Norm Macdonald brought Burt Reynolds to life on Saturday Night Live — or at least a fantasized version of the actor who liked to crack jokes at Alex Trebek’s expense, and scribble funny names on his Jeopardy screen.
On Thursday, the former SNL star took to Twitter to mourn the loss of actor Burt Reynolds, who died of a heart attack. Macdonald was famous for playing Reynolds on the show’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch, one of the most memorable of the 1990s. In the wake of Reynolds’ sudden death, many have reflected on the iconic portrayal, and Macdonald himself took to Twitter to pay his respects.
“Big Burt is up in heaving slapping around little Bert,” Macdonald wrote.
As Entertainment Weekly noted, Macdonald reflects fondly on the role and said he wanted to bring to life a childhood icon the best way he remembered him. As the comedian explained, he specifically wanted to portray the Smokey and the Bandit-era Reynolds.
“The Celebrity Jeopardy sketch — the reason I really did it is because I wanted to do [my] Burt Reynolds [impression],” Macdonald said in an interview with Howard Stern, saying his impression was “Burt Reynolds from 1972.”
But as the report added, the impression ended up being something other than Burt Reynolds.
“To call Macdonald’s performance an ‘impression’ would be generous; instead, the comedian took the idea of Reynolds — a macho ’70s sex symbol — and transformed him into an aloof, gum-smacking wisea**. (Well, maybe not ‘wise’; in his inaugural Jeopardy outing, Reynolds can’t even guess the right answer to a clue about his own movie, Cannonball Run.) Though Macdonald’s version of Burt Reynolds bore little more than a physical resemblance to the real actor, the character was so hilarious (and obnoxious, dim-witted, and lewd) that somehow, it made us love the real Burt Reynolds even more.”
Norm Macdonald was one of a number of celebrities paying their respects to Burt Reynolds on Thursday. Many other friends and former co-stars also sent condolences to his family and shared their stories of working with him. Actor Mark Wahlberg shared a picture of the two together on the set of the movie Boogie Nights, one of Wahlberg’s breakthrough roles.
Fellow actors Wesley Snipes and Arnold Schwarzenegger also shared their admiration for Reynolds, who was an influence on a number of actors who came after him. And as the remembrances show, he was also the influence for one of the most iconic Saturday Night Live performances of all time.