Norm Macdonald saluted by John Oliver, ‘SNL’ boss Lorne Michaels at 2021 Emmys

A man holding a trophy while speaking and gesturing with his arm outstretched
Comedian John Oliver accepts an award on behalf of “Last Week Tonight” at the 2021 Emmys ceremony.
(Cliff Lipson / CBS via Getty Images)

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver and “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels both paid tribute Sunday to late comedy legend Norm Macdonald while accepting Emmy Awards.

Macdonald — best known for his work as a writer, performer and host of “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1990s — died Sept. 14 at age 61 after a private nine-year battle with cancer.

“Weekend Update has been part of SNL for 46 seasons,” Michaels said while accepting the award for variety sketch series on behalf of the comedy show. “And here I’d like to pay tribute to one of the best we ever had, Norm Macdonald.”


During his acceptance speech for variety talk series, Oliver also saluted fellow nominee Conan O’Brien, whose eponymous late-night program ended earlier this year after an 11-season run on TBS.

The “Saturday Night Live” veteran and stand-up comic, who died this week at 61, was “a regular guy in the form of a question mark,” writes our critic.

Sept. 16, 2021

Oliver and the “Last Week Tonight” team also scored the trophy for writing for a variety series.

“Like many of us in this room, I was kind of rooting for Conan, so this is bittersweet,” Oliver said. “Thank you so much, Conan, for 30 years of inspiring comedy writers.

“And I just want to say, this is an award for late-night comedy. No one was funnier, in the last 20 years, than Norm Macdonald on late-night comedy. So if you have any time in the next week, do what I did and just spend time YouTubing clips of Norm and Conan, because it just doesn’t get better than that.”

Backstage, Michaels elaborated on his relationship with and admiration for Macdonald, who anchored “Weekend Update” on “SNL” for three seasons, from 1994 to 1997.

Find out the winners of this year’s Emmys right here. We’ll be updating the list live throughout the show.

Sept. 19, 2021

“I think he meant the world to people [at ‘SNL’],” Michaels said. “When you work with somebody for that many years and they make you laugh and you’re aware of who they are as a person and as a friend. ... I think Norm was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.”


The prolific TV producer also praised Macdonald’s uncanny ability to draw out a punch line, which he was especially famous for doing while appearing on various talk shows and chatting it up with his comedy peers.

“When he was at the show, I was always just in awe of how long he could take to tell a joke and how long he could pause before he told another joke,” Michaels said. “He never pandered. He was always going to do it the way he wanted to do it. And if you waited, you were really happy you did. I’d call it integrity, but integrity has probably been mentioned 50 times tonight. But he had integrity.”