Comedian Tom Green shares memories of Norm Macdonald
OTTAWA -- An outpouring of love, laughs and affection has been felt across Canada and the comedy world Tuesday upon the passing of Norm Macdonald.
The Canadian comedian, best known for his time on "Saturday Night Live" died Tuesday at the age of 61 after a lengthy and private battle with cancer.
Macdonald was born in Quebec but he spent some time in Ottawa as a teenager, where he attended Gloucester High School. He was also briefly enrolled at Algonquin College.
Comedian Tom Green, himself an Ottawa native, spoke to Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" on Tuesday shortly after the news broke. Green remembered seeing Macdonald perform on stage when he was just getting started.
"He was from Ottawa; he went to Gloucester High School. I always considered him an Ottawa boy," Green said. "When I was a kid, I started doing standup comedy myself at Yuk Yuk's and that was before Norm had his big break, before he was on SNL. I was probably 15 years old, going down to the basement of the Beacon Arms Hotel, where Yuk Yuk's was on Albert Street, and Norm was probably in his mid-20s and he was unlike anybody I'd ever seen on stage."
Green said Macdonald was doing "a different kind of comedy" than anything he'd seen on TV and he found it inspirational.
"His deadpan voice and delivery was something that was very new and it made me inspired as a kid because I knew he was from Ottawa and here he was up on stage being funnier than anybody I'd ever seen on TV. Shortly after those first years starting standup, we heard Norm had moved to Los Angeles."
Macdonald got a job as a writer for the sitcom "Roseanne" in 1992 before becoming the face of "Weekend Update" on SNL a year later.
But Green remembers Macdonald as a man who was always willing to talk as his own career began.
"It made me so happy when I eventually did move down to Los Angeles myself and I was doing my show that Norm was very generous with his time. I don't know if it because I was from Ottawa," he said. "When I was doing my Internet talk show in my living room in the early 2000s, we would just sit up there on air and stream, before web streaming was a thing, and have laughs like you wouldn't believe."
Green said Macdonald's comedy sprang from his intelligent mind.
"The thing about Norm is he was such a brilliant guy. He would find ways to talk about subjects that you wouldn’t normally find yourself talking about and then he'd find comedy in them in places that you would never expect," Green said. "His delivery was incredible. His whole way about him was very unique and just hilarious. For me, I was so in awe of him it made for an interesting show because I was just so excited that he was coming up to my house. He would come up time and time again."
Green and Macdonald grew to know each other following his appearances on Green's show. The pair would spend time together long after the cameras stopped rolling.
"After the show would end—and this happened every time—the show would end around midnight and Norm would want to stay and we'd end up going and sitting in my office—and at the time YouTube was kind of a new thing—and we'd sit there late into the night watching comedy on YouTube," he said. "It always made me feel so nice that Norm would stay there after every time and we got to know each other really well."
Green said he never knew of Macdonald's cancer diagnosis. He found out about it Tuesday as the news broke.
"As a cancer survivor myself, I know how complex and stressful that can be. I wish, in some ways, that he reached out to me and talked about it because I could have been there for him as a cancer survivor," Green said. "But I like to think that he must have felt that there was some element of surprise. He always felt that it was good to have an element of surprise and a good joke, a great joke has to surprise you. It seems to be maybe his final point was to catch us all off guard one last time. A showman to the end."
--With files from The Canadian Press.