Norm Macdonald was throughout his career celebrated as one of the most innovative and subtle comics of his generation, praise that only increased after his tragic death Tuesday at age 61 from cancer. From his absolutely selling Burt Reynolds as “Turd Ferguson,” to salvaging a potentially terrible late night moment, Macdonald’s total commitment to his jokes turned nonsense into brilliance over and over.
And as it turns out, he was so good at it that only his most die hard fans noticed one of his best long-running gag: The way Macdonald constantly, and inconsistently, lied about his age.
Now to be clear, we’re not calling Macdonald a liar. He was doing a bit, and one that he carried through almost his entire career. It’s just that he did it so subtly it was really easy to miss. For instance, in a show at The Improv that MacDonald did in March 2020, when he referred to himself as “68 years young.”
Of course, as those of you who read the great comic’s obituaries know, he was born Sep. 24, 1959 and died at age 61.
This was of course far from the only time he did this of course. In the video at the top of the page you can see multiple examples of Macdonald doing this bit. For instance, when he claimed during a 2003 appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” that he was 61 years old — which means he would have been born in 1942.
Or when he claimed during an appearance “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” that he was actually younger than O’Brien, who was born in 1963.
In 2016, Macdonald explained the whole gag during an interview with Newsday. We’ll quote the relevant bit in full:
You were born Oct. 17, 1959, but until recently told people 1963. Why?
Heh heh heh heh! . . . Well, when I started doing stand-up, [reporters would] interview me before the show and I’d tell everyone a different story: I’m a juggler or I’m a bagpipe player. I’d just make up things. Basically I just wanted to get a bunch of newspaper clippings that all said [crazy] things about me and put them on my wall. I think that’s where it started, and then whoever writes Wikipedia put it in and I just agreed with it.
Yes, we know even then, the date of birth differs from his official birthday. We are fairly certain that’s because even then, he was doing a bit. Of course we also reached out to his reps so, if we get any clarification as to which one of his many purported ages is correct, we will let you know. Meanwhile, enjoy a comedy genius consistently being brilliant in the clips above.