The Time Norm Macdonald Was Asked to Leave The State of Iowa
Comedian Norm Macdonald passed away today at the age of 61. CNN and others have reported that Macdonald suffered from cancer and kept his condition silent for nearly a decade. Whether or not you like Macdonald's style of dry humor, he was beloved by comedians worldwide. When we had the chance to chat with Whitney Cummings earlier this year, she raved about Macdonald. When we asked if she'd ever heard about his infamous performance at the University of Iowa, she exclaimed 'No!' The story is legendary in U of I circles. Hilarious, depending on who you ask about it. Even though Norm is gone, the story of the night he torched the University of Iowa will live on forever.
The following account of that night's activities comes from an article back in 2017 from the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Back on June 22nd, 1997, then cast members of 'Saturday Night Live' Norm Macdonald, Jim Breuer, and Darrell Hammond performed their respective stand-up acts at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa. The three men were all standouts on the show, but Macdonald was the big star, known for his time at the Weekend Update desk and his impersonation of Burt Reynolds.
For many years, AEGON, now TransAmerica, held a golf tournament in Iowa City to raise money for the Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame and Finkbine Golf course renovations. An entertainment program proceeded the golf event. That fateful night in 1997, the show featuring the three famous comedians was open to people playing in the tournament, and to the public. A packed house of 2,000 people crowded into Hancher to see the SNL actors. According to a review of the show and a news story published in the Gazette, Hammond and Breuer went first. Hammond provided dead on impersonations, while Breuer mainly dealt in jokes about pot and booze. And then came Norm.
It appears that Iowa officials thought that the comedians would all give performances similar to what they did on Saturday Night Live. Macdonald had no such plans. His act, according to then Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby "would be considered to be in very bad taste in nearly every venue in America". Needless to say, it was VERY NSFW. Audience members began to walk out. Parents with children in tow left Hancher stunned at what they were hearing. And Norm Macdonald loved it. Every awkward moment. Iowa officials were clearly not amused. Just how upset were they? They yanked Macdonald's invite to play in the golf tournament the next day. Banned him from the course.
Don't think Norm loved it? In a Rolling Stone feature on SNL in November of 1997, the writer visited Norm's office at 30 Rock. Hanging on a bulletin board were two letters. The first, from Bob Dole, whom Macdonald often impersonated on SNL. The second? A letter from the University of Iowa telling him they had withdrawn his invitation to play in their celebrity golf tournament.
RIP Mr. Macdonald.