Norm Macdonald Live, the podcast and streaming show hosted by comedian Norm Macdonald, returns this week after a nine-month hiatus with string of big-name guests that includes David Letterman, Caitlyn Jenner, and Jerry Seinfeld. But he was really hoping for the recently paroled O.J. Simpson.
“I thought I had O.J. and his lawyer said, ‘Oh yeah, O.J. will do it,’” Macdonald tells The Daily Beast in a new interview that will run in full later this week. “And then he came back and said, are you the Norm Macdonald that was on NBC?” When he admitted that he was once on a little show called Saturday Night Live, the lawyer replied, “O.J. said you were a little tough.”
That deliberately comedic understatement in Macdonald’s retelling of a conversation that may or may not have actually happened—he recently wrote a memoir called Based on a True Story that was full of outlandish exaggerations—belies the fact that the comedian was likely fired by SNL in the late-1990s for making too many O.J. Simpson jokes from his Weekend Update desk.
As the story goes, NBC executive and longtime Simpson friend Don Ohlmeyer canned both Macdonald and writer Jim Downey for their relentlessly brutal treatment of the acquitted football star. “Don, being good friends with O.J., had just had enough,” Downey, who would later return to the show, told Splitsider in a 2014 interview. “We weren’t holding back.”
Below are just a few of the most scathing jokes he told during his tenure.
“After grisly photos of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson were shown in court, O.J. turned his head away and wept. It was at that moment that he realized he would never be able to kill her again.”
“In a sworn deposition this week, O.J. Simpson claimed that he never beat, choked, or hit his ex-wife with a closed or open fist. Luckily for O.J., lawyers forgot to ask if he had ever cut her head off.”
And of course there was his opening the line on the first show back after the verdict came in: “Well, it’s official: Murder is now legal in the state of California.”
But as Macdonald tells The Daily Beast now, he has started to think differently about the original double-murder trial that still captivates the nation to this day. “I’m not completely sure he’s guilty anymore,” he asserts, before adding, “I’m almost completely sure, but I’m not completely sure.”
Macdonald points to the popular—and regularly debunked—conspiracy theory that Simpson’s son Jason committed the murders, because, as he he says, “They had the same DNA.” He then adds, “I don’t know much about DNA.”
“You know how O.J. was the greatest rusher in the history of the NFL?” Macdonald asks, setting up a joke. “I guess I was the greatest rusher-to-judgment.”
“I feel sorry for the victims of the double murder,” Macdonald adds, in a fleeting moment of sincerity. “Although I guess I was a victim also. I guess there were three victims that night. Nicole Simpson, some waiter, and me.”
Stay tuned for our full conversation, including the time Macdonald and Kato Kaelin ran into Simpson on a golf course, his thoughts about how Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live are handling the Trump presidency, and what it was like to interview David Letterman and Caitlyn Jenner for his show.