MacDonald was a key figure in the Canadian stand-up scene, and had performed at the Montreal-based Just For Laughs comedy festival more times than anyone else.
“Saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friends and Canadian comedy legend Mike MacDonald,” the festival said from its Twitter account. “Over the years he has graced our stages more than any other comic and will be greatly missed.”
MacDonald was born in Metz, France in 1954, the son of a career Royal Canadian Air Force officer, and began his comedy career at the age of 24. He moved to Toronto — his family had settled in Ottawa — and began to play venues frequently, quitting his day job to pursue comedy full time. As his career grew, he appeared on numerous talk shows, including “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Arsenio Hall Show,” and many others, and played live shows in the U.S. as well. He starred in three specials for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including “Mike MacDonald; On Target,” “My House! My Rules!,” and “Happy As I Can Be,” which were well-received.
In 2013, MacDonald underwent successful liver transplant surgery after his 2011 hepatitis C diagnosis progressed to the point of organ failure.
His death resonated in the comedy world, and several comics paid tribute to MacDonald.
“Mike MacDonald died yesterday,” wrote Marc Maron. “He was the real deal. Comedy warrior. RIP.”
“So sad to hear about Mike MacDonald,” wrote Jim Gaffigan. “I had the pleasure of performing with Canadian comedy legend a couple times. Once at a [Just for Laughs] gala and recently when I performed in Ottawa…On both occasions he was pure class and funny as hell.”
“I am pained to inform you that my friend and comedy mentor Mike MacDonald has passed away,” wrote fellow Canadian comic, Jeremy Hotz. “Mike was a ferociously funny man. We shared so many good times. Thanks for taking me under your wing way back in the day. You were a great comic. You did your country proud.”
Read more tributes below.