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Norm Macdonald

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Norm Macdonald

Norm Macdonald
Macdonald in September 2009
Birth name Norman Gene Macdonald
Born (1963-10-17) October 17, 1963
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality Canadian
Years active 1987–present
Genres Political satire, observational comedy, anti-humor, black comedy, surreal humour, wit
Influences Don Rickles, Bob Newhart,[1] Leo Tolstoy,[2] Bob Hope,[3] Sam Kinison,[3] Dennis Miller[4]David Letterman
Spouse Connie Macdonald (1988–?) (divorced) 1 child
Children Dylan Macdonald
Notable works and roles Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live
Norm Henderson on The Norm Show
Norm the Genie in The Fairly Oddparents
Little Chubby in My Name is Earl

Norman Gene "Norm" Macdonald[5] (born October 17, 1963) is a Canadian stand-up comedian, writer, producer and actor. He is best known for his five seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, which included anchoring Weekend Update for three years. Early in his career, he wrote for the sitcom Roseanne and made appearances on shows including The Drew Carey Show and NewsRadio. He starred in The Norm Show from 1999 to 2001. Comedy Central named him #83 on the five-part miniseries 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. He is noted as a favorite talk show guest of David Letterman, Howard Stern and Conan O'Brien. His brother is Canadian journalist Neil Macdonald, of CBC News' Washington, D.C. bureau.[6]

On February 26, 2011, Macdonald became the new host of High Stakes Poker on Game Show Network.[7]

He hosted Sports Show with Norm Macdonald on Comedy Central, which began airing on April 12, 2011. It was announced on June 7, 2011, that the Sports Show would not be renewed for a second season, reportedly due to low ratings.[8]

Early life

Macdonald was born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He was raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His father served with the Canadian Army during World War II and helped liberate the Netherlands. Macdonald has a brother, Neil Macdonald, who is a journalist with the CBC.[9][10]

Early career

Macdonald's first performances in comedy were at stand-up at clubs in Ottawa. He appeared at the 1987 Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.[11]

Saturday Night Live

Macdonald joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) television program in 1993, where he performed impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Charles Kuralt and Bob Dole, among others. Following Kevin Nealon's departure from SNL, Macdonald anchored the segment Weekend Update. Chevy Chase, the first anchor of Weekend Update, has quipped that Macdonald was the "best Weekend Update anchor since – well – Chevy Chase".[12] Current Update anchor and head writer Colin Jost named Macdonald as a primary influence on Jost's own work behind the "Update" desk, explaining that Macdonald's tone was one that Jost grew up with in high school.[9]

Macdonald's version of Weekend Update often 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 commonly used Frank Stallone as a non sequitur punchline. Macdonald repeatedly ridiculed public figures such as Marion Barry, 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 is finally official: murder is legal in the state of California."

During the February 24, 1996, episode, Macdonald made a controversial joke about the sentencing of John Lotter, one of the two men who committed the notorious murder of Brandon Teena: "In Falls City, Nebraska, John Lotter has been sentenced to death for attempting to kill three people in what prosecutors called a plot to silence a cross-dressing female who had accused him of rape. Now this might strike some viewers as harsh, but I believe everyone involved in this story 'deserved to die'."[13][14]

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 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, "Michael Jackson is a homosexual pedophile." The joke elicited audible gasps from some audience members. He responded to this by saying, "What? He is a homosexual pedophile."[15]

Another uncomfortable moment occurred during the April 12, 1997, show (host Rob Lowe, musical guest The Spice Girls), wherein, during a Weekend Update story about Tabitha Soren, he accidentally coughed in the middle of a sentence and, live on the air, muttered, "What the fuck was that?" The audience applauded, and Macdonald laughed the error away (saying at one point "My farewell performance" and, in closing, "Maybe we'll see you next week"). NBC received a mere three complaints about the gaffe, and Macdonald was not punished. In fact, he stumbled on a story the following week and, catching himself, said, very tongue-in-cheek, "Oh, drat!"

A particularly infamous joke never made it to air. Norm showed the famous photo of naked Vietnamese children running from a South Vietnamese napalm attack, and said, "In other news, Woody Allen is dating again!" Norm described the audience as projecting a "pure, crazy hate" directed at him.

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,[16][17] but Macdonald has been quoted as saying that he finds that thesis "weird" and takes Ohlmeyer's explanation at face value.[16]

On February 28, 1998, in one of his last appearances on SNL, he played the 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's character said to Macdonald's character, "I don't much care for you," to which Macdonald replied, "A lot of people don't."

In a Late Show with David Letterman interview, Macdonald said that after being fired, he could not "do anything else on any competing show."[18]

Post-SNL projects

Soon after leaving Saturday Night Live, Macdonald co-wrote and starred in the "revenge comedy" Dirty Work (1998), directed by Bob Saget and co-starring Artie Lange, Jack Warden, Don Rickles, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald, Traylor Howard, and Chris Farley (this would be Farley's last movie; the film was dedicated in his memory.) Later that year, Macdonald voiced the character of Lucky the dog in the Eddie Murphy adaptation of Dr. Dolittle. He reprised the role in both Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) and Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006). Macdonald voiced the character of Death on an episode of Family Guy. Because of a conflict with his stand-up comedy schedule, he was unavailable to voice the character for his next appearance; Death has since been voiced by 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 restaurants' (Carl's Jr. on the U.S. west coast) costumed mascot, the Hardee's star in advertisements. Macdonald 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,[19] echoing a perennial criticism of the show. The next episode, airing November 6, 1999, and hosted by Dylan McDermott, featured a sketch wherein 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?" Earlier 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 in which 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? winning $500,000.00 for Paul Newman's Charity Camp. Macdonald could have won a million dollars, but admitted he was too nervous to go for it. Had he done so, his initial guess at the million-dollar question would have been correct. Prior to entering the Hot Seat, he got his own personalized Fastest Finger question, which asked him to "put the following letters in order to spell a popular man's name", with the four answers being all four letters in his name, spelled out in order as the correct order.

Macdonald continued to make appearances on television shows and in films, including Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo and The Animal, all of which starred fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Rob Schneider and were produced by Adam Sandler. In 2003 he played the title character in the Fox sitcom A Minute with Stan Hooper, which was canceled after six episodes.

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. Later in 2005, Macdonald performed as a voice actor, portraying a genie named Norm, on two episodes of the cartoon series The Fairly Odd Parents. But he could not return for the third episode, "Fairy Idol", owing 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 National Hockey League's postseason. Due to its success, the campaign was extended throughout 2006 and 2007 and into 2008 to promote offerings from other Bell Canada divisions such as Bell Sympatico Internet provider and Bell TV satellite service.[20] 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 Macdonald to change the subject, but Macdonald persisted while Stewart continued to attempt to hold back his laughter. 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.[21] He 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".[22] Macdonald 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. Macdonald had been a regular contributor on Miller's show every Friday, prior to an unexplained absence that left Miller wondering on-air if the show had somehow miffed Macdonald. 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 friend Stevie Ray Fromstein.

On June 19, 2008, Macdonald 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 featured the same set used in the early years of the 1970s version and co-starred comedienne Sarah Silverman as a fellow celebrity panelist.[23] On August 17, 2008, Macdonald 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. In AT&T commercials around Christmas 2007 and 2008, Macdonald voiced a gingerbread boy wanting a prepaid mobile phone from his dad (voiced by Steve Buscemi), who repeatedly rebuilds his house because "people won't stop eating it".[24] The ad was for AT&T's GoPhone. Macdonald is working on a program for the FX network called The Norm Macdonald Reality Show, in which he plays a fictional, down-on-his-luck version of himself.[25] On the May 16, 2009, episode of Saturday Night Live, Macdonald reappeared as Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy!. He appeared in another sketch later on, playing the guitar. On May 31, 2009, he appeared on Million Dollar Password.

Macdonald became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien during its 2009 and 2010 run. He was among the first guests on O'Brien's Tonight Show and appeared again during the show's final week. Initially, The Tonight Show faced network opposition to bringing Macdonald on so early in the show's run and to Macdonald having nothing but local stand-up appearances to promote on-air. Despite this, O'Brien's insistence prevailed and Macdonald's first and subsequent appearances were highlights of O'Brien's brief Tonight Show run. Macdonald has made frequent appearances on the internet talk show Tom Green's House Tonight, and on May 20, 2010, he guest hosted the show.

In September 2010, it was reported that Macdonald was developing a new series for Comedy Central that he described as a sports version of The Daily Show.[26] As of April 2011, the show was titled Sports Show with Norm Macdonald and premiered on April 12 on Comedy Central.[27] The Sports Show was not renewed, reportedly due to low ratings, after all nine ordered episodes were broadcast. Macdonald's first stand-up special, Me Doing Stand-Up, aired on Comedy Central on March 26.[28] On May 23, 2011 Comedy Central announced the release an audio CD and DVD of the special on June 14 on Comedy Central Records, and Home Entertainment.[29] It was also made available as a digital download. Both releases contain uncensored and unseen material from the special, and the DVD special features include the sitcom pilot Back To Norm, an animated featurette The Twelve Days Of Christmas, and Macdonald's appearance on The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget.[30]

Macdonald was the commentator and co-host of the seventh season of High Stakes Poker on Game Show Network along with Kara Scott.

In June 2012, Norm Macdonald became the spokesperson for Safe Auto Insurance Company. Along with television and radio commercials, web banners and outdoor boards, the effort included a series of made-for-web videos. As part of the campaign, the state minimum auto insurance company is introducing a new tagline, "Drive Safe, Spend Less."

On March 26, 2013, Macdonald premiered his new podcast, called Norm Macdonald Live, co-hosted by Adam Eget, streaming live weekly on Video Podcast Network, and posted later on YouTube.[31] It received positive notices from USA Today,[32] Entertainment Weekly,[33] and the "America's Comedy" website,[34] while the Independent Film Channel stated that while Norm was still "a comedy force to be reckoned with", and "did not quite disappoint", the show was "a bit rough around the edges."[35] The second season of Norm Macdonald Live began on May 12, 2014.

In November 2013, Macdonald began to mention on his Twitter page that he had been busy writing. On an episode of the Rob Breakenridge Show airing February 6, 2014, Macdonald mentioned that he was busy writing his memoirs .[36] As of May 1, 2014, Macdonald had been campaigning on Twitter to become the new host of The Late Late Show after the then-current host Craig Ferguson announced he would be stepping down as host. If Macdonald had been chosen to replace Ferguson, he would have been the fifth Weekend Update anchor to host a late night talk show (after Chevy Chase, Dennis Miller, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers).[37] In August 2014 it was announced that the show would be given to James Corden.[38]

On May 15, 2015, Norm Macdonald was the final stand-up act on the Late Show with David Letterman and included in his set a joke Letterman had told the first time Macdonald had ever seen him, during his appearance on a Canadian talk show, 90 Minutes Live, in the 1970s that a teenaged Macdonald had seen in person as a member of the studio audience.[39] That year, Macdonald was a judge for the ninth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, joining the previous season's judges, Roseanne Barr and Keenan Ivory Wayans and replacing fellow Canadian Russell Peters from 2014. During the first four episodes of the show, dubbed the "Invitationals," Norm was dressed in a sharp, tailored suit. However, as the series progressed, and Macdonald's biting criticisms of featured comics progressed, the costumers of Last Comic Standing dressed Macdonald in a black 'leather' jacket – very much in the reality audition show 'style' of Simon Cowell.

Colonel Sanders

In August 2015, Macdonald was unveiled by Kentucky Fried Chicken playing Colonel Sanders in a new series of ads, replacing fellow former Saturday Night Live cast member Darrell Hammond in the role.[40]

Views on comedy

Speaking about Canada's homegrown comedy industry, Macdonald reflected that he would have liked there to have been more opportunity for him to stay in the country early in his career, stating:

Now I know there's more of, like, an industry there. Like, I was happy that Brent Butt got Corner Gas. Because he's a really funny guy. But there wasn't that opportunity when I was there. I remember Mike McDonald had one short-lived series, but that was about it. Otherwise there was nothing to do. But it was great with standup. It was way, way better with standup than in the States. Like, I think the standups are generally much better in Canada. Because, like, when I was in Canada, none of us had any ambition to movies or TV because there were no movies or television. So it was all standup and we just assumed we'd be standups for our whole lives and that was what was fun. And then when I came to the States, I realized, whoa, they don't take their standup very seriously here because they're just trying to do something other than standup and using standup as, like, a springboard to something else that they're generally not as good at.[41]

Reflecting on the state of modern comedy, Macdonald bemoans the influx of dramatic actors into comedy and comedians into dramatic acting:

What young, handsome person is funny? I remember on Saturday Night Live hosts would come in. You know, like handsome hosts. They'd be dramatic actors generally. And the publicist would always be like, "This is a big chance for this guy because he's really a funny guy and people don't know it. He's hilarious!" And then he'd just suck, you know?...I always liked Steve Martin when he was crazy. Because dramatic actors know how to be likeable and stuff. To me, if you've got a guy like Steve Martin or Jim Carrey or something, who are unbelievably funny, I don't know why they'd want to be dramatic actors when they have no chance. They're completely outclassed by actual dramatic actors. How many funny comedy actors are there? There's like a million great dramatic actors. I don't know why they'd want to switch. I guess to get respect or something, I don't know.[41]


Despite referring to himself as apolitical, Macdonald has made controversial references to politically charged issues. At the end of the last Weekend Update segment before the 1996 presidential election, Macdonald 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.

On the November 16, 2000, episode of Iraq War thus: "I wish there was another president, a different president engaging the war, since we're in the war because I don't think Bush did a very good job with it. The war itself, you know, if it works it was worth it. But I don't know if it's going to work, so I don't know".[41]

In December 29, 2003, Macdonald appeared on Barbara Walters' program The View and jokingly renounced his Canadian citizenship over his home country's decision to not participate in the Iraq War. He furthermore 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. He later affirmed that he was joking about renouncing his Canadian citizenship, stating in a telephone interview that "I'm not an American citizen. I'm a Canadian citizen. I just keep renewing my green card... I don't want to be American." He further burnished his apolitical stance in regards to both America and Canada saying that he was not eligible to vote in American elections and never voted in Canadian elections either: "I figured since I never did when I was in Canada... I never voted because I don't want to make a mistake. I'm so uninformed that I don't want that on my hands, you know?"[41]


Year Title Role Notes
1993 The Jackie Thomas Show Jordan TV series
1993–1998 Saturday Night Live Various Roles
1995 Billy Madison Frank
1996 The People vs. Larry Flynt Network Reporter
The Drew Carey Show Simon Tate TV series
1997 NewsRadio Roger
1998 Dirty Work Mitch Weaver Also writer
Dr. Dolittle Lucky Voice only
1999 Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo Bartender Uncredited
Man on the Moon Michael Richards
1999–2001 The Norm Show Norm Henderson Also producer, writer
TV series: 34 episodes
2000 Family Guy Death Voice only
TV series: Death Is A Bitch
Screwed Willard Fillmore
2001 The Animal Mob Member
Dr. Dolittle 2 Lucky Voice only
2003 A Minute with Stan Hooper Stan Hooper TV series
2004 Oliver Beene Hobo Bob
2004–2005 The Fairly OddParents Norm the Genie Voice only
TV series
2005 Back to Norm Various TV series
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo Earl McManus Uncredited
2006 Farce of the Penguins Join Twosomes Penguin Voice only
Dr. Dolittle 3 Lucky Voice only
2007 Senior Skip Day Mr. Rigetti
Christmas Is Here Again Buster the Fox Voice only
2007–2009 My Name Is Earl Little Chubby TV series
2008 The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget Himself
Dr. Dolittle: Tail To The Chief Lucky Voice only
2009 Funny People Himself
The Norm Macdonald Reality Show Self TV series
2010 Grown Ups Geezer
2010–present The Middle Rusty Heck TV series: recurring character
2011 High Stakes Poker Presenter TV series
Sports Show with Norm Macdonald Host, producer TV series: 9 episodes
Jack & Jill Funbucket
2012 Vampire Dog Fang/Vampire Dog Voice only
2013–present Norm Macdonald Live Himself Internet video broadcast
2014 Mike Tyson Mysteries Pigeon Voice only
TV series
The 7th Dwarf Burner, the Dragon Voice only
2015 Sunnyside Sewer Voice only
TV series
Last Comic Standing Himself Season 9 judge
TV series
The Ridiculous 6


  1. ^ Ridiculous, Norm Macdonald, 2006, Comedy Central Records
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ The capitalization of Norm Macdonald's surname has been inconsistently reported in publications such as TVGuide, but books discussing Norm such as Shales (2003) and Crawford (2000), the Game Show Network, and Comedy Central Sports Show with Norm Macdonald and comedy CD all consistently report "Macdonald" (lowercase "d") as his surname.
  6. ^ "Norm Macdonald talks to Uptown". Uptown. September 23, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Weisman, Jon (June 20, 2011). "Buzzer sounds on 'Norm Macdonald,' 'SportsDome'". Variety.
  9. ^ a b Lists CBC journalist Neil Macdonald as his older brother. Macdonald is of Scottish ancestry.
  10. ^ Norm mentions brother Neil.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Shales (2003). [p. needed]
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Announcement With links to two QuickTime videos.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Sports Show with Norm Macdonald Official Site". Comedy Central. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Stand-Up" DVD..."., May 23, 2011 (PR Newswire) Press release.
  30. ^ Matt (May 18, 2011). "It's Norm Macdonald, Let's Watch Him Doing Stand-Up".
  31. ^ (includes press release)
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Rob Breakenridge Show - Feb6 Norm Macdonald
  37. ^ Bradford Evans (May 2, 2014). "Norm Macdonald Is Campaigning on Twitter to Become Host of CBS's 'Late Late Show'". Splitsider.
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b c d

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Kevin Nealon
Weekend Update anchor
Succeeded by
Colin Quinn
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