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One of modern comedy’s greatest talents made one final stand-up special before he passed away — and it’s been kept a secret, until now.
The acclaimed Saturday Night Live actor-comedian known for his deadpan delivery was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 but kept his illness private. He was working on new material for a Netflix special when he had to go into the hospital in the summer of 2020.
“His test results were not good, so during the heart of COVID-19 pandemic and literally the night before going in for a procedure, he wanted to get this on tape just in case — as he put it — things went south,” Lori Jo Hoekstra, Macdonald’s longtime producing partner, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was his intention to have a special to share if something happened.”
The result was a stand-up special shot in Macdonald’s living room. The actor filmed the entire hour in a single take. “He looks great and the material’s fantastic,” Hoekstra says.
As it turned out, Macdonald made it through the medical procedure just fine and the footage was literally tossed in a closet. But Macdonald became very ill a year later, before his special could be properly filmed before an audience. “He ended up getting sicker last August and September, and he remembered he had shot this and asked me to find it so he could watch it,” Hoekstra says. “He ended up watching it before he passed away.” Macdonald even suggested a characteristically self-deprecating title for the hour: Nothing Special.
Netflix will release the surprise program — Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special‚ on May 30.
The stand-up hour is likely a first in the world of comedy — a postmortem last joke and testament from a comic who relished defying convention. “From the various conversations I’ve had within our circle of friends in comedy and producing, no one has heard of any comparison to this [situation] — not even close,” says Hoekstra, who in addition to Nothing Special, also produced Macdonald’s ABC sitcom Norm and his Netflix talk show Norm Macdonald Has a Show
The program will include clips of Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, David Spade and Molly Shannon discussing Macdonald during the recent Netflix Is a Joke Fest.
“It makes me so happy that I can share it, but also so sad that we can’t share it with him,” Hoekstra says. “He didn’t do this for the shock that it exists. He shot it because he loved his material and was so proud of his material. He worked so hard and it really would’ve bothered him to have done all that work and not been able to show everybody. He did it for the stand-up. I just hope people appreciate that he did this.”
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