Influential comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm Macdonald died Tuesday at the age of 61. He had reportedly been fighting a long and undisclosed battle against cancer.
According to Deadline, Macdonald kept his cancer private for almost a decade. Lori Jo Hoekstra, Macdonald’s producing partner and close personal friend, told the outlet he hid his health struggles from family, friends and fans alike.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra 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 a mainstay on SNL from 1993-1998. He served as the host of the “Weekend Update” segment, on which he would give a comedic take on the week’s most notable events.
Known for his dry comedy style and deadpan delivery, Macdonald elicited laughs for over 30 years. The Quebec City, Canada, native began his career performing at local Canadian comedy clubs.
In 1990, Macdonald was a contestant on the talent show “Star Search.” He was hired as a writer for “The Dennis Miller Show” and then the hit NBC sitcom “Roseanne” from 1992-1993, and his success led him to the SNL job the next year.
While hosting “The Weekend Update,” Macdonald was notoriously tough on O.J. Simpson during his trial despite reported pressure from NBC to back down. He said after his SNL exit that his stance on Simpson was a factor in his split from the network.
In addition to his stand-up comedy shows, Macdonald went on to create two shows of his own. “The Norm Show” ran from 1999-2001, and his single-season Netflix talk show “Norm Macdonald Has a Show” aired in 2018.
Many celebrities posted on social media about their memories of Macdonald after the news of his death.
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm’s show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald pic.twitter.com/DToJCUBdU2
— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) September 14, 2021
I’ve never cried over the death of a “celebrity.”
Norm Macdonald has changed that.
He was one of the greatest influences of my professional life and one of the last true guards of comedy.
My sorrow is surpassed only by my gratitude for the mark he left on the world.
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) September 14, 2021
Norm MacDonald was not only the funniest person of our age but also among the wisest. A longtime fan, I had the unexpected privilege of a lengthy, private correspondence with him—mostly about religion. The certain knowledge of his humility and profound faith are a great comfort!
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) September 14, 2021
Oh my God. We lost a legend. Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic. RIPNormMacDonald https://t.co/u3nkFjs099
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) September 14, 2021
Deadline called Macdonald “a highly influential touchstone for a generation of comics.” The outpouring of support after his death shows just how much of an impact he had.
Macdonald’s death came as a shock to many due to his privacy regarding his health. Yet despite the sudden loss, his impact on the institution of comedy will not soon be forgotten.