Norm Macdonald, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Comedian, Dies at 61

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Acerbic, sometimes controversial, he became familiar to millions as the show’s “Weekend Update” anchor from 1994 to 1998.

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Norm McDonald, the acerbic, sometimes controversial comedian who was familiar to millions as the “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live” from 1994 to 1998, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 61 years old.


His manager Mark Gurwitz confirmed the death. Lori Jo Hoekstra, his longtime producer, told Hollywood news outlet Deadline that the cause was cancer, something he had been doing for some time but had kept largely private.

Mr. McDonald had a deadpan style 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, and then in 1993 his big break came: an interview with Lorne Michaels, a Canadian partner for a job on “Saturday Night Live”.

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“I knew that even though we were from the same nation, we were worlds apart,” wrote Mr MacDonald in “Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir” (2016). “He was a cosmopolitan, worldly, kinda man from Toronto who would be comfortable around the Queen of England herself. I, I was a hick, was born in the barren, rocky soil of the Ottawa Valley, where the city’s richest man was a hairdresser.

He got the job, and by the next year he was in the anchor chair for the “Weekend Update” segment. (In the sketch, he impersonated Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole and played other characters.) But in early 1998 he was removed from the same anchor chair, reportedly at the behest of Don Olmeier, president of NBC Entertainment, West Coast. But was said to have been annoyed by Mr MacDonald’s relentless mockery of his friend OJ Simpson.

A full obituary will be published soon.

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