Norm Macdonald, ex-‘SNL’ comic, dies
‘Weekend Update’ host in 1990s was reportedly fired for O.J. Simpson jokes
NEW YORK — Comedian Norm Macdonald, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer who was “Weekend Update” host when Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson provided comic fodder during the 1990s, has died.
Macdonald, who was 61, died Tuesday after having cancer for nine years, but keeping it private, according to Brillstein Entertainment Partners, his management firm in Los Angeles.
He never reached the same television heights after being fired from “SNL” in 1998 but was an indefatigable stand-up comic and popular talk show guest whose death provoked an outpouring from fellow comedians.
“Norm was in a comedy genre of his own,” Sarah Silverman tweeted. “No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his stuff.”
Macdonald, the son of two schoolteachers, was raised in Quebec City, Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences, calling him “a comedic genius and a great Canadian.”
He was a stand-up comic and briefly a writer for the sitcom “Roseanne” when he was picked to join the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1993.
He became known for his esoteric impressions, including Burt Reynolds, who gave Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek character grief on “Celebrity Jeopardy.” He also impersonated Bob Dole, Larry King and David Letterman.
His deadpan style and skills as a writer made him the choice to host “Weekend Update.” Simpson was a favorite target. Macdonald opened the fake newscast the week of the former football star’s acquittal on murder charges by saying, “Well, it’s finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California.
“Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels, speaking for the show, called MacDonald “one of the most impactful comedic voices of his or any other generation.
“There are so many things that we’ll miss about Norm — from his unflinching integrity to his generosity to his consistent ability to surprise,” he said. “But most of all he was just plain funny. No one was funny like Norm.”
Macdonald was fired in the middle of the season in 1998 by NBC Entertainment executive Don Ohlmeyer, a friend of Simpson’s who reportedly didn’t appreciate the “SNL” star making Simpson the near-constant butt of jokes.