Macdonald died after nearly a decade of battling cancer in private, according to a statement from his longtime producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra.
“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra told Deadline. “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.”
Comedian Anthony Jeselnik, who worked with Macdonald on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, highlighted that sentiment in his reaction to the news.
“Battling cancer for 9 years without telling anyone is the most Norm Macdonald shit ever,” Jeselnik tweeted.
USA Today rounded up several more salutes to the comedy icon. Conan O’Brien, whose interactions with Macdonald on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Conan made for several memorable moments, said he’ll “never laugh that hard again.”
“Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny,” O’Brien tweeted. “I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”
Steve Martin called Macdonald “one of a kind” before sharing a New York Times editorial asserting that Macdonald’s comedic legacy is intertwined with standup, not SNL.
“I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting,” Seth Rogen remembered. “I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows.”
Adam Sandler also commended Macdonald. “Some of the hardest laughs of my life with this man. Most fearless funny original guy we knew.”
“We lost a legend,” Jim Gaffigan added. “Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic.”
Jim Carrey called Macdonald “one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.”
Jay Mohr and Sarah Silverman both appeared on SNL during Macdonald’s tenure on the long-running sketch show in the 1990s.
“In a business filled with rock and rollers, Norm Macdonald was playing jazz,” Mohr wrote.
“No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his stuff,” Silverman urged fans. “He was one of a kind of all time.”
Seth MacFarlane, Whitney Cummings, Artie Lange and Josh Gad were among the many others who sang Macdonald’s praises.
Macdonald was widely known for anchoring Weekend Update during his time on SNL from 1993 to 1998. His combination of quick wit, affability and irreverence also made for a “pantheon level late night [talk show] guest,” as his Weekend Update co-anchor describes.
Below, remember Macdonald through some of his greatest moments on SNL, talk shows, and an audio recording of his absurd Bog Saget roast segment: