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The One Role That Changed The Course Of Norm Macdonald's Career Forever

On Sept. 14, 2021, it was announced that comedian Norm Macdonald had died at the age of 61, after a private nine-year battle with cancer. After news of his passing was announced, both Macdonald's former colleagues and his millions of fans took to social media to express their sadness.

As Macdonald's longtime friend and producer Lori Jo Hoekstra told Deadline, MacDonald didn't publicly reveal his illness because he didn't want it to overshadow his career as an entertainer. "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."

After Macdonald's untimely passing, he leaves behind a lasting legacy that few others can match. However, his career would have been much different if not for one particular role that he took earlier in his career, which forever defined his path forever. 

Weekend Update made Norm Macdonald a household nam

Traditionally, "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels has used the "Weekend Update" parody news segment as a talent showcase for standup comedians and other performers who could shine as themselves, as described by J. Whalley's "Saturday Night Live, Hollywood Comedy, and American Culture." Getting the anchor gig, in fact, has helped launched the careers of everyone from Chevy Chase and Dennis Miller to Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers.

Even among the many comedy superstars who got their start at the anchor desk, though, Macdonald stands out. His three-year tenure is consistently ranked as among the best "Weekend Update" hosts ever, if not the best, by outlets ranging from Entertainment Weekly, to IMDb, as well as Vulture, and many others). This is particular impressive considering Macdonald's controversial firing from "SNL," which Macdonald later alleged was because NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer didn't like his many jokes about O.J. Simpson (via Uproxx).

Before Macdonald joined "SNL" in 1993, he had been a working standup comedian and sitcom writer for "Roseanne," while also making appearances on other sitcoms like "The Drew Carey Show" and "NewsRadio." Like many "SNL" stars before him, Macdonald was able to parlay his success on the sketch show into bigger and more lucrative opportunities. Later in 1998, he landed his first starring role in a comedy feature, "Dirty Work." The following year, he starred in his own sitcom, "The Norm Show," which ran for three seasons on ABC.

Macdonald continued doing stand-up comedy and appearing on various comedy shows for the rest of his career, and while his fans definitely enjoyed his later work, most of us remember him best as the sarcastic "SNL" anchor who loved to name drop Frank Stallone.