Watch America’s Late-Night Hosts Pay Tribute to Norm Macdonald
Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and more paid tribute to late-night TV's best guest
Yesterday, we lost a comedy legend. Norm Macdonald passed away at the age of 61 after a private nine-year battle with cancer, and naturally, as soon as the news broke, the tributes to him started pouring in.
That of course included the majority of the current late-night TV hosts who had new episodes last night. Macdonald was arguably the best late-night guest of all time, so there were plenty of memorable appearances to reflect on, and his fellow former Weekend Update anchors Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers also took time to describe how his comedy influenced their own careers.
Though they’re both currently off the air, former hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien — both of whom had Macdonald on their shows countless times over the course of several decades — both issued statements expressing their grief over his loss as well.
We’ve rounded up their tributes, along with all of the on-air remembrances of Macdonald, below.
Meyers, who spent a good chunk of his career behind SNL‘s Weekend Update desk just like Macdonald did, paid tribute to the late comic by recalling the time Macdonald went off-script during Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary show. “I remember laughing really hard,” he said, “not at what Norm was saying as much as the idea that any of us thought that Norm would play by anyone else’s rules.” Meyers also spoke about the influence Macdonald had on him, revealing that he had to “beat Norm’s delivery out of me” when he was first starting out and noting that he had an uncanny “ability to just stare into an audience unblinkingly, telling the jokes that you believed in.” “He was the gold standard, and he will continue to be the gold standard,” he concluded.
“All Norm ever wanted to do was make us laugh and he was absolutely brilliant at it,” James Corden noted after announcing Macdonald’s death on his show. “There was nobody quite like him. I felt privileged every time I got to be in his orbit. He leaves us as one of the all-time greatest comics, perhaps the single greatest guest in the history of late-night television, I think.” Corden also gave the floor to head writer Ian Karmel and bandleader Reggie Watts to share their memories of Macdonald before concluding by saying, “We’ll miss you, Norm, so much. Our thoughts are with all of Norm’s friends and family today. Thank you so much for the laughs, Norm. We’ll never, ever forget them.”
Colbert kicked off his show by recalling the way Macdonald took him under his wing while he was briefly working as a writer on Saturday Night Live, noting that “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, but he liked the joke. They were dark, sometimes too dark for me, but they were strange and he just had a wonderful presence that just took me in.” “I wish I were a good enough comedian to come up with a joke right now about Norm Macdonald having died,” he concluded. “But the only comedian I know who could get away with a ‘Norm Macdonald is dead’ joke is Norm Macdonald. I’m going to miss the fact that there’s nobody left on the planet who can do that and the comedy world is poorer for it today.”
Fallon, who also got his start hosting Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, paid tribute to Macdonald by delivering a pretty solid impression of him and recalling how he memorized his whole act as a young comedy fan, then reciting one of the late comedian’s stand-up bits about buying a dog. “He was a comic’s comic and everyone absolutely loved him top to bottom and he will be missed,” he said.
Kimmel didn’t mention Macdonald during his monologue on Tuesday, but he did pay tribute to him on Twitter, keeping it short and sweet, writing, “Norm didn’t just make us laugh, he made us laugh hard. Rest well, you crazy bastard.”
Macdonald was one of David Letterman’s most frequent guests during his time as host of The Late Show, and the former host issued a statement on Twitter honoring his friend and collaborator. “In every important way, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best,” he wrote. “An opinion shared by me and all peers. Always up to something, never certain, until his matter-of-fact delivery leveled you. I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze. (I’m trying to avoid using the phrase, ‘twinkle in his eyes.’) He was a lifetime Cy Young winner in comedy. Gone, but impossible to forget.”
Like Letterman, Conan O’Brien spent countless hours chopping it up with Macdonald during his time on late-night TV — as host of Late Night, The Tonight Show and eventually Conan — and he too issued a statement about the loss on Twitter. “I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald,” he wrote. “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”
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