UPDATE, with Fallon Late-night hosts across networks paid tribute on Tuesday to Norm Macdonald, who died earlier in the day, following a nine-year, private battle with cancer, at age 61.
The most detailed and personal tributes came from two former Saturday Night Live cast members who, like Macdonald, had anchored the “Weekend Update” desk: Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon.
The host of Late Night, Meyers called Mcconald a “fantastic comedian.”
“He was the gold standard, and he will continue to be the gold standard,” Meyers said. “I would just suggest that everybody go watch him tell the moth story on Conan, go watch any number of Norm Macdonald things tonight, because they are really, truly timeless.”
Meyers noted while Macdonald’s passing is “tragic”, he doesn’t believe the comic would want to hear “anything sentimental” said about him. He therefore dedicated much of his tribute to his favorite Macdonald jokes and his memories of the comic.
“I started at SNL in 2001, and I remember one time, Norm walked back into the studio to visit,” Meyers remembered. “I don’t remember how old his son was at the time, but his son was young and someone said, ‘Hey Norm, how’s being a dad?’ And he said, ‘It’s going great. Still no abductions.’ That’s the first thing I ever heard him say in-person.”
Another joke that sticks with him comes from Macdonald’s time anchoring SNL‘s “Weekend Update.”
“I always think about this…It is a perfect Norm joke,” he said. “‘The richest girl in the world, billionaire Athina Onassis, celebrated her 10th birthday this week. What’s it like to be the richest girl in the world? Well, to give you some idea, at the party, they had two cakes.'”
Meyers later touched on Macdonald’s “favorite thing about SNL” being the idea that it was “the last place on TV where you can bomb,” saluting him for his courage and commitment, as a performer.
“I think for so many of us, we came up watching Norm, and we thought that you were on the inside with him, when you were watching him tell these jokes that you thought were great, and no one in the room thought was good,” he said. “You just felt this connection to him and that ability to just stare into an audience, unblinkingly telling the jokes that he believed in.”
On The Tonight Show, Fallon called Macdonald “a comic’s comic,” and “so funny, so cool, so confident.” Fallon then paid tribute by doing his spot-on impression of Macdonald, telling a long, typically discursive joke about dogs that Fallon knew by heart. “I memorized his whole act,” Fallon said about first seeing Macdonald many years ago.
Fallon then related a story about seeing Macdonald eating breakfast with Bob Newhart in New York shortly after the then-unknown Fallon moved to the city. A star-struck Fallon approached Macdonald to tell him he was “the best,” and Macdonald responded by saying, “The best? This is Bob Newhart.”
Watch Fallon’s tribute here, beginning at the 11:08 mark:
Macdonald was also remembered this evening by The Late Late Show‘s James Corden, who called him “an absolute comedy legend,” gone “far too soon.”
“All Norm ever wanted to do was to make us laugh, and he was absolutely brilliant at it. There was nobody quite like him. I felt privileged any time I got to be in his orbit,” he said. “He leaves us as one of the all-time great comics, perhaps the single greatest guest in the history of late-night television, I think.”
For his tribute, Corden roped in co-head writer Ian Karmel and house band leader Reggie Watts, both of whom expressed a similar level of admiration. “Watching him do stand-up or talking to him felt like a magic act almost, in a way, where you didn’t know what was going to come next. You were just completely in the palm of his hand,” said Karmel. “Losing him, there’s not a next person up. That’s like a true one of one.”
“Thank you so much for the laughs, Norm,” Corden said in closing. “We’ll never, ever forget them.”
We’ll update this piece with more tributes to Macdonald as they come in. For now, you can watch Meyers’ above and Corden and co.’s below.