He was 61 years old.
Macdonald had been battling cancer for several years, but he kept his diagnosis private, his friend and producer partner Lori Jo Hoekstra told CNN in a statement.
“He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way audiences or loved ones saw him,” Hoekstra said. “Norm was pure humour. He once wrote that ‘A joke should take one by surprise, it should never go astray.’ He certainly never strays. Norm will be greatly missed.”
Born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, he started out in entertainment as a standup comedian, working the Ottawa club circuit before moving to clubs across Canada.
He quickly became known for his deadpan and sardonic delivery, and in 1987 he was given the opportunity to perform at the “Just for Laughs” comedy festival in Los Angeles.
That first taste of LA made an impression, and Macdonald moved to the city with the intention of entering Hollywood. He got the writing job for the sitcom “Roseanne” in 1992.
But it was as the anchor of the news satire segment “Weekend Update” where Macdonald made his strides.
He held this position from 1994 to 1998.
McDonald was abruptly and unintentionally removed from the “Weekend Update,” a decision made by then-NBC West Coast president Don Olmeier. Although it was reported that the executive did not like Macdonald in that role, there were reports that Macdonald joked about OJ Simpson, one of Ohmyer’s longtime friends.
Macdonald starred in his own comedy series, “The Norm Show”, which ran from 1999–2001.
He also appeared in films such as “The People vs Larry Flynt,” “Dr. Dolittle 2” and “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.”
Fellow comedians Jon Stewart, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen and others paid tribute to McDonald on Tuesday.
Senator Bob Dole also paid tribute, tweeting a photo of him and MacDonald in character as Dole.