The Tragic Death Of Norm Macdonald

Norm Macdonald, the famed comedian who made a name for himself in the early '90s on "Saturday Night Live," has died from cancer, according to Deadline. He was 61 years old. 

His death was announced to Deadline by Brillstein Entertainment, his management firm. The publication reported that "the comedian's longtime producing partner and friend, Lori Jo Hoekstra" was with him when he died, and said Macdonald had been dealing with the diagnosis for "nearly a decade" in private "away from family, friends and fans." Hoekstra also mentioned Macdonald's determination to focus on his comedy despite his diagnosis, saying, "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."  

Macdonald kept working up until his death, having a movie, "Back Home Again," in post-production, per his IMDb. He was also scheduled to appear at the New York Comedy Festival in November, reported Deadline. The comedian had recently lent his voice to numerous projects as well, including Seth MacFarlane's "The Orville" as Yaphit and the Adult Swim series, "Mike Tyson Mysteries" as Pigeon. It seemed he kept his word, focusing on his craft throughout his illness.

Norm Macdonald stood out from other comedians

Although Norm Macdonald had a consistent career since he first broke into the business in the early '90s, it wasn't without controversy. Born in Québec, per his IMDb profile, Macdonald made his way to Hollywood, becoming a writer for "The Dennis Miller Show" and "Roseanne." His work on the latter show attracted the attention of Lorne Michaels, who brought him onto "Saturday Night Live." While he participated in numerous sketches, he received the most acclaim for his work as the anchor of "Weekend Update" for three seasons, reported Deadline. He was notable for his "deadpan style," which was markedly different from "the slapstick approach of Chevy Chase and toward the more barbed political approach of his successor Colin Quinn," the outlet stated. 

However, his refusal to go easy on O.J. Simpson during the former football player's trial — despite pressure from NBC — caused him to be fired from the show, a controversial move at the time. According to Deadline, Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC's West Coast division, was supposedly a friend of Simpson's. 

Though Macdonald did leave the show in disagreeable circumstances, he continued to work in the comedy industry, expanding his repertoire, including helming a talk show for one season on Netflix, per IMDb

How Norm Macdonald honed his craft

Norm Macdonald told The Comedy Couch, a Vancouver-based comedy guide that he always enjoyed standup and had "rededicated" himself to it in the mid-2000s. When it was pointed out that Macdonald wasn't around on TV as much, the comedian agreed, saying that standup was what he was "best at" and what he "liked the most." He also noted his skills as a writer, detailing that he became so good at it because he was constantly writing his standup routines. He then compared himself to Robin Williams, telling the interviewer he couldn't "riff" like the late actor; instead, he had to write out his jokes in advance. But Macdonald credited standup with giving him his start in comedy and opening up the doors for his career to take off the way it did.

In the same interview, Canadian-born Macdonald also lamented the fact that he had to move to the United States to have a career in comedy. He told the interviewer that he loved Canada, but wished there was "more of, like, an industry there." He also reminisced about how he thought standup was the epitome of comedy until he moved to the U.S. and realized that was just a "springboard" aspiring comedians used to catapult themselves into a career on television or in the movies. He said he wished the comedic film industry had existed in Canada when he was first starting out.

Of course, comedy and writing weren't Macdonald's only interests — keep reading to find out about his other publicized hobby.

Norm Macdonald was an avid poker player

Alongside his talent with comedy, Norm Macdonald was also known for his affinity for playing poker. He told USA Today's For The Win in 2019 about his game strategy, "People work to get a table image for years, that's very important in poker. I have a table image instantly, because I'm a celebrity. Celebrities (are seen as) awful at things or generally dumb. So if you play a celebrity, you know he's not going to be a good poker player." He added, "You have that image so you can play into it."

Before his death, he had participated in numerous tournaments, with lifetime winnings of over $44,000 in 2018, per Poker News. But it wasn't all good — as he shared on the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron,” he struggled with a gambling addiction. "When I get sad it's when I see how little time I have left and how I'm wasting it," he told Vulture about his habit. "Gambling was always like that. It wasn't the money I lost, it was the time."

Craft and interests aside, Macdonald was also a dad to his son, Dylan, and our thoughts are with his loved ones at this time.