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Norm Macdonald was one of the most influential cast members on “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) to many fans and comedians throughout his years on the show. The Canadian stand-up comedian is known by many people for his long-form jokes, writing and voice acting roles. Macdonald openly described himself as a Christian. He died in Sept. 2021 after a private battle with cancer at age 61.
Macdonald performed on “Star Search” in 1990 after years of performing at comedy clubs. Later that year, he became a writer for “The Dennis Miller Show.” By 1992, he was hired to write for the original “Roseanne” TV series. Shortly after, he left the show to join the “SNL” cast as a writer and actor in 1993. His popularity quickly grew after hosting as the anchor on the “Weekend Update” sketch which led to his five-year run on the show.
He was removed from “Weekend Update” after anchoring the show during the O.J. Simpson trial. Macdonald had faced criticism for some of his jokes directed toward Simpson. “The first “Weekend Update” following O.J.’s controversial acquittal, Norm had this to say: “Well, it is official: Murder is legal in the state of California.” NBC executive at the time Don Ohlmeyer removed Macdonald from “Weekend Update” in 1998, stating that it was due to low ratings. Macdonald and many other people disputed that ratings were the true reason he was removed. Despite this, Macdonald returned multiple times to “SNL” for anniversary shows and other sketches.
Macdonald then created his own show “The Norm Show.” The show won a few awards and nominations. Throughout the 1990s Macdonald appeared in films such as “Billy Madison” and “Dirty Work.”
He hosted other shows as well such as “Norm Macdonald Live,” a show that originally aired on Amazon Video and later moved to YouTube. The talk show presented itself in a podcast format and featured celebrity guests, random conversation and a game using one-liner jokes written on index cards. Macdonald hosted a satirical sports comedy show “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald,” which averaged one million viewers per episode. In 2018, Netflix produced one season of “Norm Macdonald Has a Show.” According to a description from Netflix “Comedian Norm Macdonald host[ed] celebrity guests for casual conversations that range[d] from silly to serious and [took] many unexpected turns.”
Macdonald was also a voice actor in several productions. In his first role as a voice actor, he voiced the character Death in “Family Guy” in a few episodes. His character in “The Fairly Oddparents” Norm the Genie was created specifically for Macdonald. The episode “Genie Meanie Minie Mo” includes subtle jokes about him being from Canada. For example, at the end of the episode when Norm is sent back into his genie lamp, which returns to Canada.
Macdonald was a voice actor in other productions such as the “Dr. Doolittle” films playing Lucky the dog. He also was featured as Pigeon in “Mike Tyson Mysteries,” Yaphit in “The Orville,” Glumshanks in “Skylanders Academy,” and several others.
He was featured on late-night shows such as “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and many other late-night shows throughout his life. After his death on Sept. 14, 2021, late-night hosts made tributes to Macdonald celebrating his life as well as, many of his friends, colleagues and fans making tributes through social media and video platforms.
Macdonald spoke often about his Christian faith publicly and frequently. “Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God,” he tweeted in 2017. “Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.” “Like everyone, I am in search of the true faith of course…It’s been a rather long tough journey, for me at least,” he tweeted in 2019.
In 2015 Macdonald was a judge on “Last Comic Standing” when a contestant Harrison Greenbaum made a joke comparing the Bible to “Harry Potter” books that a fellow host complimented calling the jokes “brave.” Macdonald found the jokes in bad taste and not funny. “I don’t think the Bible jokes are brave at all,” he said. “If you think you’re gonna take on an entire religion, you should know what you’re talking about. J.K. Rowling is a Christian…[she] famously said that if you are familiar with the scriptures you could easily guess the ending of her book,” he said in response to Greenbaum.
Macdonald wrote his memoir published in 2016 “Based on a True Story” reflecting on his experiences with his life and fame. “I think a lot of people feel sorry for you if you were on SNL and emerged from the show anything less than a superstar. They assume you must be bitter,” he wrote. “But it is impossible for me to be bitter. I’ve been lucky. If I had to sum up my whole life, I guess those are the words I would choose, all right.”
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