‘Saturday Night Live’: Norm Macdonald Explained Why He Hated Audience Applause

Former Saturday Night Live comedian Norm Macdonald certainly left his mark on the world of the show and the genre of comedy. He led one of the most successful parts of the late-night sketch show for quite some time, but he went on to other big projects after his exit. However, Saturday Night Live was only one instance where Macdonald hated to hear the audience applaud for a very specific reason.

Norm Macdonald was on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for 5 years

'Saturday Night Live' Norm Macdonald with a closed-mouth smile. He's wearing zip-up jacket and a grey crewneck shirt underneath.
Norm Macdonald | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Before Saturday Night Live, Macdonald worked as a television writer on Roseanne and The Dennis Miller Show. He was brought onboard the skit show in 1993 as a writer and a cast member. Macdonald remained on the show for five seasons, where he worked on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment for almost four seasons.

Macdonald provided the show with a variety of hilarious celebrity impressions, such as Quentin Tarantino, David Letterman, and Larry King. He wasn’t afraid to bring edgy humor to Saturday Night Live, including some of the most sensitive subjects in the public discourse. However, this would occasionally get him into trouble with specific communities, and sometimes even with the producers behind the scenes.

‘Saturday Night Live’ star Norm Macdonald hated audience applause

According to James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ Live From New York, Macdonald “hated” it when the Saturday Night Live audience applauded. Producer Don Ohlmeyer and his crew thought every joke should fill the room with laughter and applause, but Macdonald heavily disagreed.

“I don’t like an audience applauding because to me that’s like a cheap kind of high,” Macdonald said. “They kind of control you. They’re like, ‘Yeah, we agree.’ That’s all they’re doing, saying they agree with your viewpoint. And while you can applaud voluntarily, you can’t laugh voluntarily—you have to laugh involuntarily—so I hate when an audience applauds.”

However, Macdonald didn’t want his bits to simply be statements that the crowd agreed with. Rather, he wanted to say something unexpected that they weren’t expecting to come from him. “Update” ratings continued to drop, even though the comedian had a specific vision that he wanted to follow.

He moved onto other media projects

Saturday Night Live‘s “Update” would ultimately result in Macdonald’s exit from the show. Colin Quinn replaced him in 1998, but via The New York Times, the comedian wasn’t kicked from the show only due to ratings. Macdonald was convinced that it was over O. J. Simpson jokes that took place throughout the court trial, which offended Ohlmeyer.

Nevertheless, Macdonald would move onto other projects after Saturday Night Live. He starred in 1998’s Dirty Work, which his close friend, Bob Saget, directed. Additionally, he had his own sitcom called The Norm Show. Unfortunately, Macdonald died in Sept. 2021 as a result of leukemia at the age of 61.

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