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Norm Macdonald, a comedian known by many for his time on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1990s, died Tuesday after a private nine-year ordeal with cancer, according to Deadline. He was 61 years old.
“My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle,” Jim Carrey said Tuesday. “He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.”
Macdonald was a cast member on “SNL” from 1993 to 1998, spending time as an anchor on the weekly segment “Weekend Update.” One of his most iconic roles was portraying Burt Reynolds in the “Celebrity Jeopardy!” segment. After leaving “SNL,” he starred in the comedy series “Norm” from 1999 to 2001.
Macdonald was born and raised in Quebec City in Canada and was hired to write on “Roseanne” before he landed a job with “SNL.” He also was a supporting actor in several comedies starring “SNL” veterans, including “Billy Madison,” “Dr. Doolittle” and “The Animal.”
“He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him,” producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra said in a statement to NBC News. “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.”
The comedian was “determined to keep his health struggles private, away from family, friends and fans,” Hoekstra told Deadline.
But he didn’t shy away from jokes on cancer, either.
“I’m pretty sure, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer also dies at exactly the same time. So that to me, that’s not a loss. That’s a draw,” Macdonald said in a former comedy sketch.
In a 2016 interview with Vulture, Macdonald said “comedy in its highest form always reveals something” before mentioning cancer.
“I’ve heard people go onstage and talk about cancer or some (stuff), and I go, ‘Isn’t this what happens to everybody?’ They seem to think they’re singular in their story when their story is the most common story that could possibly be, which is suffering and pain,” Macdonald said.
After learning of Macdonald’s death, Jon Stewart said, “No one could make you break like Norm MacDonald. Hilarious and unique.”
Other comedians and celebrities also took to Twitter to send their condolences.
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm's show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald Jeff Ross Bob Saget pic.twitter.com/lKNf4Ks4eQ
— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) September 14, 2021
Norm is the pinnacle of bravery and originality. https://t.co/UfeNoEUlUv
— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) September 14, 2021
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind. https://t.co/0sXoCLEtuG
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) September 14, 2021
RIP Norm MacDonald. I saw him perform live when I was in college. It was one of the most memorable performances I've ever seen. A complete mastery of standup comedy performance and an unparalleled passion for the art of writing jokes. Never met him. Love to his friends & family. https://t.co/gpWlNy2hwN
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) September 14, 2021
RIP Norm Macdonald. A sincere hero of mine and boundless source of inspiration since I was a teenager. He was also that rarest of beings: a truly original artist. The world's loss is Canadian heaven's gain. We will never see his like again.
— Jay Baruchel (@BaruchelNDG) September 14, 2021
I have a weird thing about rare vs. unique. A stickler on the difference between the two. Rare means scarce or uncommon, unique is: the only one of its kind.
Norm Macdonald was truly a unique comedic voice. Fascinating and brilliant. May he RIP.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) September 14, 2021
In such a divisive time even among comedians, we can all agree Norm MacDonald was the best. Rest In Peace.
— Ken Jeong (@kenjeong) September 14, 2021
A week after his defeat in the 1996 presidential election, Bob Dole meets the man who portrayed him on Saturday Night Live, Norm MacDonald pic.twitter.com/CGF5rG3W5Q
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) September 14, 2021