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Norm Macdonald
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Norm Macdonald
Norm MacDonald (26378045703) (cropped).jpg
Macdonald in 2016
Norman Gene Macdonald

(1959-10-17)October 17, 1959
DiedSeptember 14, 2021(2021-09-14) (aged 61)[1]
Years active1985–2021
RelativesNeil Macdonald (brother)
Comedy career
MediumStand-up, television, film
GenresBlack comedy, deadpan, non sequitur, observational comedy, political satire, shaggy dog story
Notable works and roles
Norman Gene Macdonald (born October 17, 1959 – September 14, 2021) was a Canadian stand-up comedian, writer, and actor known for his deadpan style. Early in his career, he wrote for the sitcom Roseanne and made guest appearances on shows such as The Drew Carey Show and NewsRadio. Macdonald was then a cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL) for five years, including anchoring the Weekend Update segment for three seasons. After leaving SNL, he starred in the 1998 film Dirty Work and in his own sitcom, The Norm Show, from 1999 to 2001.
In 2013, Macdonald started a video podcast, Norm Macdonald Live, on which he interviewed comedians and other celebrities. In 2018, he released Norm Macdonald Has a Show, a Netflix talk show with a similar premise to his podcast. Throughout his career, Macdonald had appeared in numerous movies and been a guest on talk shows such as Conan, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Howard Stern Show. He had also worked as a voice actor, notably on the animated show Mike Tyson Mysteries.
Paste magazine named him #31 on their 50 Best Stand-up Comics of All Time. 
1 Biography
1.1 Early life
1.2 Personal life
2 Career
2.1 1993–1998: Saturday Night Live
2.2 Leaving SNL
2.3 1999
2.4 2000–2005
2.5 2006–2009
2.6 2010–2012
2.7 2013: Norm Macdonald Live
2.8 2014–2020
3 Illness and death
4 Influences and views on comedy
5 Works
5.1 Comedy
5.2 TV series
5.3 Literature
5.4 Talk shows
6 As performer
6.1 Film
6.2 Television
7 Notes
8 References
9 External links
Early life
Macdonald was born and raised in Quebec City. His parents were both teachers: his father was Percy Lloyd Macdonald (1916-1990), who also served with the Canadian Army during World War II and helped liberate the Netherlands from Nazi Germany. His mother is Ferne Macdonald (née Mains).
He has an older brother, Neil Macdonald, who is a journalist with CBC News, and a younger brother named Leslie. He attended Quebec High School and later Gloucester High School in Ottawa.
Personal life
In 1988, Macdonald married Connie Vaillancourt, with whom he has a son, Dylan, born 1993. The couple separated in April 1999.
Macdonald said his past gambling addiction had been initiated by a six-figure win at a craps table in Atlantic City. In an appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast in 2011, Macdonald revealed that he lost all of his money gambling three times, and the largest amount he lost at once was $400,000. In the 2007 World Series of Poker, he came in 20th place out of 827 entrants in the $3,000 No Limit Texas Hold 'em event, winning $14,608. He made it to round two of the $5,000 World Championship of Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em.
Macdonald's first performances in comedy were at stand-up clubs in Ottawa, regularly appearing on amateur nights at Yuk Yuk's in 1985. Following an appearance at the 1986 Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, he was heralded by the Montreal Gazette as, "One of this country's hottest comics." By 1990, he would perform as a contestant on Star Search. He was hired as a writer for the Roseanne television sitcom for the 1992-93 season before quitting to join Saturday Night Live.
1993–1998: Saturday Night Live
Macdonald joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) television program in 1993, where he performed impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Quentin Tarantino, Charles Kuralt, and Bob Dole, among others. The following year during the show's twentieth season, Macdonald anchored the segment "Weekend Update". Current "Weekend Update" anchor and writer Colin Jost named Macdonald as a primary influence on Jost's own work behind the "Update" desk, explaining that Macdonald's tone was one that he grew up with in high school.
Macdonald's version of "Weekend Update" often included references to prison rape, crack whores, and the Germans' love of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. He would occasionally deliver a piece of news, then take out his personal compact tape recorder and leave a "note to self" relevant to what he just discussed. He commonly used Frank Stallone as a non-sequitur punchline.
Macdonald repeatedly ridiculed public figures such as Marion Barry, Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, and O. J. Simpson. Throughout Simpson's murder trial, Macdonald constantly pilloried the former football star, often heavily implying Simpson was guilty of the brutal slaying of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman. In the broadcast following Simpson's acquittal, Macdonald opened "Weekend Update" by saying: "Well, it is finally official: murder is legal in the state of California."
After the announcement that Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley planned to divorce, Macdonald joked about their irreconcilable differences on "Weekend Update": "She's more of a stay-at-home type, and he's more of a homosexual pedophile." He followed this up a few episodes later with a report about the singer's collapse and hospitalization. Referring to a report that Jackson had decorated his hospital room with giant photographs of Shirley Temple, Macdonald remarked that viewers should not get the wrong idea, adding, "Michael Jackson is a homosexual pedophile."
Leaving SNL
In early 1998, Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC's West Coast division, had Macdonald removed as "Weekend Update" anchor, citing a decline in ratings and a drop-off in quality. Macdonald was replaced by Colin Quinn at the "Weekend Update" desk beginning on the January 10, 1998 episode.
Macdonald and others believed that the true reason for his dismissal was his series of O. J. Simpson jokes during and after the trial, frequently calling him a murderer; Ohlmeyer was a good friend of Simpson and supported him during the proceedings. After being removed from the role, Macdonald went on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman and Howard Stern's syndicated radio show. In both appearances, he accused Ohlmeyer of firing him for making jokes about Simpson. The jokes were written primarily by Macdonald and longtime SNL writer Jim Downey, who was fired from SNL at the same time. Downey pointed out in an interview that Ohlmeyer threw a party for the jurors who acquitted Simpson.
Ohlmeyer claimed that Macdonald was mistaken, pointing out that he had not censored Jay Leno's many jokes about Simpson on The Tonight Show. Ohlmeyer stated that he was concerned that ratings research showed people turning away from the program during Macdonald's segment; likewise, network insiders told the New York Daily News that Ohlmeyer and other executives had tried several times to get Macdonald to try a different approach on "Update".
Macdonald remained on SNL as a cast member, but disliked performing in regular sketches. On February 28, 1998, in one of his last appearances on SNL, he played the host of a fictitious TV show called Who's More Grizzled? who asked questions from "mountain men," played by that night's host Garth Brooks and special guest Robert Duvall. In the sketch, Brooks' character says to Macdonald's character, "I don't much care for you," to which Macdonald replies, "A lot of people don't." Macdonald was dismissed shortly thereafter.
Matters intensified when Ohlmeyer prevented NBC from airing advertisements from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for Macdonald's new film, Dirty Work, out of retaliation for what he saw as disparaging SNL and NBC with Letterman and Stern. Robert Wright, Ohlmeyer's boss, later overturned the decision not to show ads for the movie on NBC but did leave in place the ban on playing it during SNL. Macdonald continued to insist that he did not personally dislike Ohlmeyer but that Ohlmeyer hated him.
Macdonald complained about NBC's advertising removal for his film to the New York Daily News, calling Ohlmeyer "a liar and a thug." He said he never badmouthed SNL or Michaels, who he said always supported him. Macdonald pointed out that he had only taken issue with Ohlmeyer, whereas the people taking shots at NBC and SNL were Letterman, who wanted Macdonald to come to CBS, and Stern, who wanted him to join his show opposite SNL. Macdonald also asserted that Ohlmeyer's influence had caused his promotional appearances for his film to be cancelled on WNBC's Today in New York, NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the syndicated Access Hollywood (a joint venture between 20th Century Television and NBC). The shows that Macdonald named denied being influenced by Ohlmeyer. Macdonald said Ohlmeyer was "about a thousand times more powerful than I am. It's difficult for anybody to take my side in this. This guy should get a life, man."
It was felt that there was some irony in the situation as Dirty Work was a revenge comedy. When an interviewer pointed this out Macdonald said "It would be good revenge if everybody went and saw this movie if they want to get revenge against Don Ohlmeyer for trying to ban my ads." In a Late Show with David Letterman interview, Macdonald said that after being dismissed from anchoring "Weekend Update" and leaving SNL, he could not "do anything else on any competing show."
In later years, Macdonald came to the conclusion that Ohlmeyer had not removed him from "Update" for his Simpson material; rather, he felt he had been removed because he was seen as insubordinate: "I think the whole show was tired of me not taking marching orders. Lorne would hint at things.... I'd do Michael Jackson jokes. And Lorne would say, 'do you really want a lawsuit from Michael Jackson?' And I'd say, 'Cool! That'd be fuckin' cool, Michael Jackson suing me!'" Elsewhere Macdonald would concede, "In all fairness to him, my Update was not an audience pleasing, warm kind of thing. I did jokes that I knew weren't going to get bigger reactions. So I saw point. Why would you want some dude who's not trying to please the audience?"
Macdonald returned to Saturday Night Live to host the October 23, 1999 show. In his opening monologue, he expressed resentment at being fired from "Weekend Update", then concluded that the only reason he was asked to host was because "the show has gotten really bad" since he left, echoing a perennial criticism of the show. The next episode, airing November 6, 1999, and hosted by Dylan McDermott, featured a sketch wherein Chris Kattan, as the androgynous character Mango, is opening letters from celebrity admirers and, after opening the last one, says " Norm Macdonald—who is that?"
Soon after leaving Saturday Night Live, Macdonald co-wrote and starred in the "revenge comedy" Dirty Work (1998), directed by Bob Saget, co-starring Artie Lange, and featuring Chris Farley in his last movie; the film was dedicated to his memory. Later that year, Macdonald voiced the character of Lucky the Dog in the Eddie Murphy adaptation of Dr. Dolittle. He reprised the role in both Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) and Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006).
In 1999, Macdonald starred in the sitcom The Norm Show (later renamed Norm), co-starring Laurie Metcalf, Artie Lange, and Ian Gomez. It ran for three seasons on ABC. Earlier in 1999, he made a cameo appearance in the Andy Kaufman biographical drama Man on the Moon, directed by Milos Forman. When Michael Richards refused to portray himself in the scene reenacting the famous Fridays incident in which Kaufman threw water in his face, Macdonald stepped in to play Richards, although he was not referred to by name. Macdonald had also appeared in Forman's previous film, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), as a reporter summoned to Flynt's mansion regarding secret tapes involving automaker John DeLorean.
In 2000, Macdonald played the starring role for the second time in a motion picture alongside Dave Chappelle, Screwed, which fared poorly at the box office. He continued to make appearances on television shows and in films. Also in 2000, Macdonald made his first appearance on Family Guy, as the voice of Death where the role was later recast to Adam Carolla. On November 12, 2000, he appeared on the Celebrity Edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, winning $500,000 for Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Charity Camp.
In 2003, Macdonald played the title character in the Fox sitcom A Minute with Stan Hooper, which was canceled after six episodes. In 2005, Macdonald signed a deal with Comedy Central to create the sketch comedy Back to Norm, which debuted that May. The pilot was never turned into a series, however; its cold opening parodied the suicide of Budd Dwyer, a Pennsylvania politician who, facing decades of incarceration, committed suicide on live television in 1987. Rob Schneider appeared in the pilot. Later in 2005, Macdonald performed as a voice actor, portraying a genie named Norm, on two episodes of the cartoon series The Fairly OddParents, but could not return for the third episode, "Fairy Idol", owing to a scheduling conflict.
In 2006, Macdonald again performed as a voice actor, this time in a series of commercials for the Canadian mobile-services provider Bell Mobility, as the voice of Frank the Beaver. The campaign was extended through 2008 to promote offerings from other Bell Canada divisions such as the Internet provider Bell Sympatico and the satellite service Bell Satellite TV. In September 2006, Macdonald's sketch comedy album Ridiculous was released by Comedy Central Records. It features appearances by Will Ferrell, Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon and Artie Lange. On the comedy website Super Deluxe, he created an animated series entitled The Fake News. Macdonald has filled in during Dennis Miller's weekly "Miller Time" segment on O'Reilly Factor, and guest-hosted Miller's radio show, on which he was briefly a weekly contributor.
Macdonald was a guest character on My Name Is Earl in the episode "Two Balls, Two Strikes" (2007) as Lil Chubby, the son of "Chubby" (played by Burt Reynolds), similar to Macdonald's portrayals of Reynolds on SNL. On June 19, 2008, Macdonald was a celebrity panelist on two episodes of a revived version of the game show Match Game. On August 17, 2008, Macdonald was a participant in the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget, performing intentionally cheesy and G-rated material that contrasted greatly with the raunchy performances of the other roasters. In AT&T commercials around Christmas 2007 and 2008, Macdonald voiced a gingerbread boy in a commercial for AT&T's GoPhone.
In 2009, Macdonald and Sam Simon pitched a fake reality show to FX called The Norm Macdonald Reality Show where Macdonald would play a fictional, down-on-his-luck version of himself. The show was picked up and Garry Shandling was added to the cast, but was cancelled halfway through filming. On the May 16, 2009, episode of Saturday Night Live, Macdonald reappeared as Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy!, and in another sketch. On May 31, 2009, he appeared on Million Dollar Password.
Macdonald became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien during its 2009 and 2010 run. He has made frequent appearances on the Internet talk show Tom Green's House Tonight, and on May 20, 2010, was guest host.
In September 2010, Macdonald was developing a series for Comedy Central that he described as a sports version of The Daily Show. Sports Show with Norm Macdonald premiered April 12, 2011. Nine ordered episodes were broadcast. Macdonald's first stand-up special, Me Doing Stand-Up, aired on Comedy Central on March 26, 2011. On February 26, 2011, he became a commentator and co-host (with Kara Scott) of the seventh season of the TV series High Stakes Poker on Game Show Network.
Early in 2012, it was reported that Macdonald was developing a talk show for TBS titled Norm Macdonald is Trending, which would see Macdonald and a team of correspondents covering headlines from pop culture and social media. However, clips for the unaired pilot published by The Washington Post resemble a sketch comedy show in the vein of Back to Norm.
In June 2012, he became the spokesperson for Safe Auto Insurance Company. Along with television and radio commercials, web banners and outdoor boards, the effort included a series of made-for-web videos. As part of the campaign, the state minimum auto insurance company introduced a new tagline, "Drive Safe, Spend Less."
2013: Norm Macdonald Live
In 2013, Macdonald premiered his new podcast, called Norm Macdonald Live, co-hosted by Adam Eget, streaming live weekly on Video Podcast Network, and posted later on YouTube. It received positive notices from USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and the "America's Comedy" website, while the Independent Film Channel stated that while Macdonald remained "a comedy force to be reckoned with", and "did not quite disappoint," the show was "a bit rough around the edges." The second season of Norm Macdonald Live began in May 2014 and the third began in September 2016.
In 2014, Macdonald unsuccessfully campaigned on Twitter to be named the new host of The Late Late Show after then-host Craig Ferguson announced he would be leaving. On May 15, 2015, Macdonald was the final stand-up act on the Late Show with David Letterman: during his set, which ended with him breaking into tears as he told Letterman that he truly loved him, Macdonald included a joke Letterman had told the first time Macdonald had ever seen him, during a 1970s appearance on the Canadian talk show 90 Minutes Live, where a 13-year-old Macdonald had been in the studio audience. Also in 2015, Macdonald was a judge for the ninth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, joining the previous season's judges, Roseanne Barr and Keenan Ivory Wayans and replacing fellow Canadian Russell Peters from 2014.
In August 2015, he succeeded Darrell Hammond as Colonel Sanders in TV commercials for the KFC chain of fast food restaurants. Macdonald was replaced by Jim Gaffigan in the role by February 2016."
In September 2016, Macdonald's semi-fictional memoir Based on a True Story was published by Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau. It debuted at number 15 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for hardcover nonfiction, and made number 6 on the Best Sellers list for humor.
As of May 2017, Macdonald has continued to evolve in his stand-up, moving toward a more reserved, deadpan style. On stage he has claimed to have "no opinions" and the minimalist delivery has been described by The A.V. Club as "reduc gesture and verbiage down to an absurd minimum."
In March 2018, Netflix announced it had ordered 10 episodes of a new talk show entitled Norm Macdonald Has a Show, to be hosted by Macdonald. The series premiered on September 14, 2018.
In September 2018, Macdonald sparked controversy after the publication of an interview in which he appeared to criticize aspects of the #MeToo movement and defend friends and fellow comedians Louis C.K. and Roseanne Barr. Macdonald's scheduled appearance on NBC's Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon was subsequently canceled.
In February 2020, Macdonald launched Loko, a dating app he co-created which relies heavily on video to make first impressions.
On May 25, 2020, Adam Eget said on an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience that he and Macdonald had plans to bring back the podcast by the end of the year.
Illness and death
Macdonald died on September 14, 2021, nine years after being diagnosed with cancer. His cancer had not been announced prior to his death .
Influences and views on comedy
Macdonald says his influences include Bob Newhart, Leo Tolstoy, Bob Hope, Sam Kinison, and Dennis Miller.
Speaking about Canada's homegrown comedy industry, Macdonald reflected that he would have liked there to have been more opportunity for him to stay in the country early in his career, stating:
Reflecting on the state of modern comedy, Macdonald bemoans the influx of dramatic actors into comedy and comedians into dramatic acting:
What young, handsome person is funny? I remember on Saturday Night Live hosts would come in. You know, like handsome hosts. They'd be dramatic actors generally. And the publicist would always be like, "This is a big chance for this guy because he's really a funny guy and people don't know it. He's hilarious!" And then he'd just suck, you know?… I always liked Steve Martin when he was crazy. Because dramatic actors know how to be likeable and stuff. To me, if you've got a guy like Steve Martin or Jim Carrey or something, who are unbelievably funny, I don't know why they'd want to be dramatic actors when they have no chance. They're completely outclassed by actual dramatic actors. How many funny comedy actors are there? There's like a million great dramatic actors. I don't know why they'd want to switch. I guess to get respect or something, I don't know.
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