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AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Comedian Norm Macdonald, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer who was “Weekend Update” host when Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson provided comic fodder during the 1990s, has died.
Macdonald, who was 61, died Tuesday after having can- cer for nine years, but keeping it private, according to Brillstein Entertainment Partners, his management firm in Los Angeles.
He never reached the same television heights after being fired from “SNL” in 1998, but was an indefatigable stand-up comic and popular talk show guest whose death provoked an outpouring from fellow comedians.
Macdonald, the son of two schoolteachers, was raised in Quebec City, Canada. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences, calling him “a comedic genius and a great Canadian.”
He was a stand-up comic and briefly a writer for the sitcom “Roseanne” when he was picked to join the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1993.
He became known for his esoteric impressions, including Burt Reynolds, who gave Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek character grief on “Celebrity Jeopardy.” He also impersonated Bob Dole, Larry King and David Letterman.
His deadpan style and skills as a writer made him the choice to host “Weekend Update.” Simpson was a favorite target. Macdonald opened the fake newscast the week of the former football star’s acquittal on murder charges by saying, “Well, it’s finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California.
“Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels, speaking for the show, called MacDonald “one of the most impactful comedic voices of his or any other generation.
Macdonald was fired in the middle of the season in 1998 by NBC Entertainment execu- tive Don Ohlmeyer, a friend of Simpson’s who reportedly didn’t appreciate the ‘”SNL” star making Simpson the near-constant butt of jokes.
MacDonald went on Letterman’s show to announce that he was fired. During a commercial break, Letterman asked him, “This is like some Andy Kaufman thing with fake wrestling, right?” Macdonald recalled. But it wasn’t.
Letterman was a fan who made Macdonald one of the guests in the CBS “Late Show” host’s final run of shows.
In 2016, Letterman told The Washington Post, that the show would have had Macdonald on every week “if we could.”
He had limited success in other TV ventures. He created and starred in the ABC sitcom “The Norm Show,” later shortened to “Norm,” playing a for- mer NHL player kicked out of the league for gambling and tax evasion and forced into community service as a social worker.
A Comedy Central show, “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald,” lasted only a handful of episodes, but he kept busy in comedy clubs.
“In my mind, I’m just a stand-up,” he told The New York Times in 2018. “But other people don’t think that. They think, ‘oh, the guy from ‘SNL’ is doing stand-up now,'”
In a 2011 comedy special, MacDonald said it was wrong to say you “lost your battle” with cancer when you died. “I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that if you die, the cancer also dies at exactly the same time,” he said. “That, to me, is not a loss. That’s a draw.”