Norm Macdonald, a beloved comedic institution, SNL veteran, and fan-favorite 1990s Weekend Update anchor, has passed away at age 61. Deadline broke the news of Macdonald’s nearly decade-long fight with cancer, which he chose to keep private. According to Deadline’s Greg Evans, Norm’s management relayed the sad news along with a statement from his longtime producing partner, Lori Jo Hoekstra, who revealed that Norm had first been diagnosed with cancer nine years ago. She added that Norm had been adamant upon maintaining privacy throughout his health struggles.
In a statement, Hoekstra explained the root of Norm’s privacy wish:
“He was most proud of his comedy. 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.”
Although most will instantly conjure up memories of Macdonald from his SNL tenure (including his 3-year run as a sardonic Weekend Update anchor who pulled no punches with his deadpan delivery), his standup comedy will remain legendary. As recently as March 2020, in fact, he fired off truly great sets, including one aimed at the Coronavirus, which never could have plausibly emerged from any comedian who didn’t possess such deft, ninja-like skills on the microphone.
Norm was slated to perform during November’s New York Comedy Festival. His recent projects include a Netflix series, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, which follows up on his post-SNL, three-season outing of The Norm Show. In the coming days, many people will surely share their favorite Norm Macdonald moments, although his frequent visits on The Late Show With David Letterman (including the final one, as our own Steven Hyden has noted) shall always be remembered. Likewise, his most savage lines will likely never be matched (especially in delivery) by another comedian.