Speed Reads

In Memoriam

Late night hosts remember 'comic's comic' Norm Macdonald, 'the single greatest guest' in late night history

Norm Macdonald, who died at age 61 on Tuesday after a private nine-year battle with cancer, was "just one of the greatest comedians ever," Jimmy Fallon said on Tuesday's Tonight Show. He recounted how he memorized Macdonald's standup routines in the 1980s, and he trotted out his Norm Macdonald impression to perform his wiener dog bit. 

Macdonald "changed the whole game" as SNL "Weekend Update" host, Fallon said, "He was a comic's comic, and everyone absolutely loved him."

"I wrote for Saturday Night Live for one month," Stephen Colbert said on The Late Show, and because Macdonald took him in, "I ended up writing for 'Weekend Update' for the whole time I was there. And he is, in my opinion, the greatest host of 'Weekend Update' that SNL ever had."

"I liked the fact that he would tell jokes that he, in the nicest possible way, didn't seem to care if the audience liked them," Colbert said. "And I wish I were a good enough comedian to come up with a joke right now about Norm Macdonald having died, but the only comedian I know who could get away with a Norm Macdonald-is-dead joke is Norm Macdonald, and I'm going to miss the fact that there's nobody left on the planet who can do that."

"I do not think that Norm would want to hear anything sentimental, but I would like to say a few of my favorite things that I heard Norm say," said Late Night's Seth Meyers, who, like Fallon, followed Macdonald as 'Weekend Update' anchor. He read his "favorite 'Weekend Update' joke of all time," a "perfect Norm joke," and recounted Macdonald's appreciation of SNL as the last place you could still bomb. 

Macdonald "just didn't care if he was bombing — if he thought the jokes were good, he had exactly as much fun telling them to a dead audience than to a one who appreciated them," Meyers said. "He will continue to be the gold standard, and I would just suggest that everybody go watch him tell the moth story on Conan" or "any number of Norm MacDonald things tonight."

Conan O'Brien just retired from late night TV, but after the news of Macdonald's death broke, his show posted a 1997 clip of Macdonald upstaging another guest, Courtney Thorne-Smith.

Macdonald "leaves us as one of the all-time great comics, perhaps the single greatest guest in the history of late night television," James Corden said at The Late Late Show. He recounted an apparently spontaneous bit Macdonald did about Mickey Mouse on his show, ending, "Thank you so much for the laughs, Norm."