Norman Gene Macdonald (October 17, 1959 – September 14, 2021) was a Canadian-born comedian who achieved mainstream recognition in the 1990s as a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live (though SNL has had a lot of Canadian cast members, like Phil Hartman, Dan Aykroyd, and Mike Myers, Norm was the only one who was not born in Ontario; he was born in Quebec and grew up in Alberta). Though he appeared in many sketches on the show (his impressions of Burt Reynolds and Larry King were hilarious), he was most widely known for the "Weekend Update" segment, which was considered by many critics and viewers alike to be the only reason to watch Saturday Night Live when it was limping to the barn with Seasonal Rot during the show's 20th season and rumors spread that NBC was going to cancel SNL yet again. Chevy Chase, the original host of the segment, has gone on record calling Macdonald the best of his successorsnote .
After a rather ignominious split from the show (and when the show was starting to become popular again), he did some movies and TV shows, none of which met or exceeded the success he had on SNL. His appearances on late-night talk shows were quite popular, for he had a tendency to lampshade the tropes of whatever medium he was currently operating in.
Known as a comedian for comedians, he was foremost a master of Anti-Humor. His comedic method can usually be distilled down to a three-step process:
1. Tell Joke.
2. Joke is so cheesy, it's bad.
3. It's so bad, it's good.
His most recent series was a sports show on Comedy Central called Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, essentially a sports-themed version of his "Weekend Update" performances, which was cancelled after one season despite regularly having over a million viewers an episode. He hosted a weekly podcast on YouTube called Norm Macdonald Live.
He voiced Pigeon on Mike Tyson Mysteries. In 2015, he starred as the Colonel in Kentucky Fried Chicken's advertising. In late 2016, he authored a book called Based on a True Story, very loosely based on his life. He also supplied the voice for the gelatinous crewman Yaphit on The Orville for the first two seasons and then posthumously in the third.
Macdonald passed away on September 14, 2021, nine years after being diagnosed with acute leukemia. His cancer had not been announced prior to his death. They fought to a draw.
- Billy Madison (1995) - Frank
- The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) - News Reporter
- Dirty Work (1998) - Mitch Weaver (also co-writer)
- Dr. Dolittle (1998) - Lucky (voice)
- Dr Doolittle 2 (2002)
- Man on the Moon (1999) - Michael Richards
- Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) - Male Bartender (uncredited)
- Screwed (2000) - Willard Fillmore
- The Animal (2001) - Mob Member
- The Fairly OddParents! (2005) - Norm The Genie (2 episodes before being replaced by Robert Cait in "Fairy Idol")
- Grown Ups (2010) - Geezer
Which once again proves my old theory: Germans love tropes!:
- Approval of God: Burt Reynolds loved Norm's impression of him on Saturday Night Live.
- Bait-and-Switch: Norm never shied away from touchy issues. So what did he do when roasting Bob Saget, who reveled in the extreme? Norm read off a stack of corny dad jokes.
- Brutal Honesty: One of Norm's defining traits and a hallmark of his comedy was to openly and bluntly say what others wouldn't or knew but preferred to be delicate about, most infamously in his constant jokes about OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Had one of the most memorable runs on the celebrity version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, where he won half a million dollars for charity, after spending the week as the Butt-Monkey in the Fastest Finger contestant row (he was the last contestant to play the main game and the correct order to his solo FF question spelled out his name). He wanted to go for the million dollars but admitted he was Wild Mass Guessing and was talked into walking away by Regis so that he wouldn't cost the charity the money he had banked in case he was wrong. Had Norm chosen the answer he was thinking about, he would have been correct.
- Captain Obvious: A founding principle of his comedy is to comment on difficult or delicate issues by making bluntly obvious observations.
- On Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, in response to Patton Oswalt saying that the worst part of the Bill Cosby rape scandal was the hypocrisy of it all, Norm suggested that the worst part was actually the raping.
- A Running Gag in his Weekend Update sketches was to report on a recent event that had a predictable conclusion or an obvious statement by a celebrity, then tell the audience to read more about it in Duh magazine.
- Cloudcuckoolander: His take on Larry King. To be fair, this applies to Norm himself.
- Comically Missing the Point: His take on Jack Kevorkian.Doctor Jack Kevorkian killed his tenth patient last week. When are people going to realize? He is not a good doctor! Do not go to him!
- Cuckoosnarker: His whole comedic persona, mixing Surreal Humor with a sarcastic delivery.
- Cursed with Awesome: As far as diseases go, he suggests in Me Doing Standup that alcoholism is the best one to have, especially when stacked against something like, say, bowel cancer:It's the only disease where you get to drink booze all the time. I mean, I haven't read every medical journal, but I believe it's the only disease where you get to constantly drink booze. As a matter of fact, that is the disease.
- Deadpan Snarker: If his delivery were any drier, you could pair it with a nice piece of fish.
- Don't Explain the Joke: The less a joke needs explaining, the more likely he'll explain it, especially in his Comedy Central Roast bit.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Played for Laughs, especially when he did jokes about 9/11. He makes the joke, someone laughs at said joke, and then he gives them grief for laughing at 9/11.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: He titled his 2011 comedy CD Me Doing Stand Up.
- Foreshadowing: At the end of one of Norm's appearances on his show, he asks Conan O'Brien if he can attempt to resurrect his "The Perfect Crime" bit. Conan notes that he can have it, because he rehearsed it once backstage when they were both working at SNL, and it didn't get a single laugh. Since this is at the very end of his appearance, nothing more is ever said of it. A few years later, the bit was the centerpiece of Norm's Me Doing Standup.
- The Gadfly: Much like Andy Kaufman, Norm has a history of making truly biting, smart-ass remarks in such a way that people aren't sure if he's joking. Doubtless this contributed to his firing from SNL.
- The Gambling Addict: By his own admission Macdonald lost an inordinate amount of money during The Oughties due to way too much gambling.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Norm is often involved in projects with by Adam Sandler, Dennis Miller, and Artie Lange (who was a cast member on SNL's rival show, MADtv until Lange was fired for his cocaine abuse).
- Laugh of Love: Mentioned in his book Based on a True Story as being the real culprit behind the common (and almost universally false) belief that women find a good sense of humor to be particularly desirable in men, when it's actually the opposite case far more often than not, in that a woman appreciates the sense of humor of a guy she's already attracted to:"Women are attracted to funny men, it is often said. This is not true. It only appears this way because women laugh at everything a very handsome man says. So this gives the very handsome men the idea that they are funny."
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Many of the characters that he played were Manchild jerks, and his style of comedy rarely held back on jokes at someone else's expense, but he was said to be one of the sweetest guys off camera. The sheer number of social media and TV tributes he received from his friends and colleagues following his death proves how much they loved him.
- Mutual Kill: In a rather fitting joke considering how he actually died, he noted that dying of cancer is just a draw rather than a loss, since you take the cancer with you.
- Non Sequitur:
- Nearly every week, one of his news stories would "support" the conclusion that Germans Love David Hasselhoff. The only exception to this was when he got Hasselhoff to appear on the set and read a card saying "Germans love me," which quite reasonably supported his theory.
- There was also another recurring non-sequitur that would pop up almost as frequently. The subject? You guessed it: Frank Stallone.
- ...Or so the Germans would have us believe.
- Which ended with perhaps the longest Brick Joke ever: "Or so the German Shepherds would have us believe."
- Personal Arcade: Once on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Norm was showing some photos while joking about selling his home in Los Angeles. One photo was an exercise room with a Family Guy pinball machine, and Norm comments that the buyer can have the exercise equipment, but not the pinball table.
- Precision F-Strike: Norm accidentally dropped an F-bomb on Saturday Night Live. After flubbing a line, Norm mumbled under breath, "The fuck was that?" After the crowd reacted, Norm got a brief Oh, Crap! look before giving a nervous smile and saying, "My farewell performance, ladies and gentlemen." Fittingly, this was one of Norm's last Weekend Update segments.
- Running Gag: Several on Weekend Update. The most memorable ones were observing that Germans Love David Hasselhoff, his weird story of the week which involved Frank Stallone, and his "Notes to Self" reminding him to shamelessly exploit stupid things happening in the news.
- Secretly Dying: Like Chadwick Boseman, he kept his battle with cancer a secret and managed to keep acting all the way to the end.
- Shaped Like Itself:
"According to Roberts, she knew that the end was near when she realized that she was Julia Roberts, and she was married to Lyle Lovett."
- He has said that one of his favorite kinds of jokes are the sort where the punchline is almost identical to the setup. For instance, this one concerning Julia Roberts' divorce from musician Lyle Lovett:
- He once brought on David Hasselhoff as a guest correspondent on Weekend Update to read a single line from a cue card: "Germans love me.""Which once again proves my theory: Germans Love David Hasselhoff."
- Perhaps the closest he ever got to perfection:"The punishment for having sex with Princess Diana is death; the punishment for having sex with Princess Anne is having sex with Princess Anne."
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: Again, the Roast.
- Understatement: As part of his dry Deadpan Snarker routine. For example, he will describe someone who has committed various atrocities and is basically an avatar for human evil and depravity as "a real jerk".
- Verbal Tic: He tends to repeat a phrase multiple times that gives his comedic structure an unusual cadence, making it sound like a combination of improv and a slight stutter. This contributes to his Anti-Humor quality, basically botching the set-up only to deliver a devastating punchline.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: In the Celebrity Edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, part of his strategy was trying to find Regis' tell for a correct answer, like in a poker game. Regis didn't know the answers either, though Norm did end up winning $500,000.