Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week

Norm Macdonald was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for five years in the mid 90s. He was host of the "Weekend Update" satirical news program for three of those years. Norm's stint on the Update desk was different than most, in the sense that Norm didn't pretend to play a legit newscaster who would tell jokes. He portrayed himself, a guy sitting there in a suit telling jokes about the headlines. He would constantly call it "the fake news" and add in odd non sequiturs, most involving Frank Stallone.

Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson were favorite targets of his, as the first child molestation claims against Jackson had recently ended when Norm was on the show and the Simpson murder trial was the biggest news story that Norm "covered" on the Update desk.

When Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley ended their relationship, Norm quipped: "She's more of the stay-at-home type and he's more of a homosexual pedophile."

When Simpson was found guilty, Norm opened the next Weekend Update by saying, "This just in: murder is now legal in the state of California!"

In late 1997, Norm was famously fired from SNL. The decision to do so was not made by anybody at SNL; most notably the show's boss Lorne Michaels fought for Norm's job. The decision was made by a top executive at NBC named Don Ohlmeyer.

Ohlmeyer's position was that Norm simply wasn't funny. And a case can be made that some people just don't understand the comedy stylings of Norm Macdonald. People love and hate Norm for the same reasons: he's sarcastic, crude, he's never really committed to a character (it's always very clearly him playing a character), and he's very "meta."

One aspect of the firing that even Norm skirts around when it's brought up in interviews is that one of Ohlmeyer's best friends is OJ Simpson. Norm, to his credit, has never publicly spoken badly about Ohlmeyer, saying on multiple occasions that "he seems like a nice guy."

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All of that brings us to this week's Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week. In late 1999, Macdonald had starred in a cult hit movie and was in a popular ABC sitcom. That was around the peak of his celebrity status. So, SNL got him on as a host.

During his opening monologue, he jokes about how he was fired for not being funny, yet in only a year and a half, he was deemed funny enough to actually host the show.

"How did I go, in a year and a half, from not being funny enough to be even allowed in the building, to being so funny that I'm now hosting the show? How did I suddenly get so god damn funny?"

He reveals the awful truth: he actually did not get any funnier, it's just that SNL sucks so bad now that he is funny in comparison to what they usually air.

I thought that was a nice dig at the network who fired him. And Norm is still in the good graces of SNL. He helped write and performed in one of the highlights of the recent 40th anniversary episode of the show: the Celebrity Jeopardy skit.

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