Norm Macdonald Dies at 61: Comedy Icon as Burt Reynolds in SNL’s ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ is Still an All-Time Sketch

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Norm Macdonald could disappear into the character of Burt Reynolds. And those scenes from Saturday Night Live still are the kind of funny that makes you laugh the air out of your lungs.

Macdonald, who died Tuesday at the age of 61, was known most for Weekend Update on SNL. But he also often did Reynolds when SNL did Celebrity Jeopardy.

Remember those scenes? Will Ferrell portrayed Alex Trebek, who tsked his way through the crazy celebrities. Norm Macdonald was Reynolds and Darrell Hammond always was an obnoxious Sean Connery.

Macdonald wore a black leather blazer with a bolo tie and a red shirt. He always was chewing on gum. And then he’d give that wicked smile. Sporting a black wig and darkened eyebrows, Macdonald even looked like Reynolds, with all of Reynolds’ swagger and cool nonchalance.

Norm Macdonald Made Burt Reynolds Funnier By Changing His Name

But Norm Macdonald also did Burt Reynolds with a twist. He called him, “Turd Ferguson.”

A befuddled Ferrell as Trebek would ask why he picked that name. And Macdonald would reply: “Turd Ferguson, it’s a funny name.” So why not? As the sketch went on, Macdonald wouldn’t answer Ferrell unless he was called by his new name.

In one version of the skit, Macdonald supplemented his Reynolds wardrobe by putting on a giant yellow cowboy hat.

And Norm Macdonald always was deliberately obtuse as Reynolds. One Final Jeopardy question asked the contestants to write down any number. Any number would be the correct answer. How could mess that up?

When Ferrell got to Reynolds, Turd Ferguson said “don’t bother, I didn’t write anything down.”

As Reynolds, Macdonald Claimed Christmas Was His Birthday

Trebek also quizzed the panel about holidays. What holiday was on Dec. 25. Reynolds buzzed in. It was his birthday.

Another time, Ferrell, as Trebek, read one of the Jeopardy answers that all but identified the Burt Reynold’s movie Cannonball Run. Nobody buzzed in. Finally, an exasperated Ferrell told Macdonald “you might want to answer this.” So Macdonald, as Reynolds, said “Shakespeare.” The celebrities always played for a charity. The Reynolds character wanted his money donated to the Palm Beach Golf and Tennis Resort.

Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was Macdonald’s long-time friend and manager, announced Macdonald’s death. The comedian had suffered from cancer for a decade. But he kept his health condition private a secret.

“He was most proud of his comedy,” Hoekstra told Deadline. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.”

Norm Macdonald was a member of the SNL cast from 1993-98. Check out one of the classic skits.

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