'He was the gold standard': Late-night hosts pay tribute to Norm Macdonald
Beloved comedian and former Saturday Night Live star Norm Macdonald passed away Tuesday at age 61 after a years-long battle with cancer. Following news of his passing, late night hosts including Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon took the time to honor the late comedian, sharing their own personal stories about how Macdonald impacted not just their careers, but the world of comedy in general.
Meyers, who joined SNL in 2001 and was a cast member at the same time as Macdonald, took a few dedicated moments out of his monologue to reflect on their relationship. While noting, "I do not think that Norm would want to hear anything sentimental," Meyers did share memories of the first time he met his friend, as well as his favorite "Weekend Update" joke.
"SNL 40th was two years ago. I got to stand on stage with Colin Quinn and Kevin Nealon and Norm, and the SNL 40th was the night where everyone just got a couple things to say," Meyers recalled, adding that the four comedians spoke before introducing Chevy Chase. "I remember we all said our lines and then Norm just started talking. None of it was what he was supposed to say. I remember laughing really hard — not at what Norm was saying, as much as the idea that any of us thought Norm would play by anyone else's rules on any night."
The host concluded his tribute somberly, saying "he was the gold standard, and he will continue to be the gold standard."
James Corden invited his show's head writer Ian Karmel and bandleader Reggie Watts to share their memories of Macdonald, acknowledging the star's decision not to share the diagnosis of his cancer.
"All Norm ever wanted to do was make us laugh and he was absolutely brilliant at it. There was nobody quite like him," said Corden. "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." After sharing how Macdonald once came onto the show and told a joke about Mickey Mouse out of the blue, Corden thanked him "for the laughs" and concluded "we'll never, ever forget them."
Fallon also paid tribute to his former SNL cast member and friend, calling him "the greatest comedian ever." Around 11 minutes into his opening monologue, Fallon recalled the first time he saw Macdonald on television back in the '80s, when he would videotape comedians on television and memorize everyone's act.
Imitating his unique accent, Fallon retold (from memory) the stand-up joke about buying a dog that he saw the comedian performing. He also talked about how he met Macdonald at breakfast shortly after he got the Weekend Update gig. Fallon remembered how the moment caused him to unleash his inner fanboy, while Macdonald's response was simply to point out fellow legend Bob Newhart, who he was eating breakfast with.
"He was the best, he was a comic's comic and everyone absolutely loved him top to bottom and he will be missed," Fallon concluded.
Colbert noted that although he only worked with Macdonald briefly on SNL when he was a guest writer, the comedian took him under his wing and let him write "Weekend Update" jokes. Calling him "the greatest host of 'Weekend Update,'" Colbert admitted that he wished he were "a good enough comedian to come up with a joke right now about Norm Macdonald having died."
"The only comedian I know who could get away with a 'Norm Macdonald is dead' joke is Norm Macdonald," Colbert said, before adding "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."