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O.J. Simpson Jokes Got Norm Macdonald Fired from SNL, Comedian Remembered for His Courage

O.J. Simpson Jokes Got Norm Macdonald Fired from SNL, Comedian Remembered for His Courage


  • Norm Macdonald’s O.J. Simpson jokes were legendary, leading to his firing from
    by a friend of Simpson’s.
  • Macdonald and Jim Downey’s weekly comedic attacks on O.J. Simpson are being remembered by comedians like Conan O’Brien and Neal Brennan.
  • O.J. Simpson passed away on April 10, 2024. Norm Macdonald passed away on September 14, 2021, and is deeply missed.

After the death of O.J. Simpson, comedians have been remembering and sharing the many memes and jokes about the notorious figure, and nobody told funnier and more controversial jokes about Simpson than Norm Macdonald. During Simpson’s murder trial, Macdonald hosted ‘Weekend Update’ on Saturday Night Live and, with the help of writer Jim Downey, joked about Simpson relentlessly in a way that ultimately led to his and Downey’s firing.

Conan O’Brien, a longtime friend of Macdonald’s, spoke with Jake Tapper about his new series (Conan O’Brien Must Go), and it happened to be on the day Simpson had died. When asked about it, O’Brien told Tapper, “It was a huge deal back then. Most notably — he’s passed on — Norm Macdonald, one of my best guests of all time and one of the great comedians of all time, told some of the most, did the most brilliant comedy of anybody during that whole period.”

Lost his job at SNL for making fun of Simpson for being the real killer,” added Tapper.

“Yes, because the head of the network at the time was tight with O.J.,” replied O’Brien. He’s referring to Don Ohlmeyer, who was president of the West Coast division of NBC during the O.J. Simpson trial and was his very close friend. Macdonald and Downey’s weekly barbs at Simpson infuriated Ohlmeyer, who instructed the studio to fire Downey. Macdonald wouldn’t stand for that. As Downey explained on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast in 2023:

“I know you know this story, but I think people who are fans of Norm deserve to know this about him. The network went to Norm and said, ‘We want to get rid of Jim Downey, and we just want you to know. You’re cool with that, right?’ He said, ”
No, no, if you if you fire him, I quit
.’ And they go, ‘That’s crazy. He’s not helping you, the segment’s too mean,’ or whatever. And he said, ‘Well, no, I’m not doing it without him.’
And he never told me that, and I didn’t hear that for years
. I heard it from some network executives.”

Ohlmeyer also tried to ban Macdonald from appearing as a guest on Conan O’Brien’s NBC talk show at the time, but Conan stood his ground and Ohlmeyer ultimately relented. He did, however, block promo spots for Macdonald’s film Dirty Work from airing on NBC. On an episode of Live with Regis & Kelly in 1998, Macdonald shrugged and said, “Ohlmeyer is best friends with O.J. Simpson. If he can like O.J. Simpson, he can like me.”


An O.J. Simpson Documentary Became One of the Greatest Films of All Time

The epic O.J.: Made in America transcends true crime to become a portrait of Simpson, America, policing, race, and so much more.

Norm Macdonald’s Classic O.J. Simpson Jokes

Downey and O’Brien reminisced about some of the great Macdonald bits at the time during the same podcast. “There was one that was like, ‘Was O.J. Simpson high on drugs the night of the murders? Absolutely not, says a defiant O.J., and a simple test of any of his blood found at the crime scene will prove it,” recounted Downey. He remembered another:

This weekend, O.J. Simpson, playing golf in Scotland, was heavily criticized for missing the first Mother’s Day, since Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder, with his children. An angry Simpson responded, ‘Idiots, I didn’t spend Mother’s Day with my kids because I killed their mother!’

Meanwhile, Neal Brennan (Chappelle’s Show) was on The Joe Rogan Experience, and the two similarly looked back on Macdonald’s legendary Simpson takedowns. “There’s a video of, a compilation of Norm doing O.J. jokes,” said Brenna. “It’s 11 minutes long. I watched it and then went back and started it again. It’s so glorious. It was so relentless.” In fact, there’s a 54-minute version out there on YouTube, as well.

“He was so good,” agreed Rogan.

“Norm was so fu**ing funny, and the glint in his eye,” added Brennan. “And half the time he was bombing on SNL, because it wasn’t really his crowd. And he didn’t care.”

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