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Revisiting Norm Macdonald’s Bob Dole impression after their deaths

A split image of a man against a blue background and an older man against a dark background
Comedian Norm Macdonald, left, and politician Bob Dole both died in 2021.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision; Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

One of Norm Macdonald’s most memorable turns on “Saturday Night Live” was his impression of Bob Dole, the Republican senator and 1996 presidential candidate who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself.

Dole died Sunday of lung cancer at age 98 — not three months after Macdonald died of cancer at age 61.

Before his own death, Dole honored the late Macdonald on social media by sharing a photo from a 1996 “Saturday Night Live” taping that saw the politician join forces with the comedian (in character as Dole) for a sketch making fun of his failed presidential campaign.

While impersonating Dole on “SNL,” a rigid Macdonald often held tightly to a pen or pencil and spoke about himself in the third person.

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Norm Macdonald, who was a writer, performer and ‘Weekend Update’ anchor on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in the ’90s, died Tuesday morning of cancer.

“Norm @normmacdonald was a great talent, and I loved laughing with him on SNL,” the World War II veteran tweeted. “*Bob Dole* will miss Norm Macdonald.”

After losing the 1996 presidency to Democratic candidate Bill Clinton, Dole stopped by New York City’s Studio 8H to film a comedy bit opposite his most famous impersonator.

Dressed in matching suits and ties, the two men traded meta-commentary about about their intertwined career paths. For example: Macdonald jokingly encouraged Dole to run for president again so he could continue playing him on “SNL.”

“It would be good for me,” Macdonald quipped during the segment. “Kind of help keep you on the front pages, you know?”

“Well, believe me, Norm,” Dole said, “running for president doesn’t always keep you on the front pages, unless you, of course, take a dive off of a podium.”

Dole then proceeded to sarcastically thank Macdonald for “noticing” when he famously took a tumble on the presidential campaign trail — an unfortunate moment caught on camera and relentlessly mocked on “Saturday Night Live” in another sketch featuring Macdonald.

“I don’t write a lot of the stuff,” Macdonald, a writer for the sketch comedy series, said, laughing.

During a 1996 cold open following the podium incident, Macdonald’s Dole repeatedly and dramatically fell offstage while making comments such as, “I’m dropping like Bill Clinton’s lead in the polls.”

“But Senator Dole, in the latest polls, President Clinton’s numbers are rising,” countered a news anchor played by Tom Hanks.

“Just like Bob Dole’s rising from the... floor,” Macdonald’s disheveled Dole replied.

For decades he was at the center of Washington and the searing battles within the Republican Party.

While appearing on Conan O’Brien’s late-night program in 1996, Macdonald reflected on the “cool” experience and “honor” of meeting Dole on the set of “SNL.”

“He’s my hero,” Macdonald told O’Brien at the time.

“He’s been my hero for a long time. ... And you know what he did? He gave me his Purple Heart. He has two Purple Hearts, you know. And so, when we were doing it, he put a Purple Heart on my lapel because he had one on his lapel. It was very moving.”


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