Becoming an internationally-recognized comedian carries the same odds as becoming a supermodel, a movie star, or a rock star. For every comedic millionaire, there are thousands of amateurs launching their careers at local clubs’ open mike nights, and hundreds of professionals scraping by on paychecks that barely pay the bills.
Norm MacDonald was one of the select few who made it big. His talent attracted attention from comedic legends like SNL producer Lorne Michaels. That launched MacDonald’s career from the clubs to the small screen – and from there, he has written and hosted a number of successful projects.
So, how did MacDonald get his start? And what does “made it big” in the comedy world mean? What is Norm MacDonald’s net worth, and how does it stack up to other SNL cast members?
Table of Contents
- Norm MacDonald’s Rise To Fame
- Norm MacDonald: Comedian
- Norm MacDonald Movies and Television
- Norm MacDonald Talk Shows
- Norm MacDonald’s Book
- Norm MacDonald and David Letterman
- How Much Is Norm MacDonald’s Net Worth?
- Norm MacDonald: Gambling
- Norm MacDonald Awards and Honors
- Is Norm MacDonald Married?
- Norm MacDonald Net Worth Summary
Norm MacDonald’s Rise To Fame
Norm MacDonald was born in Canada to a family that had no experience in show business. In fact, his parents were teachers, and his father was a veteran who fought in World War II.
MacDonald had dreams of life as an entertainer, and he started on that path as a stand-up comedian at Ottawa’s Yuk Yuks comedy club.
By his mid-20s, MacDonald was well-known outside of Ottawa, and the movers-and-shakers in the comedy world saw his potential.
He competed on Star Search in 1990, and shortly after that he landed a writing job on the hit series Roseanne.
From there, it didn’t take long for MacDonald to get his big break. He was cast in the legendary Saturday Night Live, and it cemented his place in comedic history.
Norm MacDonald: Comedian
Saturday Night Live gave Norm an opportunity to display his wide-ranging skills, which included uncannily accurate portrayals of people like David Letterman, Larry King, and Quentin Tarantino.
By his second season, MacDonald was selected to host the popular SNL segment “Weekend Update.” His comedic take on current events kept viewers coming back for more.
Of course, the most well-known comedians gain notoriety through controversy, and MacDonald was no exception. The mid-90s was a particularly newsworthy period, which gave MacDonald lots of material.
Fans loved his perspective on courtroom (and Congressional) drama that included allegations against DC Mayor Marion Barry, pop superstar Michael Jackson, President Bill Clinton, and the notorious OJ Simpson.
Not everyone aligned with MacDonald’s perspective on these headline-generating cases, and unfortunately, it seems MacDonald ran afoul of the wrong person. Don Ohlmeyer, President of NBC, SNL’s home channel, was OJ Simpson’s close friend and most fervent supporter – and he didn’t find MacDonald’s anti-OJ humor appropriate.
SNL fired MacDonald in 1998, along with the tenured SNL writer who wrote MacDonald’s jokes. SNL said it was for low ratings, but MacDonald thought it was a bit too coincidental that his employment status changed right around the time Ohlmeyer hosted a celebration for the members of Simpson’s jury.
As it turned out, this was just a minor setback in MacDonald’s career. There was plenty more comedy in his future. In 2006, he released his sketch album Ridiculous, and he filmed comedy special Me Doing Stand-Up in 2011.
In 2017, another comedy special followed. He titled this one Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery.
MacDonald created and starred in The Norm Show (later just Norm), a sitcom that was on the air from March 1999 to April 2001. There was also the short-lived sitcom A Minute with Stan Hooper that ran from October to December of 2003.
Norm MacDonald Movies and Television
Norm MacDonald’s talent is centered in comedy, but he has a range of skill when it comes to execution.
He writes, produces, directs, delivers, and acts, and he has a long list of credits in both movies and television. These include:
- Billy Madison (1995)
- The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
- Dirty Work (1998)
- Dr. Dolittle (1998)
- Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)
- Man on the Moon (1999)
- Screwed (2000)
- The Animal (2001)
- Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)
- Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)
- Farce of the Penguins (2006)
- Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006)
- Senior Skip Day (2007)
- Christmas Is Here Again (2007)
- Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008)
- The Flight Before Christmas (2008)
- Funny People (2009)
- Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (2009)
- Grown Ups (2010)
- Hollywood & Wine (2010)
- Jack & Jill (2011)
- The Adventures of Panda Warrior (2012)
- Vampire Dog (2012)
- The Outback (2012)
- The 7th Dwarf (2014)
- The Ridiculous Six (2015)
- Treasure Hounds (2017)
- Klaus (2019)
- Star Search (1990)
- One Night Stand (1991)
- The Dennis Miller Show (1992)
- Roseanne (1992 – 1993)
- The Jackie Thomas Show (1993)
- Saturday Night Live (1993 – 1999)
- The Larry Sanders Show (1995)
- The Drew Carey Show (1996 & 2000)
- NewsRadio (1997)
- The Norm Show (1999 – 2001)
- Family Guy (2000 & 2017)
- A Minute with Stan Hooper (2003)
- Oliver Beene (2004)
- The Fairly OddParents (2005)
- Back to Norm (2005)
- My Name Is Earl (2007 – 2009)
- The Comedy Central Roast – Bob Saget (2008)
- The Middle (2010 – 2018)
- High Stakes Poker (2011)
- Mike Tyson Mysteries (2014 – 2020)
- Real Rob (2015)
- Last Comic Standing (2015)
- Sunnyside (2015)
- 4th Canadian Screen Awards (2016)
- Skylanders Academy (2016 – 2019)
- Girlboss (2017)
- The Orville (2017 – 2021)
- The Connors (2018)
Norm MacDonald Talk Shows
After SNL, MacDonald’s biggest claims to fame were his talk shows. One in particular – Norm Macdonald Live – was particularly successful. It ran a total of three seasons, from 2013 to 2017.
Other talk shows he hosted over the years included Sports Show with Norm Macdonald (2011), Norm Macdonald Has a Show (2018), and Quarantined (2020).
Norm MacDonald’s Book
Writing has always been a part of Norm MacDonald’s career, beginning with his work on Roseanne.
In addition to a number of contributions to other programs, MacDonald released his New York Times Bestselling book Based on a True Story. To be clear, he has a disclaimer on the cover stating it is “not a memoir”.
In the foreword, fellow comedian Louis C.K. says:
A lot of comics over the years have been compared to Mark Twain, but I think Norm is the only one who actually matches the guy in terms of his voice and ability… Please buy his book. He probably needs the cash. He’s really bad with money.
Norm MacDonald and David Letterman
A defining moment in MacDonald’s career – and indeed, a defining moment in comedic history – was his final appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Alongside entertainment icons like Bill Murray, Bob Dylan, and Tom Hanks, MacDonald was selected from a long list of hopefuls to celebrate Letterman’s retirement from the program.
The compliment was not wasted on MacDonald. After closing his set, MacDonald said this about his late-night hero:
Mr. Letterman is not for the mawkish, and he has no truck for the sentimental. If something is true, it is not sentimental. And I say in truth, I love you.
Letterman responded in kind, offering this description of MacDonald and his work:
If we could have, we would have had Norm on every damn week. He is funny in a way that some people inhale and exhale. With others, you can tell the comedy, the humor is considered. With Norm, he exudes it. It’s sort of a furnace in him because he’s so effortless. The combination of the delivery and his appearance and his intelligence. There may be people as funny as Norm, but I don’t know anybody who is funnier.
Few can claim to have earned this sort of praise from David Letterman.
How Much Is Norm MacDonald’s Net Worth?
Norm MacDonald has had the sort of career that those starting out in standup aspire to emulate.
In addition to his time on Saturday Night Live and an array of other comedy programs, MacDonald’s writing talent earned him a spot in the writers’ room for high-profile sitcoms.
However, Norm MacDonald’s net worth is a relatively low $2.5 million. Certainly, that’s enough to live comfortably, but it pales in comparison to other SNL alumni.
- Seth Meyers’ net worth – $12 Million
- Kenan Thompson’s net worth – $12 million
- Tina Fey’s net worth – $75 Million
- Eddie Murphy’s net worth – $85 million
- Adam Sandler’s net worth – $300 million
What caused the sharp differences between Norm MacDonald’s net worth and that of his SNL colleagues?
Norm MacDonald: Gambling
One of the biggest reasons MacDonald’s fortune is lower than expected has to do with how he spent his SNL earnings. While he worked as a cast member on the program, he earned millions. Unfortunately, he also lost millions through frequent trips to Atlantic City’s casinos.
One night, he was especially lucky, winning a massive six-figures while playing craps. That win prompted a passion for gambling that gradually spiralled into addiction. There were at least three occasions when he lost every cent he had – and once when he lost a shocking $400,000 in a single night.
During the height of his gambling habit, MacDonald became an expert in poker. In 2007, he won $14,608 by achieving 20th place in the World Series of Poker’s No-Limit Texas Hold ’em event. There were 827 contestants that year, which makes his 20th place standing all-the-more impressive.
Eventually, MacDonald was able to overcome his issues with gambling and rebuild his wealth through a variety of projects. As mentioned, today Norm MacDonald’s net worth stands at roughly $2.5 million.
Norm MacDonald Awards and Honors
Awards and honors haven’t really been a part of Norm MacDonald’s career, though he has hosted his share of ceremonies celebrating other entertainers.
Fortunately, MacDonald doesn’t appear to be concerned with this type of recognition. In fact, he had this to say on the subject:
I highly doubt I would be ever offered any sort of award. In the unlikely event that I was, I would not accept in a million years. Unless it was an award given to a book. Then I would accept.
Is Norm MacDonald Married?
Norm MacDonald hasn’t been lucky in love. He was married once, in 1988, to Connie Vaillancourt. The two welcomed son Dylan just about the time MacDonald started on SNL.
As it turned out, life as the wife of a late-night comedian and chronic gambler wasn’t right for Vaillancourt. The couple divorced a few years later.
Generally, MacDonald prefers to avoid the subject of his former wife, but when pressed he does not make jokes at her expense. He simply states that she is a fine person and moves on to the next topic.
Norm MacDonald Net Worth Summary
While Norm MacDonald’s net worth might not match that of other successful SNL cast members, he is very comfortable with wealth estimated at $2.5 million.
MacDonald remains relevant in today’s complex environment, and he is hard at work. Fans can’t get enough of his direct, often-controversial, and always-funny observations.