded all expectations when it comes to his humor. truly one of a kind. so lucky to have known you. we will miss you
– Blake Griffin (@ blakegriffin23) September 14, 2021
5. Bob Uecker Stories with David Letterman: “Bob Uecker is a very interesting guy …”
“Do you have a story to tell us about Bob Uecker, the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers?
Yes, he had a Bob Uecker story. Enjoy.
Bonus: the standard goes viral: “… IN A CAR!”
Norm can finally find out God’s answer in person. RIP you old lump of coal, and thanks for the laughs.
Jordan Greer of Sporting News contributed to this article.