Norm Macdonald: Comedian whose dark jokes made him a TV favorite
Norm Macdonald, comedian and actor from the 1990s Saturday Night Live, whose scathing satires of current events as the presenter of the Weekend Update segment sparked cheers and controversy over his continued jokes about OJ Simpson’s murder trial, has died aged 61 years.
The cause was cancer, said Whitney Brooks, executive assistant to Marc Gurwitz, Macdonald’s agent at Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Macdonald had apparently been treated for cancer for nine years without going public with his illness. Further details were not available.
Macdonald held blue collar jobs for years before becoming a comedian and was acclaimed in the mid-1980s at a comedy festival in Montreal. He wrote for The Dennis Miller Show and for Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1993.
He was a remarkable writer and had a fun physical presence, often delivering exaggerated impressions of figures such as Senator Robert Dole, broadcaster Larry King and especially actor Burt Reynolds.
Macdonald was instrumental in crafting a 1996 skit that has since become a staple on Saturday Night Live: a parody of the game show Danger! with famous guests.
“When it came time to do the sketch, I went downstairs and saw my wardrobe and there was a white beard and a bald white cap, and I said, ‘No, no, I want to do Burt Reynolds of 1972, “” Macdonald told radio host Howard Stern in 2016.
Dressed in a black wig, mustache and black leather jacket, Macdonald’s version of Reynolds cracked gum in his teeth as he laughed at the Danger! skit, with Will Ferrell playing an increasingly exasperated Alex Trebek as the host.
“Yeah, I’ll take the condom for 8,000,” Macdonald said as Reynolds. “These are ‘condiments’,” replied Ferrell. “For 400.”
In 1994, Macdonald took over as host of the show’s Weekend Update segment, whose former hosts included Miller and Chevy Chase. Macdonald has often presented Weekend Update saying, “Now for the fake news.”
“It was my idea to say ‘fake news’ – like you have to say it,” he said. Playboy magazine in 1997. “When you do a parody you’re supposed to pretend it’s real, so I thought it would be funny to say it’s not real. Later I found out that when I made harsher jokes the censors would say, “Well, if he says this is fake news…” That turned out to be a warning. “
“With others, you can say comedy, humor is taken care of,” said talk show host David Letterman. The Washington Post in 2016. “With Norm, he breathes it. It’s kind of a furnace in him because he’s so easy. The combination of delivery and his appearance and intelligence. There might be people as funny as Norm, but I don’t know anyone who is funnier.
Macdonald had an impassive, almost folkloric way of speaking, delivering his satirical quips without even raising an eyebrow. If the audience didn’t understand his jokes, he would often make an off-the-cuff comment that evoked more laughter than the original punchline.
During his three years on Weekend Update, which he wrote extensively on his own, he changed the style of the segment from a style heavily based on political commentary to a darker, more acerbic view of society. . Rather than joking about President Bill Clinton, he would seek humor in the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or in the collection of skulls found in the home of a Haitian general.
He was one of the first comedians of SNL to joke about Donald Trump, then a real estate developer looking for publicity in New York. Upon breaking up Trump’s second marriage to Marla Maples, Macdonald joked, “According to Trump, Maples violated part of their marriage agreement when she decided to turn 30.
In another segment, Macdonald commented on actress Julia Roberts and singer Lyle Lovett’s marriage breakdown: “Julia Roberts told reporters this week that her marriage to Lyle Lovett has been over for some time. The key moment, she said, came when she realized that she was Julia Roberts and that she was married to Lyle Lovett.
Macdonald was particularly ruthless towards Simpson, who went on trial in 1994 for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. He often called Simpson a killer, even after Simpson’s acquittal.
“Well, it’s finally official: the murder is legal in the state of California,” Macdonald said at the end of the trial in 1996.
Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC’s West Coast division, was a friend of Simpson’s, and Macdonald’s comments didn’t appeal to him. Despite the objections of Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, Ohlmeyer ordered Macdonald to be replaced as presenter of Weekend Update at the end of 1997.
Ohlmeyer cited the show’s declining ratings rather than the Simpson jokes, but Macdonald took to talk shows to complain about his treatment, calling the studio boss a “liar and thug.” Macdonald is gone SNL in early 1998 and never regained the fame he had during those years.
He starred in a few films, including Dirty work (1998), a revenge comedy that received bad reviews. He appeared in several television series, the longest of which, The spectacle of the norm (called later Standard), lasted three years.
Most of the time, Macdonald returned to stand-up comedy, appearing for years in comedy clubs and theaters across North America.
“I think a lot of people feel sorry for you if you were on SNL and emerged from the series nothing less than a superstar, ”Macdonald wrote in what he called an autobiographical novel, Based on a true story (2016). “They assume you must be bitter. But it is impossible for me to be bitter. I was lucky.
Norman Gene Macdonald was born October 17, 1959 in Quebec City, where he grew up before his family moved to Ottawa as a teenager. Both of her parents were teachers.
Macdonald left school as a teenager and, as he later wrote, “he had a whole bunch of jobs where I just needed boots.” He was at different times a garbage collector, oil worker and lumberjack. He said he accidentally went to a comedy club in Ottawa.
“So I was like, ‘This is great, I can do this,'” he wrote. “It’s a lot easier than picking tobacco in Tillsonburg, Ontario.
Macdonald eventually settled in Los Angeles, but he never learned to drive. Over the years, he said, a gambling addiction has caused him to lose his fortune on several occasions. He lost up to $ 400,000 in one sitting, but said his participation in Gamblers Anonymous only made him want to return to the craps tables.
In addition to his stand-up and occasional television appearances, he had a video podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, from 2013 to 2017 with co-host Adam Eget. In 2015, Macdonald was the last stand-up comedian featured on The Late Show with David Letterman before Letterman’s retirement.
In tweets in 2016, Macdonald said novelist Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, couldn’t compare to another Canadian writer, Alice Munro, and said Atwood “chased fame and promoted anything for money.” He deleted the tweets, but not before an outcry.
Two years later, he said the #MeToo movement was recklessly endangering artists’ careers. He cited the cases of comedians Barr – who made race-insensitive remarks about former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett – and Louis CK, who admitted sexual harassment of women. Macdonald faced an immediate backlash, including the cancellation of an appearance on Tonight’s Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Macdonald’s marriage to Connie Vaillancourt ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, Dylan Macdonald; his mother, Ferne Macdonald; and two brothers.
“When I was little I was sure I would never pass Moose Creek, Ontario, Canada,” Macdonald wrote in Based on a true story. “But I have traveled the world. Except for Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Oh, and Antarctica. But it’s really a haircut. I mean, how many people have ever been to Antarctica? “
Norm Macdonald, actor, born October 17, 1959, died September 14, 2021
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