“Battling cancer for 9 years without telling anyone is the most Norm Macdonald shit ever,” American comedian Anthony Jeselnik tweeted last night, on learning of Macdonald’s unexpected passing due to an almost decade-long fight with cancer—information he hadn’t yet gone public with.
As the obituaries, condolences and stories poured in, we found ourselves going down a 4am YouTube rabbit hole of Macdonald’s most iconic videos, re-confirming his status as one of the world’s greatest comedians. Here’s a friends and fans-recommended list of some of the best ways to dive in and celebrate his contribution to the world of comedy. His most iconic bits, his most honest interviews, and the awkward little things he did that had everyone who met/watched him so in awe of how he lived his life and approached his comedy.
1. Norm Macdonald At The YouTube Live Comedy Show
Only Norm Macdonald could pull off conducting an interview in his sweats on the red carpet with an unlit cigarette in his hand looking cool as hell. The comedy legend is joined by the Lonely Island trio—Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone—or as Macdonald puts it “Samberg and the other couple of fellas”. You can sense Samberg’s excitement as he riffs with one of his comedy idols about some of the most absurd things.
In addition to the comedy collective, “all the stars are here” too! Macdonald is also joined by “roastmaster general” Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman and Hannibal Buress in the 20-minute clip. Check it out now!
2. Norm Macdonald’s Last Standup Performance on Letterman
When David Letterman says there’s nobody funnier than Macdonald, it might as well be set in stone. The talk show host has seen the best of the best and we’ll trust his judgement. Twenty-five years after his television standup debut, Macdonald returns to the set of Late Show With David Letterman to do what he loves best—get up on stage and tell jokes.
The comedian starts his nine-minute set with a quick jab at the Letterman/Oprah feud before going into a bit about doing LSD when he was 16 years old. The comedian remembers the good ol’ days of clicking photographs with cameras and makes some thought-provoking political commentary. Stick around till the end for a little World War II history lesson with Professor Macdonald himself.
3. Courtney Thorne-Smith and Norm Macdonald on Conan (1997)
“You’re the biggest ass I ever met,” says Conan to Norm Macdonald in this gem of an interview. The host is in the middle of a conversation with his other guest Courtney Thorne-Smith of Melrose Place fame and Macdonald’s “I don’t know who she is” bit cracks everyone up. He keeps butting in with his sharp as whip comments.
He doesn’t lose a beat to roast fellow comedian and Thorne-Smith’s co-star in her upcoming film, Carrot Top. From his acting chops to his bedroom performance, nothing is off-limits for Macdonald. Conan throws the legend a curveball at the end of the interview but Macdonald knocks it right out of the park. Watch the entire interview now!
4. Norm Macdonald’s Legendary Bob Saget Roast
When we think of “roasting” someone we immediately think of the most brutal jokes. The ones that would make people cry inside and get you grounded if your mom was to hear the filth coming out of your mouth. But not Norm Macdonald. In typical Macdonald style, he goes off-brief at his friend Bob Saget’s roast and delivers a series of G-rated jokes. The audience might have been underwhelmed by the six-minute performance but the comedians on the panel crack up hysterically.
5. Norm Macdonald On Death and Heart Attacks
“That I find to be the goodest thing there is, being alive. The reason it’s so good is because it’s so bad to be dead.” These words hit differently now, but Macdonald would have wanted us to have a good laugh and that’s exactly what we get in this 7-minute clip.
Taken from his 2011 special Me Doing Stand-Up (arguably his best hour), Macdonald talks about death in his typical laid-back style. But it turns out he was just as scared of his mortality as the next person, just in a very different way. Macdonald isn’t scared of the one in a million chance of being mauled by a polar bear or being attacked by terrorists. He’s a simple man. He’s scared of his heart “attacking” him. But he’s found a way around that. Watch the entire clip and check out his ingenious plan!
6. Norm Macdonald Is Married To A Real Battle-Axe
Very few people can make talk show hosts crack up the way Norm Macdonald could. He’s just talking about something normal and… bam! Right out of nowhere you get a punchline that would have you rolling on the floor. The timing, the delivery, the style. Macdonald had it all down to the T.
In his 2016 appearance on Conan, the comedian came on to promote his “fictional memoirs”. Because the word memoir doesn’t really mean anything, does it? If it were actually a memoir he would have put in some juicy gossip for us. “Like what?” you might ask. Well, we don’t want to give you any spoilers. Check it out for yourself.
He would have also included some hilarious “experiences” with his “wife”. Let’s just say she’s really good at giving it back to the witty comedian.
7. Norm Macdonald’s SNL Monologue
Norm Macdonald was a Saturday Night Live regular for five years. He used to host the show’s news segment The Weekend Update for three seasons and had become a crowd favourite. That was until former NBC president Don Ohlmeyer fired him for “not being funny enough”. Now that’s a load of garbage. The real reason was Macdonald’s fiery jokes about OJ Simpson, who was on trial for murder at the time and happened to be Ohlmeyer’s good friend.
The comedian returned just a year and a half later to host the show. But he wasn’t building any bridges with Ohlmeyer. Check out the entire clip to find out exactly why the show wanted him back!
8. ‘Based On A True Story: A Memoir’ By Norm Macdonald
Here’s a sneak peek into the book Macdonald came to promote on Conan’s show. The one which should have included all the juicy gossip about his sexuality and wife. But all we’re left with are some words of wisdom.
9. Norm Macdonald’s OJ Simpson Jokes on SNL
Remember the jokes that former NBC president Don Ohlmeyer thought were the reason for the show’s low ratings? The jokes that Norm Macdonald was fired for? Well, here’s a snippet from that segment.
10. Norm Macdonald on Larry King
Here’s the same bit he did on Conan but with another legend. Larry King cracks up at Macdonald’s paradoxical joke. Check it out now!
11. Norm Macdonald As Turd Ferguson
Norm Macdonald will always be a Saturday Night Live legend for his Weekend Update segment. But that’s not all. The comedian gave us a character that will go down in SNL history when he put on a foam cowboy hat and invented Turd Ferguson in the Celebrity Jeopardy segment, hosted by none other than Will Ferrell himself. But Ferguson’s demeanour was a little too similar to Burt Reynolds. And just like that, a recurring SNL gag was born. Macdonald playing Reynolds playing Ferguson.
12. Norm Macdonald Live
During his appearance on Tom Green Live! Macdonald was asked, “where do you get your ideas from?” by a fan who claimed to be a comedian himself. Macdonald couldn’t help but be amused by the done-to-death question. And so he immortalised it in his podcast Norm Macdonald Live, where he made his “sidekick” Adam Eget ask the embarrassing question to each and every guest. From Adam Sandler to David Letterman. Everyone got it, and not one of them could hold back the guffaws.
13. Norm Macdonald’s Moth Joke
No Norm Macdonald watchlist is complete without the iconic ‘moth joke’. The comedian was known for his rambling, convoluted jokes on late-night talk shows. And the hosts encouraged it. To quote Conan from the previous Courtney Thorne-Smith interview, “I didn’t know what Norm was going to talk about tonight and it’s best sometimes if I don’t know.”
In this clip, you’ll witness the absolute best Macdonald magic with this extra-dry joke. We don’t want to give anything away. Enjoy!
14. The Origin Of The Moth Joke
Here’s the origin of the infamous ‘moth joke’. Macdonald might have heard it from fellow comedian Colin Quinn, but when Conan wanted him to do a 7-minute segment on his talk show, the comedian did his magic and made it his own. Nobody can take the ‘moth joke’ away from Macdonald. Nobody.
15. Norm Macdonald’s Lou Gehrig Sketch
Historic New York Yankees batter Lou Gehrig suffered from such a rare condition it is now commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” in the United States. In this SNL sketch, Macdonald gives his own spin on how the Yankee must have addressed the fans during his last performance.
16. Norm Macdonald On His “Greatest Gig Ever”
In this New Yorker piece, Macdonald talks about his greatest gig ever—performing at a hospital for the criminally insane, as a young comic in 1985, only a year into his career.
Here’s an excerpt:
It didn’t pay any money, but that’s not why a comic does a gig like that. You take that type of gig just because you want to be a good person and receive eternal life.
It took me a while just to get into the place. First, they patted me down and took all my weapons and my drugs. Then they looked up my ass and took those weapons and those drugs as well. But finally they let me go from the outside to the inside.
“Take me to the warden,” I demanded.
“This is a hospital, son; there’s no warden.”
“Fine, then take me to the entertainment director!”
We walked down a long corridor filled with howls of anguish and high wailing screeches.
Every cage I passed had a guy in it, and every guy was acting odder than the last. The first guy was scratching his hair really hard even though it was shorn close, like he was trying to scratch inside his head or something, and he just kept saying, “I was at John D. Rockefeller’s funeral.” Then the next guy was just staring at me, stone still, and he had a big smile on his lips, but his eyes were cold dead. I started laughing to beat hell.
17. ‘Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery’
In his 2017 Netflix special, Macdonald is a lot older and wiser. In his trademark old-school fashion, the comedian talks about death, trips to Vegas and how fame changes over the years. Head on over to Netflix for 60 minutes of unadulterated Macdonald fun!