Norm Macdonald was a great comedian who went for laughs, at all costs

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And just like that, the funniest man alive is dead.

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Comedian and former who grew up in Ottawa saturday night live Cast member Norm Macdonald died Tuesday after a long, personal battle with cancer. He was 61 years old.

He believed that bad comedians tend to say something to make people admire, and good people go for a laugh. Great people, and MacDonald was one of them, went on for more: jokes that take us away and awkward, uncomfortable moments that only the truth can get from. But sometimes none of these things are enough.


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After one of her first shows in Ottawa, Macdonald felt she bombed, even though audiences reacted positively to her oddball comments. Mark Breslin, founder of the national Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club chain, told me a few years ago, “He quickly left the club apologizing because he didn’t think it was okay.” “But every joke has a laugh. It was a perfectly made up set, and the club’s manager, Howard Wagman, had to convince them to come back the next week.

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Later, I asked MacDonald about that show. she remembers. “I aim my comedy at myself, and I heard it in my ear when it came out of my mouth that night, and it didn’t sound right to me. It didn’t sound funny.”

It’s hard to fathom. Macdonald had a casual hilarity to him—his fast-paced glow-in-the-dark manner, stifled nasal sound, deadpan absurdity. But if he said he didn’t kill her that night, we should take it from him. McDonald was in the business of being funny, full-time and full-stop.

McDonald’s biggest hits include his Burt Reynolds imitation, his cult-classic film dirty workHis Twitter-based golf-match commentary, his brilliant 2016 book Based on a True Story: A Memoir (Which naturally wasn’t a memoir), his endless fascination with a certain four-letter word and any number of late-night talk shows.

his tenure SNLThe forever cheeky host of the Weekend Update segment in the late 1990s is what he is best known for. Macdonald cost Macdonald excessive humiliation when his insistence on referring to disgraced football star OJ Simpson as a “murderer” apparently upset the brass at NBC.

In my 2016 interview with McDonald’s, we talked about what his career brought him and what didn’t. if his sitcom normal show Wasn’t a hit and didn’t get the girls, what did he get from his comedy? His answer was witty, but also honest and serious.

“I get fat families from Iowa who want to take a picture with me,” McDonald said. “They don’t know me, but they smile at me. It’s the warmth of strangers on a cold street. It’s the best thing I meet, and I’m okay with that.”

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He wasn’t shooting for the applause with that answer, but he deserves something.

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