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The late comedy icon, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 but kept his illness private, was working on new material for a then-untitled Netflix special in 2020 when he had to be suddenly hospitalised.
Macdonald wanted to make sure he taped his show before going in for a procedure “in case things went south”, his long-time producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra revealed in a new interview.
“His test results were not good, so during the heart of the pandemic and literally the night before going in for a procedure, he wanted to get this on tape just in case – as he put it – things went south,” Hoekstra told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It was his intention to have a special to share if something happened,” she continued, adding the footage of Macdonald performing in his living room was forgotten after the Saturday Night Live actor-comedian recovered from the procedure.
However, Macdonald’s health deteriorated again in August and September last year – before he could film the special in front of a live audience – when he remembered he had recorded the show and asked Hoekstra to retrieve the footage for him to review.
“He ended up watching it before he passed away,” the comedian’s frequent collaborator said, also telling the publication that Macdonald suggested the programme be titled Nothing Special before he died on 14 September, aged 61.
The posthumous special is likely the first of its kind, Hoekstra told The Hollywood Reporter.
“From the various conversations I’ve had within our circle of friends in comedy and producing, no one has heard of any comparison to this [situation] — not even close,” she said.
However, Macdonald “didn’t do this for the shock that it exists,” she clarified.
“He shot it because he loved his material and was so proud of [it]... He did it for the stand-up,” Hoekstra said, adding that he “looks great” and the “material is fantastic”.
In addition to Macdonald’s living room set, the special also includes Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, David Spade and Molly Shannon’s conversation about the Canadian comedian at the recently concluded Netflix Is A Joke festival.
Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special will be released on Netflix in the US on 30 May.