Norm Macdonald, SNL comic dripping in dry wit, dies at 61

Norm Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the stand-up circuit.
Norm Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the stand-up circuit. PHOTO: THEREALNORMMACDONALD/INSTAGRAM

NEW YORL (NY TIMES) - Norm Macdonald, the acerbic, sometimes controversial comedian familiar to millions as the Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live from 1994 to 1998, died Tuesday (Sept 14) in Los Angeles. He was 61.

His manager, Mr Marc Gurvitz, confirmed the death. Ms Lori Jo Hoekstra, his longtime producing partner, told entertainment-news outlet Deadline that the cause was cancer.

Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the stand-up circuit, first in his native Canada and then in the United States. By 1990 he was doing his routine on Late Night With David Letterman and other shows.

Then, in 1993, came his big break: an interview with television producer Lorne Michaels, a fellow Canadian, for a job on Saturday Night Live. He got the job and by the next year he was in the anchor chair for the Weekend Update segment. In sketches, he impersonated Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole and played other characters.

"There's something in his comedy - there's just a toughness to it," Michaels said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Also, he's incredibly patient. He can wait" - that is, wait for a punchline.

In early 1998, however, Macdonald was booted from the anchor chair and didn't return for the 1998-99 season. His post-SNL television ventures, such as Norm (1999 to 2001) and Sports Show With Norm Macdonald (2011), were a mixed bag.

Macdonald said he didn't think of himself first as a TV performer, and he continued to work as a comedian throughout his career. Though known for Weekend Update, Macdonald did not do much topical material in his own routines.

Among his most famous jokes is one he told on The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien in 2009 about a moth that goes to a podiatrist. After a setup that rambled on for minutes in which the moth pours out various emotional troubles, the podiatrist asks the insect why it came to a podiatrist rather than a psychiatrist. Macdonald's punchline: "And then the moth said, 'Because the light was on'."

Norman Gene Macdonald was born on Oct 17, 1959, in Quebec City, according to IMDB.

He eventually made his way to Los Angeles, and in 1992 he was hired as a writer on The Dennis Miller Show and then Roseanne. Macdonald wrote the 1998 film Dirty Work, in which he starred. Among his other credits were the Dr. Doolittle movies, in which he provided the voice of a dog named Lucky.

His survivors include his mother, a son and two brothers, his manager said.