The world became a lot less funny after the news broke that legendary actor and comedian Norm Macdonald passed away on Sept. 14, 2021, following a private nine-year battle with cancer. Through his career, Norm starred in film and television including Saturday Night Live where, at one point, he hosted the famous Weekend Update news spoof skit.
Norm’s time on Saturday Night Live lasted half a decade, but his exit was abrupt, leaving many to ask, “Did Norm get fired from SNL?” And if he did, who exactly led the charge to fire him? We cover all that and more below!
Who fired Norm Macdonald? NBC executives take the fall, but say it was for good reason.
Norm was on Saturday Night Live from 1993 to 1998. But when it comes to his departure from the show, it seems that there is a disconnect between what the network told the public versus what the public actually believes to be the reason. As for who actually fired Norm, it seems that was headed up by NBC's president of their West Coast division.
Apparently Don Ohlmeyer, the president of NBC's West Coast division at the time, said that Norm was removed from his post as the host of Weekend Update due to a decline in ratings. Basically, the network just said Norm wasn’t bringing in good numbers.
However, Norm had a different theory.
Norm went on TV and radio to explain why he actually was fired from ‘SNL.’
Norm, as well as others on the cast, believed that the actual reason Norm was let go had to do with particular jokes he told during a show. At the time that Norm was host of Weekend Update, the O.J. Simpson trial was a popular topic of conversation. Norm made a series of jokes about O.J., including calling him a murderer and more or less saying O.J. was guilty of the crimes he was being accused of.
After being fired from SNL, Norm went on other talk shows such as CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman and Howard Stern’s radio show to talk about his firing, and how he believed Don Ohlmeyer fired him because Don was a good friend of O.J. Simpson and supported O.J. during the murder trial.
In both appearances, Norm claimed that the network fired him and SNL writer Jim Downey for writing and making jokes about O.J. Simpson. Jim Downey also said in an interview that Don Ohlmeyer actually threw a party for the jurors who acquitted O.J. Simpson.
The feud between Norm and NBC execs didn’t stop after he was fired from ‘SNL.’
After Norm was taken off his post on Weekend Update, he still remained on the cast for a few weeks. In February 1998, during his last sketch as a cast member, he played the host of a fictitious TV show called Who's More Grizzled? In the sketch, one of the supporting characters says to Norm’s character, "I don't much care for you," to which he replies, "A lot of people don't."
After Norm’s departure, it’s claimed that Don Ohlmeyer prevented NBC from airing advertisements for Norm’s new film Dirty Work, to get back at Norm for the comments he was making on talk shows after his firing. The decision was reportedly later overturned by Don’s boss. This, however, did not stop Norm from speaking his mind about Don. He called him a “liar and a thug.”
As the years went on, Norm started to reconsider his feelings when it came to his termination. On a 2011 episode of the podcast WTF With Marc Maron, Norm came to the conclusion that Don Ohlmeyer had not removed him from Weekend Update for his O.J. jokes, but rather because he just wouldn’t fall in line.
"I think the whole show was tired of me not taking marching orders. Lorne would hint at things ... I'd do Michael Jackson jokes. And Lorne would say, 'Do you really want a lawsuit from Michael Jackson?' And I'd say, 'Cool! That'd be f--king cool, Michael Jackson suing me!'"
In October 1999, Norm actually came back to Saturday Night Live as a host. In his opening monologue, he joked about being fired from Weekend Update and the show, then claimed that the only reason he was asked to host the show was because "the show has gotten really bad" since he left.
Regardless of how Norm left SNL, former cast members and staff have expressed how much he will be missed in the comedy world. Friend and former coworker Adam Sandler wrote, "Every one of us loved Norm. Some of the hardest laughs of my life with this man. Most fearless funny original guy we knew. An incredible dad. A great friend. A legend. Love u pal."