When news broke on Tuesday that Norm Macdonald had died, comedians, actors and writers took to social media to mourn and remember the life of the famed “Saturday Night Live” alum. Macdonald died of cancer at age 61 after a private struggle with the disease.
Macdonald was best known for starring on “Saturday Night Live” in 1993 and his anchoring “Weekend Update” until early 1998, when he was replaced by Colin Quinn. He gave dry, sardonic and memorable impressions of Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Larry King and Quentin Tarantino and more during his five-year run on the show. During his career, he was also a writer on “Roseanne,” created “The Norm Show” with Bruce Helford on ABC and appeared in movies and shows like “Dirty Work,” “Billy Madison,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Dr. Dolittle,” “The Orville” and more.
“Saturday Night Live” shared a statement, saying, “Today is a sad day. All of us here at ‘SNL’ mourn the loss of Norm 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. But most of all he was just plain funny. No one was funny like Norm.”
Seth MacFarlane, who created and starred in “The Orville” alongside Macdonald, wrote “To so many people in comedy, me included, there was nobody funnier than Norm Macdonald. You always hoped he would hang around after the work was done, just so you could hear his stories and get a laugh. So hilarious and so generous with his personality. I’m gonna miss him.”
Conan O’Brien, who had Macdonald on his talk shows many times over the years, wrote “I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald. Norm had the most unique comedy voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”
About three years ago I was hit with severe sinus problems. Having never in my whole life experienced such a thing I can tell you that it frightened me. You ask, What was frightening about it? Well, mostly it was not being able to breathe. Also the fact that I couldn’t sleep because, who wants to nod off to sleep when they can’t breathe? I felt as if I somehow did manage to fall asleep that I might never wake up—that’s what not being able to breathe does to you.
Favorite chair in the living room. Sitting up straight eased the pain a bit and, frankly, it just felt better than lying down. And, since I could not sleep and was sitting up awake I decided to scroll through YouTube on my I-Pad.
About the third night I came across a clip that someone had advertised as one of the greatest comedy bits of all time. I watched the bit. It was Norm Macdonald on the Conan O’Brien show, the episode with Courtney Thorne-Smith where she was plugging her new movie that starred her and Carrot Top. Of course, I had heard of Norm Macdonald—who hadn’t?
Then I started followed the leads on the right hand side of the screen and watched a few more clips of Norm. Pretty hilarious stuff. I eventually landed on some hour-long show with him and when I woke up hours later another show of him was playing. At least I had gotten a little bit of sleep, finally.
The next night I still couldn’t sleep. I looked at my Google feed as I sat up in my living room chair. The bit of Norm on Conan again showed in my feed. I didn’t really want to watch it again so I typed in something else but, by accident (I guess) the same clip with Conan and Courtney came up again. So I watched, yet again. And this time at the end I thought to myself, you know, this really might be the best comedy bit of all time. I probably fell asleep for at least seven days in a row listening to Norm Macdonald.
I became a Norm fan and sought out Norm Macdonald everything about him I could find. I listened to the same things over and over and over again. Figured that I listened to great music again and again, so why not listen to great comedy again and again? Other favorite bits of mine were his appearance on Letterman after he had been fired from Saturday night Live, his last appearance on Letterman, the moth joke, and the Canadian uncle joke. There are probably twenty others that I regularly visit on YouTube.
But more importantly than laugh at his jokes, Norm made me think and reflect on what he had said, and how he said it. The artistry, the delivery. He had a peculiar way of telling jokes. He would go on and on with the setup, sometimes for ten minutes and then, Boom came the punch line which always surprised, even if I already knew it! I remembered what Norm did or said at 2:00 in the afternoon when I listened to my piano students play, when fixing breakfast, when driving to school, when going on vacation.