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NORM MacDONALD Funny Standup Comedian

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What can be said about Norm MacDonald that any true fan does not know about him? The man was born Norman Gene MacDonald on October 17, 1963, in Quebec City, Canada. Norm’s two siblings, Neil and Leslie, are both Canadian newscasters. According to older brother Neil, “My father thought he was nuts,” Neil remembers Norm drifting from job to job, even playing chess for money on the streets of Philadelphia. “He lived in a kind of fantasy world. He was going to be a gambler for a while, although he’d never been inside a casino. He had showbiz in his head, but he never seemed to put it to use.”

According to an article in the Canadian press, the future Weekend Update host almost became a serious journalist when Neil landed him an interview at the Ottawa Citizen. “When he was asked why he wanted to become a reporter, Norm said something about wanting to discover the truth,” remembers Neil. But without a driver’s license, MacDonald couldn’t take the job. As he later explained to Neil, he “kinda hoped the truth was in walking distance.”

Within walking distance, once his family moved to Ottawa, was a comedy club. At 21, Norm MacDonald worked up enough nerve to try out. His family was stunned. “He was a shy and sensitive boy. Seriously!” Neil says. “Comedy was an unlikely job for him, period.” Neil remembers that his brother was so nervous, “he would hyperventilate in the bathroom before he went out. He had a real problem with the idea of facing an audience.”

Eventually, Norm MacDonald began to loosen up, and got his big break at the 1987 Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. “He went up on stage, this skinny, wiry guy, and did such bright, intelligent, twisted material, people were knocked out,” says festival director Andy Nulman.

MacDonald eventually took his act to the States, where he wrote for “Roseanne” and “The Dennis Miller Show” before joining the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff in 1993. Soon after, Lorne Michaels gave him an on-air shot reading quirky Weekend Update editorials; within a year, he replaced Kevin Nealon in the anchor chair.

Norm MacDonald was able to revitalize the Weekend Spot which had become stale for some time. Even Chevy Chase said Norm was one of the best. Norm’s dead-on impressions of Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole were also notable.

Fans loved him and everything seemed to be going fine and well, until Don Ohlmeyer, President of NBC on the West Coast, demanded that Norm be fired from the Weekend Update for ‘not being funny’. Many insiders feel that the real reason he was fired was because he made constant jokes about OJ Simpson, a good friend of Ohlmeyer. Norm was fired from Weekend Update in December 1997, and then left the show in March 1998.

A little later in 1998, Norm’s first movie, “Dirty Work,” came out to theaters, which didn’t do quite well at the box office. Norm’s fans loved it because the movie was all about Norm’s great humor that they grew to know and love. To this day, the movie has become a cult classic. Not burning any bridges behind him, Norm MacDonald went back to host SNL on October 23, 1999, with Eminem and Dr. Dre as musical guests.

In March 1999, Norm tried his hand at a sitcom he created with Bruce Helford, the man behind Drew Carey. “Norm” lasted 3 seasons on ABC. During its run, Norm starred in “Screwed,” which was also panned by critics.

Norm was out of the spotlight for a while, but continued to amuse audiences with his late night chatter with David Letterman, Dennis Miller, Jay Leno, Howard Stern and Conan O’Brien. A new Norm emerged in October 2003, when Norm joined forces with Barry Kemp, the man behind “Newhart” and “Coach.” “A Minute with Stan Hooper” was a softer approach for Norm and a critic favorite. Norm played the straight man for once.

Despite FOX never advertising the show (literally), it still got respectable rating. Yet, it still got cancelled after 6 episodes. Norm returned in the summer of 2005 with “Back to Norm”, a one-episode “special” that ran on Comedy Central. It featured several sketches from Norm including a parody of Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes. It never got picked up for additional episodes.

Norm’s distinct voice has paid off for Norm professionally. He has voiced “Lucky” the dog in three “Dr. Doolittle” movies. He’s also voiced “Death” for one episode of “Family Guy” and the Genie for “The Fairly Odd Parents”.  Norm can also be heard in the Bob Saget film, “Farce of the Penguins”. Later in 2007, Norm MacDonald can be heard as “Buster” in the animated flick, “Christmas is Here Again”.

Norm MacDonald also plays on the hit TV show, “The Middle”, has played Colonel Sanders for Kentucky Fired Chicken, and regularly performs in Las Vegas.

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