Tuesday September 14, 2021 at 9:03 pm

Norm Macdonald, a comedian from Canada known for his stint as the host of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, passed away at age 61 after a decade-long battle with cancer. Macdonald was an avid poker player and sports bettor. Macdonald cashed in a trio of World Series of Poker events, won two lo-fi Aria nightly tournaments, and was briefly sponsored by PokerStars during the height of the online poker boom in the late 2000s.

NormWSOPMacdonald
Pic by Amy Calistri

I first encountered Norm Macdonald in the poker world back in the mid-2000s. Macdonald was one of many celebrities from LA that played poker in other celebrity home games and charity events during the apex of the glorious poker boom at the onset of the 2000s. He also played in the World Series of Poker a couple of times, but only had three modest cashes to show for it.

Back in the mid-00s, Macdonald participated in Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown TV series in an episode that included Michael Ian Black, Star Jones Reynolds, Adam Rodriguez, and Jeremy Sisto. Macdonald knocked out Rodriguez on the first hand of the tournament, which was the only time a bustout actually occurred during five seasons of the show. Macdonald's Carte Roi de carreauCarte Valet de pique defeated Rodriguez's Carte Dame de carreauCarte 10 de trèfle. The flop was Carte Roi de cœurCarte Dame de piqueCarte Valet de cœur and fireworks ensued. Macdonald rivered a full house and Rodriguez called with just two pair.

Macdonald played at the 2006 WPT Celebrity Invitational and the 2006 World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas. He played in a bunch of WSOP events over the years and even was patched up by PokerStars in 2007. According to Hendon Mob, Macdonald cashed in three WSOP events with one back in 2007 and twice in 2019. His biggest score to date was a Bellagio tournament in 2006 in which he finished n third place for a $20K score. Macdonald also won a couple of $100 nightly tournaments at the Aria in 2013 and 2019.

No one did a better Burt Reynolds impression better than Norm Macdonald, which he unleashed during one of SNL's classic Jeopardy! sketches. The comedian was a writer and host of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live in the mid-1990s before he got fired for telling a controversial joke about OJ Simpson. At the time, Simpson still had ties with NBC executives and producers, but Macdonald rankled the network suits. Don Ohlmeyer strong-armed Lorne Michaels to fire Macdonald and he lost his coveted position at Weekend Update.

In the late 1980s, Dennis Miller was the host of Weekend Update before he was replaced y Kevin Nealon in 1991. Macdonald hosted for a couple of years, but kicked off Weekend Update midway through his third season and Season 23 after the OJ Joke in December 1997. Colin Quinn filled in for Macdonald the remainder of Season 23.

However, even before the OJ joke, Macdonald was a polarizing figure on SNL. Ohlmeyer thought he wasn't funny, despite Michaels' endorsement. You either loved him on SNL, or hated him. He had a sort of dry and sarcastic wit, which Gen Xers loved, but he came off cold and mercurial to others that didn't vibe with his abrasive sense of humor. Same goes for his sardonic stand-up act. Fans adored his quirky storytelling abilities that were slightly divergent from your classical comedian. Perhaps being born in Montreal and growing up Canadian was one of the reasons why Macdonald was slightly off center. He could gauge and critique American culture from the inside, especially in Hollywood, but always had the outsider perspective as a Canadian.

Like a true gambler, Macdonald loved Las Vegas. Sin City was a fun place for someone with proclivities to action like Macdonald between the poker, pit games, and sports betting. Macdonald shared his sports betting degeneracy on his podcast and legendary gambling benders to Vegas.

Macdonald suffered from cancer the last decade or so, but the comedian did not publicly discuss his medical condition, which is why his passing was an utter surprise to fans.

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