R.I.P. Mike MacDonald, the king of Canadian comedy

Mike Allan MacDonald joked onstage that he was “the King of Canadian Comedy,” but to many in Canada, he was royalty.

Unlike the other great comedians to come out of Canada, MacDonald stayed. He stayed ’til the end, dying Saturday from heart complications. He was 63. 62 according to his personal Facebook profile.

His first stand-up special, Mike MacDonald; On Target, also was the first comedy special for CBC. He’d make three specials for CBC and Showtime. Host Canada’s Gemini Awards. Perform at Montreal’s Just For Laughs more than perhaps anyone else. His American TV credits included A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, Arsenio, and Late Show with David Letterman.


Born June 21, 1954, in France (although his Facebook profile lists his birth year as 1955), MacDonald grew up on military bases until his father retired and the family settled in Ottawa when young Mike was 15. He jumped into stand-up comedy in the late 1970s and never left.

He almost died six years ago, when Hepatitis C caused his liver and kidneys to shut down. But after a liver transplant in 2013, he eventually made a full comeback to the stage. MacDonald was as open about his physical health as he was about his mental health, as this 2013 radio interview demonstrated.

A year later, you could see how his health had rebounded in this 2014 Halifax Comedy Festival performance.

So many Canadian comedians have poured their hearts out since hearing the news Saturday night. From Kliph Nesteroff, the Canadian stand-up turned biographer:

And this, from Pete Zedlacher: “Reading all these amazing Mike MacDonald stories. Mike really left an ocean of good memories in his wake. One of my favourite moments of seeing him was at the Canadian Comedy Awards, just months after his transplant. I had seen him at JFL the summer before, he was weak, frail but so kind and polite. That night at the CCAs, he was a new man, standing tall, healthy, almost glowing. That night they presented him with his lifetime achievement award. It was a surprise, and he wasn’t in the theatre. So when his name was announced, there was a long applause break but no Mike. Then, from the back of the theatre, Mike came bounding down the aisle to the stage, then ran up the stairs – RAN! – it was miraculous. The theatre erupted into a thunderous and most well-deserved standing ovation we’d ever seen. That energy doesn’t just go away, that will echo throughout our lifetimes. Rest well, Mike, you were great in every sense of that word.”

This holds up.

Rest in peace, Mike. You will be missed, but also remembered.

The last year of his life, his friends interviewed him for an upcoming documentary. Just to make sure you remember, too.


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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