Norm MacDonald Remembered by ‘The Middle’ Co-Star Patricia Heaton

The death of comedian Norm MacDonald caused an outpouring of condolences from Hollywood elite. Known for his memorable five-year run on Saturday Night Live, MacDonald had an impressive list of credits to his name. With film roles, his own series, and writing for the hit sitcom Roseanne, the actor also brought his comedic genius to ABC’s The Middle in a hilarious recurring character.

Norm McDonald performs during KAABOO Del Mar at Del Mar Fairgrounds
Norm McDonald | Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Norm MacDonald played ‘Rusty’ on ‘The Middle’

The Middle was a staple in ABC’s lineup from 2009 to 2018. MacDonald had 10 guest appearances throughout the sitcom’s run as Rusty, the lovable but oddball brother of Mike Heck (Neil Flynn). Patricia Heaton portrayed Mike’s wife Frankie for all nine seasons, and posted a tribute to her former co-star along with a clip from the show.

“One of the sweetest, funniest and most original people I have ever met,” Heaton wrote on Instagram. “A free thinker with a truly creative mind and a deep intelligence.”

Fans echoed Heaton’s words, sharing their own tributes to the late comedian and his unforgettable contribution to The Middle.

“Many of my favorite episodes of The Middle were the ones that Uncle Rusty showed up on! RIP Norm Macdonald,” one fan wrote. “’Rusty’ was so genuine and honest. A true gem. May he Rest In Peace,” another posted. “I loved his part on The Middle. Such a funny guy,” a follower commented.

RELATED: Norm Macdonald Once Claimed He Lost His ‘SNL’ Job Because of O.J. Simpson

‘SNL’ alum kept his diagnosis under wraps

MacDonald was 61 at the time of his death. News of his cancer diagnosis took many by surprise since the actor kept his illness under wraps for 11 years. His producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra explained why he chose to keep quiet about his health.

“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra said, according to BBC. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.”

While MacDonald’s talent was evident through his standup, film and TV appearances, and talk show run, his turn on SNL remains legendary. His impersonations of top names including Andy Rooney, Clint Eastwood, David Letterman, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Bean and Rod Serling, as well as heading Weekend Update, made MacDonald a household name.

Norm MacDonald wanted to stick with standup

The Canadian-born personality began performing standup comedy in 1985 in Ottawa comedy clubs. Hitting the big and small screens had never been on his radar.

“I never wanted fame at all, I just wanted to do stand-up,” MacDonald The Ottawa Citizen in 2010. “I found when I came to Los Angeles to do more stand-up comedy that people wanted me to do other things, which I really didn’t want to.”

Though many Hollywood heavyweights started out as standup comedians, such as Eddie Murphy, Ray Romano, and Adam Sandler, MacDonald didn’t see the segue as a sure thing.

“Stand-up is an odd kind of job,” he remarked. “If you’re good at it, they figure you’ll be good at other stuff in show business, which is usually not the case.”

Comic greats including close friend Conan O’Brien shared their grief at the loss of MacDonald. “I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald,” O’Brien wrote on social media. “I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”