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Thomas Gallatin / September 16, 2021

Still Laughing at Funny-Man Norm Macdonald

Death may have taken him, but the famed SNL comedian used comedy to explore life.

Anyone who watched “Saturday Night Live” throughout the mid-1990s would have experienced the comedic humor of Norm Macdonald as the host of “Weekend Update.” He was a comedian who so stubbornly held to his own style of craft that it got him fired from SNL due to his refusal to stop telling O.J. Simpson murder trial jokes. The real end for him finally came, as Macdonald died at the age of 61 after a nearly decade-long battle with cancer, which few people knew about because of his decision to keep the diagnosis private.

Following his firing, Macdonald starred in the comedy film “Dirty Work” featuring several SNL cast members. He also continued doing standup comedy and made several guest appearances in sitcoms and late night shows.

Macdonald was best known for his rambling deadpan style of joke telling that ended abruptly with punchlines that often received more groans than laughs. As he once explained, “Comedy is surprises, so if you’re intending to make somebody laugh and they don’t laugh, that’s funny.”

While comedy was what Macdonald was best known for, it was also apparent that it was more than mere craft to him. In many ways, comedy was his means of exploring life, as he relished observing the absurd to understand why it was such.

Born in Quebec, Canada, he made his way to the U.S. in the early ‘90s and was hired as a writer for the popular sitcom “Roseanne” in 1992. After a year he moved on to join SNL, where he worked for five years.

Deeply philosophical, Macdonald rejected atheism, which he argued failed to offer a cohesive reason the existence of life. He claimed to have conviction as a Christian but later seemed to move on to Judaism.

Macdonald’s deadpan wit will be missed, as well as his willingness to poke fun at political correctness. He was a comedian who still believed comedy should push against and challenge dominant cultural attitudes, not unquestioningly accept them. In other words, it’s not just comedians who die, but comedy itself — under the withering condescension and hate that is the American Left today. That’s particularly why Macdonald is worth remembering.

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