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Why Norm MacDonald Was Left Out of the ‘In Memoriam’ Segment at the Emmys

Photo Credit: CaptainOT / NBC Studios / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: CaptainOT / NBC Studios / MovieStillsDB

Each year, Emmy Awards are given out to recognize merit in the television industry, whether for artistic talent or  the technical production of a series. One of the most cherished elements of the ceremony is the “In Memoriam” segment, which honors those who have passed away.

During the 74th Emmy Awards, many audience members were left shocked when beloved late comedian Norm Macdonald wasn’t featured in the list of those who’d passed in the last year, despite him having a show nominated for multiple awards.

Norm Macdonald’s comedy career

Norm Macdonald became famous for his time on Saturday Night Live, working as a cast member and writer for five seasons. After leaving the show, he went on to star in the 1998 film Dirty Work, and he voice acted in many movies and TV shows. On top of this, he also created his own sitcom and stand-up comedy shows.

Artie Lang and Norm Macdonald as Sam McKenna and Mitch Weaver in 'Dirty Work'
Artie Lange and Norm Macdonald in Dirty Work, 1998. (Photo Credit: zeta2006 / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / MovieStillsDB)

On September 14, 2021, he died at the age of 61 after battling cancer for nine years. He kept his diagnosis private, with his friend Lori Jo Hoekstra saying, “He was most proud of his comedy. He never wanted the [cancer] diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him.”

Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special

The reason so many people noticed that Macdonald was missing from the 2022 “In Memoriam” segment was that his comedy special, Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special, had been announced as one of the nominees for Best Variety Special immediately before the tribute. It was actually nominated for three different awards.

As the special was released after his death in May 2022, it was eligible for nomination, despite Macdonald having already passed. It was filmed at Macdonald’s home in 2020, just before the comedian was set to undergo a medical procedure.

Conan O'Brien speaking in front of a large audience
Conan O’Brien speaks onstage about Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special during Netflix Is A Joke at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California, May 2022. (Photo Credit: Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images for Netflix)

Macdonald always intended to film the show in front of a live audience, but, as was written at the beginning of the special, he “didn’t want to leave anything on the table in case things went south.” His unfinished performance was concluded by recordings of various comedians speaking about their friend after his death.

The 2022 “In Memoriam” segment at the Emmys

The “In Memoriam” segment of the Emmys is a way for creators to honor the most notable TV figures who passed away in the 12 months leading up to the show. It’s displayed as a video tribute, with a performer on stage singing throughout the montage. For 2022, there were many well-known actors honored, including Bob Saget, Betty White and Anne Heche.

John Legend playing piano on stage at the Emmys
John Legend performs onstage during the 74th Primetime Emmys at Microsoft Theater, September 2022. (Photo Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

The performance was put on by singer John Legend, who sang his single “Pieces” while playing the piano. Although the Emmys’ website admits the show is unable to include ever single notable individual, due to time restraints, Macdonald was not cut from the segment because of this.

Where was Norm Macdonald’s In Memoriam?’

As it turns out, Macdonald was included as part of the “In Memoriam” segment at the Emmys, just not the one that took place in 2022. As the 73rd Emmy Awards were held only five days after his death, on September 19, 2021, he was included in the segment that year.

He is also featured on the official Emmys website, which features an “In Memoriam” database. This page allows visitors to search for notable contributors to the Television Academy, and also features personal and award information for those who’ve been included in the televised segment, as well as information on some who haven’t.

Macdonald’s information is included here, and he also received a tribute during the 2021 show, featuring a photo of him sitting at the “Weekend Update” desk on Saturday Night Live while Jon Batiste and Leon Bridges performed the song “River.”

Its own form of tribute

Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special can be seen as a tribute in its own right to the comedian. It’s regarded as a masterclass in the art of stand-up comedy by those who’ve watched it, and there are many who feel it acts almost like Macdonald’s last will and testament.

Norm Macdonald holding up his hand
Norm Macdonald attends the Raising the Stakes for CP celebrity charity poker event benefiting the One Step Closer Foundation’s efforts to fight Cerebral Palsy, June 2019. (Photo Credit: Gabe Ginsberg / Getty Images)

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It’s only 50 minutes long, and includes an additional 30 minutes of discussion at the end. Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Conan O’Brien and Molly Shannon spend this time remembering their friend and discussing what exactly appeared in the special.

As written by CNN, Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special is less morbid and more the comedian “saying goodbye with a little help from his friends.” However, this was not the only form of “In Memoriam” he received.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.