Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald dies at 62
Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald died Saturday at the age of 62.
The comedian’s brother, JP MacDonald, confirmed MacDonald’s death to CBC News on Sunday, saying he died at the Ottawa Heart Institute due to heart complications.
Comedy organizations and local talent expressed their grief Saturday night on social media, saying that Canada lost a legend.
The renowned comedian touched many lives, said Howard Wagman, owner of Yuk Yuks Ottawa, where MacDonald used to perform.
“Mike MacDonald was pretty much the first Canadian superstar in our business,” Wagman said, his voice heavy with emotion. “We’re talking about 40 years and countless comedians that emulated and learned from him, he was a ground breaker, he was an original, he was truly Canadian.”
Born in France, MacDonald grew up on military bases around the world. When his father retired, the family settled in Ottawa where he attended Brookfield High School.
He moved to Toronto in the late 1970s to kick off his career as a comedian, performing at shows across the city.
During his 40-year career, he travelled across North America and appeared on numerous shows, including Just for Laughs, Late Night with David Letterman, The Arsenio Hall Show and the Comedy Club All-Star Show.
Long known as one of Canada’s top standup comedians, he wrote and starred in three CBC specials of his own, including Mike MacDonald; On Target; My House! My Rules; and Happy As I Can Be.
“He connected so well with an audience,” Wagman said. “One of the key things to standup comedy is having a connection with the audience. If they are not in your head, if they are not with you, you cannot sell.”
The comedian’s health trouble began in 2011 when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and waited months for a liver transplant, which he received after an outpouring of support from fans. He returned to the show world shortly after.
“When the career spans 40 years, there are different incarnations of who he was,” said Wagman. “The early days were nothing like what the last decade was like.”
MacDonald battled drug addiction and bipolar disorder in his adult life. He spoke publicly about his difficulties and performed at shows like Stand Up for Mental Health in Ottawa.
MacDonald died in an Ottawa hospital with family by his side, Wagman said.
A host of comedy organizations and Canadian talent paid tributes to the late comedian on social media Saturday night.