He was 61.
Macdonald had been battling cancer for several years but kept his diagnosis private, his friend and producing partner, Lori Jo Hoekstra, told CNN in a statement.
“He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him,” Hoekstra said. “Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.”
Born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, he started in entertainment as a standup comedian who worked the Ottawa club circuit before branching out to clubs across Canada.
He quickly became known for his deadpan and sardonic delivery and in 1987 was given the opportunity to perform at the “Just For Laughs” Comedy Festival in Los Angeles.
That first taste of LA made an impression and Macdonald moved to the city, intent on breaking into Hollywood. He found work writing for the sitcom “Roseanne” in 1992.
He joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” the following year, where he became known for his impressions of David Letterman, Larry King, Burt Reynolds, Quentin Tarantino and others.
But it was as the anchor of the news satire segment “Weekend Update” where Macdonald hit his stride.
He held the position from 1994 to 1998.
Macdonald was rather abruptly and unceremoniously dropped from “Weekend Update,” a decision made by then-NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer. Although it was reported that the executive simply didn’t like Macdonald in that role, there were reports that it had to do jokes that Macdonald had told about O.J. Simpson, who was one of Ohlmeyer’s longtime friends.
Macdonald went on to star in his own comedy series, “The Norm Show,” which ran from 1999-2001.
He also appeared in films like “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Dr. Dolittle 2” and “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.”
Fellow comedians Jon Stewart, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen and more paid tribute to Macdonald on Tuesday.
Senator Bob Dole also paid tribute, tweeting a picture of him and Macdonald in character as Dole.