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Norm Macdonald Dies: Influential Comedian & Former ‘SNL’ Weekend Update Anchor Was 61
Macdonald was an SNL cast member from 1993-98, making his greatest impact as the anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segments for three seasons. Remembered both for his droll style — and for his refusal to go easy on O.J. Simpson despite reported pressure from NBC execs — Macdonald would prove one of the most impactful “Update” anchors, pivoting away from the slapstick approach of Chevy Chase and toward the more barbed political approach of his successor Colin Quinn.
Born on October 17, 1959, in Quebec City, Macdonald started his show business career in the comedy clubs of Canada, developing the deadpan style that would become both his trademark and a highly influential touchstone for a generation of comics. A contestant on Star Search in 1990, he landed his first regular TV writing gig on The Dennis Miller Show, fronted by the man who anchored “Weekend Update” from 1986-91.
Macdonald was hired to write for Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne for the 1992-93 season before landing the coveted gig at NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Among his most popular SNL bits was a gun-chomping impression of Burt Reynolds, complete with charming smile, bolo tie and attendant attitude.
Norm Macdonald Remembered: Seth Rogan Praises “Comedy Giant,” Edgar Wright Says, “Thanks For All The Laughs”
Macdonald’s departure from the show was controversial in itself, and he often attributed his firing to his continued lambasting of Simpson as a murderer despite what he said was the displeasure of Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC’s West Coast division, who Macdonald said was a friend of the former football great.
After leaving SNL in 1998, Macdonald starred in his own comedy series, The Norm Show, from 1999-2001. He also did a one-season talk show for Netflix, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, in 2018. He also earned a CableACE Award nomination as part of the writing team for the 1992 variety special Free to Laugh: A Comedy and Music Special for Amnesty International.
Over the years he made numerous appearances on various late-night shows, including Late Night With David Letterman and Conan, and had a recurring role on The Middle.
He also released three stand-up comedy albums: Ridiculous (1996), Me Doing Standup (2011) and Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (2017), the latter taken from a Netflix special.
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