Norm Macdonald's SNL OJ Takedowns Resurface: 'Murder Legal in California'

Norm Macdonald's enduring wit shines in vintage clips

by Zain ul Abedin
Norm Macdonald's SNL OJ Takedowns Resurface: 'Murder Legal in California'
© Jason Kempin/Getty Images

In a poignant throwback to '90s television, clips of the late Norm Macdonald satirizing O.J. Simpson on "Saturday Night Live" have resurfaced following Simpson's recent death. The former NFL star passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76 after battling cancer, his family confirmed.

Norm Macdonald, a cherished figure in comedy, left an indelible mark with his biting humor, especially noted during his tenure on SNL’s "Weekend Update." Macdonald's sharp wit targeted Simpson following his 1995 acquittal in the murder trials of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

Despite his 2021 death at age 61, Macdonald's legacy of fearless comedy endures. Macdonald didn’t hold back during his famous segment, famously quipping after Simpson's acquittal, "Well, it is finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California." His relentless jokes about Simpson were controversial, eventually leading to significant professional consequences.

Macdonald believed that his forthright humor caused his dismissal from the "Weekend Update" anchor position in late 1997. Don Ohlmeyer, then-president of NBC’s West Coast division and a known friend of Simpson, reportedly found Macdonald's comments distasteful.

Despite the support of SNL producer Lorne Michaels, Ohlmeyer decided to replace Macdonald, citing declining ratings as the reason rather than the contentious jokes. Macdonald, however, openly disputed this rationale in public appearances, notably on talk shows where he described Ohlmeyer as "a liar and a thug."

Macdonald's Bold Humor

Appearing on "The David Letterman Show" in 1998, Macdonald conveyed the dissonance between public opinion and internal decisions at NBC, recounting how he was told about his firing.

Despite assurances from Michaels that he was valued, the ultimate decision came from higher up, with Ohlmeyer allegedly telling Macdonald, "You’re not funny." Even after leaving SNL, Macdonald's comedic spirit remained undeterred.

Hosting the Espy Awards shortly after his departure, he continued his sharp commentary, humorously cautioning Charles Woodson, "That is something that no one can ever take away from you, unless you kill your wife and a waiter." Norm Macdonald’s post-SNL career was diverse, from television appearances to authoring his autobiographical novel "Based on a True Story." His candid reflections in the book and others like "Live from New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live" reveal an unapologetically comedic and consistently resilient man, even when his career took unexpected turns.

O.J. Simpson, who had a stint hosting SNL back in 1978, leaves behind a complex legacy, his acclaimed sports and acting careers forever marred by his legal controversies. As the news of his death unfolds, so too does the remembrance of a comedic icon who once captured the ironies of his time with unrelenting precision.

Macdonald's fearless approach to comedy, even in the face of adversity, underscores his significant impact on the landscape of television humor.