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Conan O'Brien recalls NBC network chief who was 'tight with OJ' that fired SNL's Norm MacDonald

Comedian Conan O'Brien marked the death of O.J. Simpson Thursday by recalling how the late comic Norm MacDonald got fired from SNL's "Weekend Update" for mocking the former NFL star.

Late night host Conan O’Brien marked the death of O.J. Simpson by recalling late comedian Norm MacDonald’s withering jokes about the suspected killer that many suspect got him fired from "Saturday Night Live."

During an interview on CNN, O’Brien praised MacDonald’s constant jokes about Simpson and his murder acquittal as some of the "most brilliant comedy" of that period.

It’s believed in many media circles that MacDonald’s relentless mockery and criticism of the former NFL star during Simpson's murder trial got him fired from "Saturday Night Live" in 1998. NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who was close friends with Simpson, denied that the move was related, but O'Brien seemed to suggest it was. 

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In a 1998 interview with David Letterman, MacDonald said Ohlmeyer told him he "wasn't funny" as the reason why he was fired from "Weekend Update," and eventually SNL altogether, despite having the support of his boss, "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels.

O'Brien was hosting "Late Night" for NBC at the time of the SNL drama with MacDonald. The two were friends and MacDonald made several appearances on his various shows, including his TBS program "Conan."

"It was a huge deal back then," O'Brien told CNN's Jake Tapper. "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."

Tapper chimed in, "Lost his job at SNL because he was making fun of O.J. Simpson for being the real killer."

"Yes," O’Brien affirmed, adding, "and the head of the network at the time was tight with O.J."

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"Don Ohlmeyer?" the host asked, to which the comedian replied, "Who can remember these names." He laughed and added, "Anyway, water under the bridge. But that was a huge moment in history, I think, of this country."  

"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 added. 

MacDonald, who died in 2021, has been lauded online since the news of Simpson's death for his relentless digs at him, with clips going viral of his past jabs at "The Juice." He memorably quipped that murder was "legal in the state of California" after Simpson's acquittal.

The interview concluded with Tapper asking the comedian whether he had an O.J. joke, to which O’Brien quipped, "I never make a joke about someone the day they pass." He told Tapper to ask for one early the next morning. 

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