Norm Macdonald (comedian) explained

Born:17 October 1964
Location:Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Birthname:Norman Gene MacDonald
Notable Role:Various on Saturday Night Live
Mitch Weaver in Dirty Work
Norm Henderson on The Norm Show

Norman Gene "Norm" MacDonald (born October 17, 1963) is a Canadian comedian, actor and professional Poker player of Scottish heritage. He is known for his biting sarcasm, quick wit, distinct muttering and slurred delivery, and his three years anchoring Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update.

He performed as a stand up comedian in comedy clubs across Canada before moving to Los Angeles, California. In Los Angeles, he wrote for the popular sitcom Roseanne and performed on shows including The Drew Carey Show and NewsRadio. Comedy Central named him #83 on the five part mini-series 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.

Early life

His father, Percy MacDonald, a Scottish-Canadian, served with the Canadian Army during World War II and helped liberate the Netherlands. After the war, he and his wife Fern (née Fern Cohen) became teachers, who raised three sons, Norm, Leslie, and Neil, an award-winning journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Norm is a 2nd cousin of Scottish director Kevin MacDonald.

Norm MacDonald attended grade school in the early 1970s at Alexander Wolff School on Canadian Forces Base Valcartier outside Quebec City, where his parents taught. His father was his homeroom teacher in grades 6 and 7, and required Norm to address him as "Mr. MacDonald". After completing Grade 7 at AWS, he continued his education at Quebec High School in Quebec City, the same school as fellow comedians Mike Ward and Maxim Martin.

There are a number of conflicting stories about his educational background:

Saturday Night Live

MacDonald joined the cast of NBC's popular Saturday Night Live (SNL) program in 1993, where he occasionally did impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Charles Kuralt, and Bob Dole, among others.

On Saturday Night Live MacDonald most notably anchored the segment Weekend Update, following Kevin Nealon's departure from the segment. Chevy Chase, the first anchor of WU, has opined that MacDonald is the only anchor since Chevy's tenure to have "done it right".[1] MacDonald used a deadpan style during the news segment, which included repeated references to prison rape, 'crack whores' and the Germans' love of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. MacDonald would occasionally deliver a piece of news, then take out his personal compact tape recorder and leave a "note to self" relevant to what he just discussed. He also commonly and inexplicably used Frank Stallone as a non sequitur punchline. MacDonald repeatedly ridiculed public figures such as Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson. Throughout Simpson's trial for murder, MacDonald constantly pilloried the former football star, often heavily implying Simpson was guilty of the brutal slaying of his wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman. In the broadcast following Simpson's acquittal, MacDonald opened Weekend Update by saying: "Well, it's official: murder is legal in the state of California."

After the announcement that Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley planned to divorce, MacDonald joked about their irreconcilable differences on Weekend Update: "She's more of a stay-at-home type, and he's more of a homosexual pedophile." He followed this up a few episodes later with a report about the singer's recent collapse and hospitalization. Referring to a report of how Jackson had decorated his hospital room with giant photographs of Shirley Temple, MacDonald remarked that viewers should not get the wrong idea, adding, "We'd like to remind you that Michael Jackson is, in fact, a homosexual pedophile." The joke elicited audible gasps from some audience members. He responded to this by saying, "What? He is a homosexual pedophile." [2]

MacDonald's time with Saturday Night Live effectively ended in late 1997 when he was fired from the Weekend Update segment upon the insistence of NBC West Coast Executive Don Ohlmeyer, who pressured the producers to remove him, explaining that MacDonald was "not funny." Some believe that Don Ohlmeyer's friendship with O.J. Simpson - a celebrity whom MacDonald often antagonized on the show - may have fueled Ohlmeyer's decision.[1] Ohlmeyer denied the rumor, arguing that other NBC late-night comedians (e.g., Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and other SNL players) also constantly lampooned Simpson with little to no sanction, and that his decision was based solely on audience reaction through tapes he had personally reviewed. David Letterman and Howard Stern later insisted in interviews with MacDonald that Ohlmeyer was really just carrying out the work of producer Lorne Michaels, who was too cowardly to fire him directly.

On February 28, 1998, one of his last appearances on SNL occurred as host of a fictitious TV show called Who's More Grizzled?, who asked questions of "mountain men" played by that night's host Garth Brooks and special guest Robert Duvall. In the sketch, Brooks' character said to MacDonald's character, "I don't much care for you," to which MacDonald replied, "A lot of people don't."

After MacDonald left SNL, his successor, Colin Quinn, gave a short prologue in his first day anchoring Weekend Update, during which Quinn mentioned that MacDonald had shown him "the ropes" of the segment. Quinn then asked the audience if they ever went to their favorite pub seeking their favorite bartender—and found him to be replaced by a less qualified man named "Steve". After a brief pause, Quinn deadpanned, "Well I'm Steve, what can I get you." Castmember Will Ferrell then appeared as Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, who repeatedly referred to Quinn as "Norm", adding, "Hey Norm, have you gained weight?"

In a Late Show with David Letterman interview, MacDonald said that after being fired, he could not "do anything else on any competing show."[3]

Recurring characters on SNL

Celebrity impersonations

After Saturday Night Live


Soon after leaving Saturday Night Live, MacDonald co-wrote and starred in the "revenge comedy" Dirty Work (1998), with Jack Warden, Don Rickles, Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, Artie Lange and Adam Sandler. Later that year, MacDonald voiced the character of Lucky the dog in the Eddie Murphy remake of Doctor Dolittle. He reprised the role in both Doctor Dolittle 2 (2001) and Doctor Dolittle 3 (2006)

MacDonald voiced the character of Death on an episode of Family Guy. Due to a conflict with his stand-up comedy schedule, he was unavailable to voice the character for the next two appearances; the role went to Adam Carolla.


In 1999, MacDonald starred in the sitcom The Norm Show (later renamed Norm), co-starring Laurie Metcalf, Artie Lange and Ian Gomez. It ran for three seasons on ABC. MacDonald voiced Hardee's restaurant's (Carl's Jr. on the US West Coast) costumed mascot, the Hardee's star in advertisements. MacDonald also appeared on several Miller Lite commercials that year.

He appeared on the September 1999 Saturday Night Live primetime special celebrating the program's 25th year on the air. MacDonald was one of only three former Weekend Update anchors to introduce a retrospective on the segment (the others being Chevy Chase and Dennis Miller).

MacDonald returned to Saturday Night Live to host the October 23, 1999 show. In his opening monologue, he expressed resentment at having been fired, then concluded that the only reason he was asked to host was because "the show has gotten really bad" since he left.[4] His multiple utterances of "God damn" were edited out of future repeats of the episode. The next episode; airing November 6, 1999 and hosted by Dylan McDermott; featured a sketch where Chris Kattan, as the androgynous character Mango, is opening letters from celebrity admirers and, after opening the last one, says "[the letter is from] Norm MacDonald, who is that?"

Also in 1999, MacDonald made a cameo appearance in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. When Michael Richards refused to portray himself in the scene reenacting the famous Fridays incident where Kaufman throws water in his face, MacDonald stepped in to play Richards, although he is never referred to by name.


In 2000, MacDonald starred in his second motion picture, Screwed, which, like Dirty Work, fared poorly at the box office.

On November 12 2000 MacDonald appeared on the Celebrity Edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and reached the $1 million question.[5] He guessed correctly for the $500,000 question and was going to answer the $1,000,000 question, but Regis Philbin encouraged him to stop because of the amount of money at risk. Had he given an incorrect answer to the $1,000,000 question, his charitable winnings would have plummeted to only $32,000, which MacDonald had chosen to go to Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Camps. Philbin's unease made MacDonald think he was giving the wrong answer, so MacDonald chose to stop. His answer was actually correct, so he would have won the $1,000,000 for Hole in the Wall Camps instead of $500,000. Philbin apologized for the incident on his show the next day.

MacDonald continued to make appearances on television shows and in films, including , , and The Animal, all of which starred fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Rob Schneider and were produced by Adam Sandler.


In 2005, MacDonald signed a deal with Comedy Central to create a new sketch comedy pilot called Back To Norm, which debuted that May. The pilot was never turned into a series. Its infamous cold opening parodied the suicide of Budd Dwyer, a Pennsylvania politician who, facing decades of incarceration, committed suicide on live television in 1987. Rob Schneider appeared in the pilot.

Also in 2005, MacDonald performed as a voice actor, portraying a Genie named Norm, on two episodes of the cartoon series The Fairly OddParents. But he could not return for the third episode, "Fairy Idol", due to a scheduling conflict.


In 2006, MacDonald again performed as a voice actor, this time in a series of commercials for Canadian cellphone services provider Bell Mobility, as the voice of "Frank the Beaver". The campaign had a commercial tie-in with the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and with the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The ads ran heavily on CBC during the Olympics and throughout the NHL's postseason. Due to its success, the campaign was extended throughout 2006, 2007 and into 2008 to promote offerings from other Bell Canada divisions such as Bell Sympatico internet provider and Bell TV satellite service.[6] In August 2008, the new management at Bell decided that they would go in a different direction with advertising, and would no longer be using the beavers.

In September 2006, MacDonald's sketch comedy album, Ridiculous, was released by Comedy Central Records. It features appearances by Will Ferrell, Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon and Artie Lange. On September 14 2006, MacDonald appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote Ridiculous. During the appearance, MacDonald made some jokes about the recent death of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Stewart, holding back laughter, asked Norm to change the subject.

MacDonald was a guest character on My Name Is Earl in the episode "Two Balls, Two Strikes" as "Lil Chubby", the son of "Chubby" (played by Burt Reynolds), similar to MacDonald's portrayals of Reynolds on SNL.


In the 2007 World Series of Poker, he came in 20th place out of 827 entrants in the $3,000 No Limit Texas Hold 'em event, winning $14,608.[7] He also made it to round two of the $5,000 World Championship of Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em.

On the comedy website, Super Deluxe, he has created an animated series entitled "The Fake News".[8]


Norm has filled in during Dennis Miller's weekly O'Reilly Factor "Miller Time" segment on January 2, 2008, and guest-hosted Dennis Miller's Radio show on January 3, 2008. Norm had also been a regular contributor on the Dennis Miller Radio show every Friday, prior to an unexplained absence that left Miller wondering on-air if the show had somehow miffed Norm. MacDonald returned after many months on May 30, 2008, but not before missing a scheduled appearance the day before. He hosted Miller's radio show for the second time on July 16, 2008, along with MacDonald's friend Stevie Ray Fromstein.

On June 19, 2008, Norm was a celebrity panelist on two episodes of a revived version of the popular game show Match Game, which was taped at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. The new version features the same set used in the early years of the 1970s version and also stars comedienne Sarah Silverman as a fellow celebrity panelist.[9]

On August 17, 2008, Norm was a participant in the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget, performing intentionally cheesy and g-rated material that contrasted greatly with the raunchy performances of the other roasters.

For Christmas 2007 and 2008, MacDonald provided the voice to a gingerbread boy wanting a prepaid mobile phone from his dad (voiced by Steve Buscemi), who keeps rebuilding his house because "people won't stop eating it".[10] The ad was for AT&T's GoPhone.

Political humor

Despite referring to himself as apolitical, MacDonald has made controversial references to politically-charged issues, with mixed humorous results.

At the end of the Weekend Update segment before the 1996 presidential election, Norm urged viewers to vote for Bob Dole (of whom MacDonald frequently performed a comic impersonation), though hinting that he had solely said it so that he could continue impersonating him. In 2003, MacDonald appeared on Barbara Walters' program The View, publicly renouncing his Canadian citizenship as a joke over his home country's decision not to participate in the Iraq War, stated his belief that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president ever and said that he would be becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States (as of January 2006, he stated that he is not a United States citizen. "I just keep renewing my green card", said MacDonald in a telephone interview[11]). On the November 16, 2000 episode of The View MacDonald said that he thought George W. Bush was "a decent man" and he called Bill Clinton a "murderer" (regarding the Vince Foster case). MacDonald later stated in Maxim magazine that he is completely apolitical, and that he was joking when he said Clinton "killed a guy". However, on the January 2, 2008 episode of The O'Reilly Factor, MacDonald stated that he is "very pro-life, but against the death penalty," his friend Artie Lange would soon afterwards confirm these opinions as sincere on The Howard Stern Show. MacDonald also revealed that he supported John McCain for president in the 2008 US Presidential Election.[12] He later recanted this and said on the Howard Stern radio show on September 25th "If the election was tomorrow, and I had American citizenship, I'd vote Obama." MacDonald commented that, as a moderate Christian, he was concerned with the fundamentalist views of McCain's running-mate, Sarah Palin.

Notes and References

  1. Shales, Tom. Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Back Bay Books, 2003.
  2. Web site: Wild. David. Looking for the heart of 'Saturday Night'. Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. 1997-11-27. 1997. 2007-02-23.
  3. David Letterman. Late Night with David Letterman]]. TV-Series. CBS. New York. March 06 1998. 2007-02-23.
  4. Web site: Norm MacDonald's Monologue. Saturday Night Live. 1999-10-23. 2007-02-02.
  5. Web site: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire(1999). 2000-11-12. 2007-02-02.
  6. Web site: Bell Recruits Two New Spokesbeavers. November 7, 2005. 2007-04-21. Announcement With links to two Quicktime videos.
  7. Web site: The 2007 World Series of Poker. 2007-07-21.
  8. Web site: Norm MacDonald Presents: The Fake News. 2008-01-07.
  9. Web site: On Camera Audiences entry for Match Game; retrieved June 19, 2008..
  11. Web site: Phone Interview with Norm MacDonald. Guy MacPherson. 2006-01-17. 2007-02-02.
  12. Web site: MacDonald was also on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart and had told that he was going to put bits about the Crocodile Hunter on his album shortly after his death.,Miller Time 1/2. AOL Video. 2008-01-18.