I was eating lunch with a colleague last Tuesday when I received one of the worst texts of my life:
“Norm is dead,” my friend texted me.
I spent the next minute ignoring the person I was sharing a table with as I tried to figure out whether or not it was true.
Not only did it turn out to be true, but it was also revealed that my hero had been hiding a nearly decade-long battle with cancer.
I held my composure for as long as I could, until I left the restaurant and got into my car, where I wept.
I’ve never grieved so hard for a person I had never personally met before.
Some people look up to musicians, some look up to athletes, I looked up to a comic.
I can still remember the first time I heard a Norm MacDonald joke. When I was in my early teens, my cousin told me the Canadian stand-up comic’s professor of logic joke at dinners; it was probably the funniest joke I had ever heard at that point in my life.
Ever since then, MacDonald has been my favorite comic.
I’m not alone in thinking this. There are very few things that can unite Twitter, and Norm MacDonald is one of them. It’s astonishing how many tweets I’ve seen from people across the political spectrum memorializing his life. I’m not sure how often Jimmy Kimmel, Ben Shapiro and Nickelback all agree with each other, but it can’t be too common.
No one has influenced my sense of humor greater than MacDonald. His name was one I brought up in conversation ad nauseum, much to the dismay of my friends who were often forced to listen to me rant and rave about why he was — no, is — the greatest comic of all time.
I’m someone who is obsessed with comedy. I’ve listened to countless stand up specials and thousands of jokes. I’ve done improv comedy for one-third of my existence.
Improv is my life. It’s something I won’t shut up about. I’ve done improv since my freshman year of high school. I’m now a senior at UB, and I’m the president of the improv club on campus. I don’t know if I would have ever gone down this path if my cousin hadn’t told me that professor of logic joke.
As I sit here grieving for my hero, I’m trying to figure out how to say goodbye to a man I never met.
I’ve spent the last week watching some of his highlights: him giving the final monologue on the Late Show with David Letterman; him joking about OJ Simpson on SNL’s Weekend Update; him giving over his moth joke, his professor of logic joke, all of his most popular jokes. Each joke made me laugh just as hard as the first time I had heard them all those years ago.
As I sat there reading comments, tweets and stories about his passing, there was one joke of his that I kept seeing over and over again that I think is fitting to end this with:
“I’m pretty sure — I’m not a doctor — but I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer also dies at exactly the same time. That, to me, is not a loss. That’s a draw.”
Rest in peace Norm, you will be dearly missed.
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