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Norm MacDonald's Norm Is No Longer The 'SNL' Norm

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Norm MacDonald's Norm Is No Longer The 'SNL' Norm

Decades ago, Saturday Night Live sticking it to NBC was as commonplace as Mary-Katherine Gallagher sticking her hands under her armpits. For vets like Al Franken and Jim Downey, a barb directed at the man — even the man that pays your bills and controls your contracts — was irresistible, and made SNL what it was: unpredictable, unsafe, and, thus, utterly watchable. But, with the loss of Norm MacDonald, the man that personified SNL defiance, the series might have officially reached the end of its gutsy era. Will SNL ever feel as risky again?

Poor decisions aside (ahem, Donald Trump's 2015 hosting gig), the SNL of the 21st century is much changed from the 20th — starting in the late '90s, the series, celebrated as a writers' haven, became more of a performer's medium, eschewing biting corporate and political satire for outlandish characters that only the likes of Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri could bring to life. That wasn't bad, per se — it simply represented a shifting of the tides, intended to attract the mass markets that started to wane following the series' troubled mid-'90s seasons. But it also meant the firing of several towering figures — some shocking (like Adam Sandler, who traded those middling TV ratings to become the definition of mass market almost instantly when Billy Madison was released shortly after his SNL run), and some less shocking, like Norm MacDonald, who pushed the envelope so far, a pink slip popped out.

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