The comedy world is reeling over the loss of actor and comedian Norm Macdonald, who passed away at the age of 61 on Tuesday from cancer. With a diverse body of work including films like Dirty Work (1998), his voicework on Hulu's The Orville, and his epic run on Saturday Night Live with his segments on "Weekend Update" striking gold during the OJ Simpson trial. He reminded the world how much Germans love actor David Hasselhoff (much of it due to his singing career) and helped to create the "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek. The actor also starred on his own self-titled sitcom Norm on ABC that lasted three seasons from 1999-2001. One such episode featured actor and comedian Richard Pryor in his final appearance before retirement and his eventual passing in 2005.
Recruiting Richard Pryor for Sitcom Norm
Norm featured a wide range of comedic talent from the sitcom world, including Laurie Metcalf, Ian Gomez, Max Wright, Nikki Cox, and Faith Ford. Macdonald also included Artie Lange, with who he co-starred in Dirty Work. Co-created by Bruce Helford (The Conners), the series starred Macdonald as Norm Henderson, who's an ex-hockey player who's banned from the sport for life for gambling and tax evasion. He's sentenced to five years of community service where he has to become a social worker with similar misfits or go to prison. In the second season episode "Norm vs. the Boxer," Norm sees the wheelchair-bound Mr. Johnson (played by Pryor), who in real-life was struggling with multiple sclerosis. Norm accuses Johnson of attacking his previous caseworkers, which he didn't deny. Behind Norm's back, Johnson chucks something at him knocking things down off a wall before turning back around, now accusing Norm of the very same thing.
Before being able to tell the office to ban him from ever getting help again, Johnson climbs on Norm's back in a struggle. After getting Johnson back into his wheelchair, Norm shows the office how vicious the frail old man is as he just sits there. Believing Johnson's faking it, he picks him up to try to rile him up before throwing him onto the floor, in perhaps one of the funniest cold openings in the series' history. Obviously, precautions had to be made with safety given Pryor's physical condition. But for audiences who followed his work his entire career, it was one hell of a way to go out on top and it was Macdonald's respect for Pryor that made the opportunity happen.