One day in 1997, while walking down the street in New York I happened to run into eccentric Canadian comedian Norm MacDonald, yet another one of Canada’s iconic comedians that became famous in the USA.
He was hilarious and super-friendly, and we walked and talked for a good ten blocks before he announced he was off to a taping show Late Night With David Letterman, since he was one of the featured guests that night. Then all of a sudden he stopped and asked me if I wanted to hang out backstage while he was on the show. So of course I said yes. We were having a friendly chat, two Canadian strangers, and then he invites me backstage at the biggest comedic talk show on the planet at that time, an opportunity that led to being backstage a second time a couple of weeks later, which led to me eventually meeting David Letterman himself.
Norm was innovative, often controversial, and great fun to converse with, so it is with a significant amount of pain I must announce that he died yesterday after a 9 year battle with cancer, which he kept hidden from both the public and his peers, so as not to be defined by his fight with the disease. I don’t truly know him, but in that amazing afternoon I spent with him I got to know a generous, deeply funny, and wonderfully offbeat Canadian legend.
As with artists like David Bowie or Prince, the passing of someone like Norm MacDonald is such a huge loss. Many artists are original, but people such as these are so unique, there will literally be no one even close to being like them to ever emerge again. Norm was extremely intelligent, and yet he played off of his own image as semi-naive and slightly baffled by the goings on around him. But at any moment his ferocious wit would emerge and you knew Norm had thought long and deeply about what he was saying. He was also an absolute master of uncomfortable pauses, moments of unusually long or short silences after which he would unleash some of his funniest lines in that eastern Canadian drawl of his.
he was also not one to show emotions like fear or sorrow on stage, save for moments like his last appearance on the Letterman show, a perfect set of comedy and a beautiful moment of love. R.I.P. Norm… undoubtedly you are in Heaven now making God roar with laughter…