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The smartest comedians portray themselves as the dumbest; Norm Macdonald was the best at this sleight of hand. He graduated high school at 14, read Russian literature in his downtime, and had long philosophical discussions with clergy. Norm also gambled, repeatedly trading all his earthly wealth for a queen of diamonds or a Habs’ hat trick. The sleight of hand was best left on stage but he learned from the experience. Macdonald was a student of human nature first, comedy second.
Norm died Tuesday at 61 following a secret decade-long battle with cancer. A terrible description, since he thought it cruel to say someone “lost their battle” with the dread disease. “If you die, the cancer dies at the same time,” he said in one of his stand-up specials. “That’s not a loss, it’s a draw.”
Macdonald’s finest moments were unexpected. His famed “roast” of friend Bob Saget that was nothing but corny one-liners from a 1930s jokebook. Talk show appearances with Conan O’Brien and David Letterman with made-up anecdotes and rambling seven-minute jokes.