The entertainment and poker worlds received the shocking news today that Norm Macdonald has passed away at the age of 61. The legendary comedian, actor, and avid poker player had suffered with cancer for nine years, a diagnosis he did not share with the public.
Now, if this were someone else, we might say that he “lost his battle” with cancer, but because this is Norm Macdonald, we will say it was a draw:
Macdonald was known for his extremely dry sense of humor, a style that didn’t sit well with everyone, but those who got it couldn’t get enough. He was absolutely one of the best late night talk show guests in television history, often saving boring interviews by injecting himself into the conversation when someone else was being interviewed. Part of the fun of Macdonald was that he would often come off as a bit stupid because of his slow delivery and absurdity of his humor, but that was part of the act. He always had a look in his eye and a wry grin on his face, enjoying the fact that some people weren’t in on the joke, while letting the rest of us know he appreciated that we were.
And, of course, he was a master story teller:
Those unfamiliar with Norm Macdonald’s stand-up comedy – and who of are a certain age – probably know him best from his stint as the Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live. His dry delivery combined with his willingness to toe the line of good taste was somewhat controversial. When he received pushback from network executives, he wasn’t afraid to push back.
That he was the anchor during the O.J. Simpson murder trial was perfect for Macdonald, who was more than happy to wring all the jokes he could out of the situation:
As my wife said today, Norm Macdonald was a “comedian’s comedian.”
But of course, while we mourn his passing, the reason we are writing about it here is because Norm Macdonald was an avid poker player. He didn’t have a ton of live tournament results, though he did cash in the World Series of Poker three times and made frequent appearances on celebrity-themed poker television shows.
Perhaps most notably, he parlayed his poker playing and comedy into a gig as co-host of High Stakes Poker’s seventh season, the final season of its original run. At the time, he told PokerNews that he was “kinda nervous, ya know, because HSP is my favorite shows and I don’t want to tear the franchise down.”
In that same interview, he said he originally started playing poker because “I had a huge gambling problem back then and I realized that poker was a way to bleed money way slower.”
“And it worked,” he continued. “I would go down there, play Limit Hold’em and play every hand down until the end and lose [laughs]. Eventually though, somebody – I think it was Joey Bagels – showed pity toward me and gave me a book. After reading the book, I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, I thought poker was just gambling.’ Then I became fascinated with it and now I almost like reading about poker more than playing it.”
Image credit: Team Coco on YouTube