Conan O’Brien Revisits Norm MacDonald’s Firing from ‘SNL’ Over Withering O.J. Simpson Jokes

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 17 -- Pictured: Norm MacDonald during the 'Weekend Upd
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Comedian, writer, and late-night host Conan O’Brien chimed in on the death of former NFL star O.J. Simpson by recalling how a TV executive at NBC who was one of Simpson’s close personal friends fired Norm MacDonald from his Saturday Night Live gig over the latter’s withering jokes aimed at Simpson.

After Simpson was accused of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1994, MacDonald spent months raking Simpson over the coals in joke after joke during his spots on the comedy show’s “Weekend Update” segment.

By 1998, NBC famously fired MacDonald, and many have insisted that the comedian’s constant jabs at Simpson contributed to the decision to throw him off the show.

Apparently, O’Brien shares that assumption.

Host Conan O'Brien attends the 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 7, 2017 in New York City.

TV host Conan O’Brien attends the 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 7, 2017, in New York City. (Jim Spellman/WireImage)

During an interview on CNN on Thursday, O’Brien called MacDonald’s body slams on Simpson the “most brilliant comedy” of the 1990s, Fox News reported.

MacDonald was fired in 1998 by NBC executive Dan Ohlmeyer. MacDonald told David Letterman that Ohlmeyer told him to his face that he “wasn’t funny.” Ohlmeyer succeeded in having MacDonald tossed off the show, even though SNL chief Lorne Michaels supported MacDonald.

“It was a huge deal back then,” O’Brien told Jake Tapper on Thursday. “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, just told some of the most – did the most brilliant, I think, comedy of anybody during that whole period.”

O’Brien was adamant that MacDonald lost his job because of his Simpson jokes and added, “and the head of the network at the time was tight with O.J.”


INDICTMENT OF O J SIMPSON (Photo by Ted Soqui/Sygma via Getty Images)

O’Brien also noted that the Simpson saga and “trial of the century” was a significant moment in America.

“It was a, you know, massive – there have been many times in this country where we’ve needed to stop and reassess where we are in our racial history, where are we, what progress have we made, and that was one of those moments, and it was such a watershed moment,” O’Brien said.

Simpson died of cancer this week at the age of 78. MacDonald preceded Simpson in death, dying of cancer himself in 2021.

Upon Simpson’s death on Wednesday, social media users flooded X with clips of MacDonald’s Simpson bits.

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