Norm Macdonald died on Tuesday, September 14, after privately battling cancer for nine years, Us Weekly can confirm. He was 61.
The Saturday Night Live alum’s management firm Brillstein Entertainment confirmed the news to Deadline. His longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra told the outlet that Macdonald was determined to keep his health struggles a secret from his family, friends and fans.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra, who was with him at the time of his death, said. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. 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.”
Macdonald was best known for his stint as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1993 to 1998. He notably served as the anchor of the “Weekend Update” segment for three seasons and did a beloved impression of Burt Reynolds in the show’s ongoing Celebrity Jeopardy! sketch.
After his exit from the NBC series, the comedian starred on The Norm Show from 1999 to 2001. He later hosted a talk show for Netflix titled Norm Macdonald Has a Show, which aired for one season in 2018.
Macdonald was born in Canada in October 1959. He began his career performing at comedy clubs in the country before competing on Star Search in 1990. He was then hired to write for Roseanne Barr’s sitcom Roseanne in 1992 before going on to work on Saturday Night Live.
The actor alluded to his health battle in a September 2018 interview with Vulture. “I wouldn’t pretend to ever know the truth. But comedy in its highest form always reveals something,” he explained at the time. “Maybe you could call that a truth. But what I don’t like is the idea that suffering or pain or being a victim — you could say that leads to art, and maybe it does, but it’s not art in itself.”
He elaborated: “I’ve heard people go on stage and talk about cancer or some s–t, 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.”
The Dirty Work star then made a joke about dying. “I think about my deathbed a lot,” he said. When asked what he thought about it, he quipped, “I think I should never have purchased a deathbed in the first place.”
Macdonald is survived by his 28-year-old son, Dylan, whom he shares with ex-wife Connie Vaillancourt.