Norm Macdonald dies at 61; From ESPYs to OJs, the five best sporting moments of comic book career
Posted On September 15, 2021
Norm Macdonald, actor, writer and comedian who hosted the “Weekend Update” segment on “Saturday Night Live” from 1995 to 1997, died Tuesday after a private nine-year battle with cancer. Hey what 61.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” said Lori Jo Hoekstra, production partner and longtime friend of Macdonald (via Deadline). “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect how the public or anyone close to him viewed him. Norm was pure comic. He once wrote that a joke should surprise someone, it shouldn’t. never flatter.
“He certainly never flattered. We will miss Norm terribly.”
Widely regarded as one of the best and most influential in comics, Macdonald was also known as a sports enthusiast and gambler. The Quebec native even played a former professional hockey player who was suspended by the NHL for gambling and tax evasion on his ABC sitcom “The Norm Show” (he played “Norm”), which aired from 1999 to 2001.
Macdonald also hosted a short-lived “The Daily Show” style show on Comedy Central in 2011, the “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald”. The first joke of the first episode tells you everything you need to know about Macdonald’s tone and style of humor:
Macdonald has been involved in many classic sports-related moments throughout his career, including playing tennis with Jon Lovitz, making a punchline of the boxer and actor “Rocky” and named Frank Stallone, and playing Marv Albert in “SNL”. Here are five more of our favorites (plus a little bonus at the end):
1. ESPY’s monologue: “This is something that no one can ever take away from you … “
Macdonald’s ESPY monologue in 1998 touched ESPN executives and many of the athletes in attendance a little too much, including his jokes about East German speed skaters, other Tiger Woods golfers and, of course, his legendary joke of monologue by Charles Woodson. :
Macdonald also did it a bit later on the show with Will Ferrell, who poked fun at John Elway’s teeth as he played former Cubs host Harry Caray. Ferrell later referred to it as a time when he might have gone too far with his comedy:
It is widely believed that after Macdonald’s hosting, ESPN decided to “play it safe” with ESPYs, asking hosts not to be too angry or offensive. So Norm not only hosted the best ESPY ever, but he also ruined it forever, which no one can ever take away from him.
2. OJ Simpson jokes: “Well, it’s finally official …”
The OJ Simpson trial was the biggest news event of the ’90s, and Macdonald was the host of “Weekend Update” at the time. His weekly teardowns and breakdowns of Simpson and the trial were fixtures, as few comedians were so fearless or incisive.
These music video packages might make you uncomfortable in 2021 – damn it, they made people uncomfortable in 1995 (see Ken Griffey Jr.’s reaction in the monologue clip above) – but Macdonald didn’t care, because he was following his first two comedy rules: Be funny and tell the truth.
Macdonald’s opening “Weekend Update” joke in the series after Simpson’s acquittal is widely regarded as one of the best “Weekend Update” jokes of all time (and, yes, he said of “fake news “long before it became fashionable):
It is believed that Macdonald was ultimately fired from “Weekend Update” due to NBC President Don Ohlmeyer ‘s friendship with Simpson. Ohlmeyer and the network claimed it was because they didn’t think Macdonald was funny.
When Macdonald was invited again the following year to host “SNL,” he asked a simple question, “How did I manage in a year and a half not to be funny enough to even be allowed? It’s funny that do I now host the show? How did I suddenly get so funny? “
Wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that last question?
3. Oscar Pistorius bit: “Apparently … but, also, really …”
This is by no means a legendary cultural moment, but it’s the kind of esoteric niche that true fans of Norm (and / or Conan O’Brien) know and love.
He’s also a prime example of Macdonald’s timing, style, and comedic brilliance. At first he seems to ramble, and viewers aren’t sure whether to laugh, cringe, or boo. He is laughed at along the way, but the crowd is still not entirely with him.
Then, like it was his plan from the start (was it?), He turns the tables on Conan and Andy Richter, makes them look like fools, and gets the biggest laugh of all. And of course it does with some old ‘timey slang:
4. Blake Griffin press conference: “There’s kind of a curse with Rookie of the Year …”
Seeking to hone his reporting skills, Macdonald made a surprise appearance at Griffin’s Rookie of the Year press conference in 2011 after the then-Clippers forward won the award.
“It’s a question from Blake’s good friend Norm,” Macdonald told Griffin, who was already laughing before Macdonald even grabbed the microphone.
Griffin had previously appeared on the “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald” as part of the “Blake Like Me” segment. The track was a sporty takeoff on the famous sketch from Eddie Murphy’s mock “SNL” documentary “White Like Me.”
Griffin shared his thoughts on Macdonald in a tweet posted Tuesday night, calling Macdonald one of his comedy heroes and noting that Norm’s question was his “favorite press conference moment.”
tear mcdonald standard. one of my first comedy heroes. every time I’ve seen him, whether it’s in person or on TV, he has always exceeded all expectations when it comes to his humor. truly one of a kind. so lucky to have known you. we will miss you