After nine years of living with cancer, the hilarious Norm MacDonald has died at age 61.
I first saw Norm MacDonald as weekend anchor on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s. I loved how he just didn’t give a flying rat’s tushy what he said, or if a joke was “too soon.” I found it refreshing, as it seemed there were some issues people used to tip-toe around. Nothing was off-limits.
Apparently, Lorne Michaels didn’t share my enthusiasm, and MacDonald was yanked from the news desk. No matter, his stand-up comedy was still around, his talk show interviews always succeeded in making the hosts just a wee bit nervous, and later his own Netflix talk show continued to make the PC police unhappy.
Yet, for most of us, regardless of political leanings, MacDonald was just plain fantastic. His delivery was wickedly timed and his side comments were as funny as his punchlines.
His comedy meant a lot to my husband and I back in the 90s. We were married in 1994, and didn’t have cable in our college apartment. We relied on movie rentals and old VHS recordings of comedy specials for entertainment. It was Norm MacDonald who made us consistently laugh, no matter how much we heard the jokes. We still crack each other up by quoting him:
“(In cliff-diving ) you’re either Grand Champion…or stuff on a rock.”
“Them’s mean streets for a wiener dog in a Cardigan.”
Just because I know he would want us to keep laughing, here are some reasons to love…and miss…Norm MacDonald.
There was that time he pissed off the women of The View by calling out Bill Clinton. No matter the topic, it is always fun to tick off this bunch.
He found a way to make jokes about the way murders are covered on the news. This “shallow grave” bit was controversial for awhile, as MacDonald found another comic had stolen (or tried to steal) his bit. He also had to to point out “even in today’s enlightened society there remains a stigma about being a psycho-sexual sadist.” It’s a joke, people, not an instruction manual. It’s okay to laugh.
He out-Burted Burt Reynolds with his recurring role as Reynolds, aka: “Turd Ferguson,” on SNL’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketches. I sincerely hope Norm and Burt are having a laugh together in Heaven.
For some reason, some of his funniest and weirdest jokes were on Conan O’Brien, including when he made the audience wait for the punchline…then left them going WTF??!!!…before laughing uncontrollably.
It was also on Conan where he told what has been noted more than once as the “greatest joke ever told.” You be the judge.
In the end, Norm even somehow knew how to make us laugh about the very thing that took him…cancer.
His ability to laugh in the face of pretty much anything — or anyone — was unmatched. In fact, he didn’t lose any battle at all. He fought until the end, and left us all with a lifetime of humor.
In that, Mr. MacDonald, you can declare victory as a life well lived.