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Things You Didn't Know About Norm Macdonald

The death of Norm Macdonald came as a complete shock on Tuesday, September 14, with his cancer diagnosis having reportedly been kept private for nearly a decade. The Canadian funnyman largely stayed out of the public eye in recent years, mostly only appearing on talk shows or various public events related to comedy. Still, Macdonald had remained a mainstay in the industry for over three decades, and as soon as news of his death broke, legions of fans and fellow celebrities took to social media to share an array of stories and facts about the now-deceased comedian.

Tales about his controversial exit from "Saturday Night Live" filled the internet, as well as anecdotes about Macdonald's personal life, and memories of all the great work he did in comedy. 

There was never a dull moment when it came to Macdonald, that much was for sure, and there are many things that people may not realize about him and his life. 

Norm Macdonald once ran into OJ Simpson on a golf course

For years, rumors swirled about the circumstances surrounding Norm Macdonald's 1998 exit from "SNL" — with the main reason reportedly being that he was too harsh on O.J. Simpson during his Weekend Update monologues. Macdonald regularly bashed the former Heisman winner after his murder acquittal and NBC executive and longtime Simpson co-hort Don Ohlmeyer was reportedly furious about it. He axed both Macdonald and writer Jim Downey, who later described what happened. "Don, being good friends with O.J. had just had enough," Downey said in a 2014 interview (via Vulture).

Well, the jokes nearly caught up with Macdonald one day when he somehow managed to run into Simpson on a golf course. He described the encounter in a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast.

"I saw O.J. on a golf course," Macdonald claimed. "And I was going to go up to him, but who was I with? Kato [Kaelin]. And Kato was afraid. Because Kato was, what do you call those guys? A reluctant witness? A hostile witness." Macdonald went on to say that Simpson's lawyer had once agreed to get the alleged murderer on his show "Norm Macdonald Live" for an interview. "His lawyer like guaranteed me that he'd be on," Macdonald said. "And then O.J. went against it."

Norm Macdonald wrote for Roseanne and The Dennis Miller Show

While many may think that Norm Macdonald got his start on "Saturday Night Live" in the early 1990s, it was actually "The Dennis Miller Show" and "Roseanne" where he first earned his comedy chops. The Québec native began his career in stand-up and then made the jump to television in 1992 with a writing credit for Miller, who himself had led Weekend Update on "SNL" from 1986 to 1991. 

That same year Macdonald was hired to write for Roseanne Barr's hit sitcom, "Roseanne," before he eventually moved to Saturday nights. The comedian was then hired years later to write for the "Roseanne" revival (via TV Insider). One of Macdonald's last appearances came back in April 2020, when he appeared in his YouTube show "Quarantined with Norm Macdonald" where one of his special guests was Barr, a few years after she was removed from the cast of the new "Roseanne" for offensive tweets. 

Norm Macdonald was a contestant on Star Search

The year was 1989, and Macdonald was still an up-and-coming comic trying to break into Hollywood. And what better way to break into Hollywood (in the late eighties, at least) than by appearing on "Star Search" with Ed McMahon? 

Macdonald had landed a spot on the show's international version of the competition, which pitted him against two other comedians from other countries. He went through his set and felt confident, but ultimately wound up losing to a comedian from Liberia known as The Bushman. 

Macdonald felt that his particular style of humor didn't fit in well with the international nature of the event. "[T]his was International Star Search, and Canada was well known as the least international of all countries," Macdonald wrote in his 2016 autobiography. "My other problem was that none of my jokes were remotely international. Every one of them dealt with a domestic issue of the United States of America. I told my agent I felt I was in big trouble, and he told me that I was being ridiculous, that I was sure to win. My agent often told me something positive like this right before a catastrophe happened."

Norm Macdonald believed his son was a better writer than he was

While Macdonald became a comedic legend over the years, especially for his writing, he actually claimed that his son Dylan was even better with the pen than he was. Talking to Page Six in 2016, Norm explained, "My son has [an] education. He's a much better writer than I am, and he's only 20." Later in the interview, Macdonald emphasized how impressed he was by his son's drive, talent, and passion for the written word. He said that while he'd tossed out many stories out over the years, he found it amazing how Dylan was already published.

The pair almost published a story together in 2015 about the PGA championship for Vice. "All we were told is that it should be between 300 and 1000 words" Macdonald explained on Twitter (via Uproxx). "It was the first thing I'd ever written jointly with my boy. But I knew he was a better writer than me and he is also very funny. So we wrote it and sent it to Vice. On Monday, I looked on Vice's Sports page and the piece wasn't up. My agent told me that Vice said not to worry, not time sensitive." 

However, following some time (and multiple phone calls) it became clear that Vice was never going to run the piece — Vice's editor allegedly "thought it would be better if I interviewed athletes because he said he found athletes to be naturally funny," according to Macdonald — and the comedian went on to post the piece online, using his Twitter page. "THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Jason and Jordan and the legacy of Tiger Woods," he titled it. "By Dylan Macdonald and Norm Macdonald."

Norm Macdonald once joked about cancer in a 2011 special

One of the biggest revelations that was shared on social media following Norm Macdonald's death was how the comedian had once cracked a joke about "battling" cancer during a 2011 special called "Me Doing Stand-Up." 

In an audio clip shared on YouTube, Macdonald poked fun at the sensitive topic. "In the old days, a man could just get sick and die," he opined. "Now, they have to 'wage a battle." Garnering laughs, Macdonald continued, "In the old days, they'd go, 'Hey! That old man died. Now, they go 'Hey, he lost his battle.' That's no way to end your life ... What a loser that guy was. The last thing he did was lose."

Because the details of Macdonald's cancer diagnosis are still largely unknown, with it having been kept private until his death, it's unclear — but possible — whether or not these jokes were made shortly after finding out, and if he was perhaps using humor as a way to tackle the very real situation in his life. During the same sketch, in Macdonald's trademark irreverent (and profanity-laden) style, he pointed out how nobody truly "loses" a battle with cancer — because if the person dies, so does the cancer. "That, to me, is not a loss. That's a draw."