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Norm Macdonald's Best And Worst SNL Moments

Norm Macdonald was funnier than you. He proved it over and over again. Every time that he told the moth joke, every appearance on a late night show lambasting Carrot Top movies, every stand up special and celebrity roast and movie cameo and voice appearance that the guy did had at least one moment that was a master class in comedy. He hosted podcasts and talk shows. He was a comedian in a car who got coffee. He starred on his own sitcom. He flirted relentlessly with Jane Fonda on his Netflix program. He played a pigeon and a ball of slime and a penguin and a drunk best friend. He basically set fire to "The View."

But Macdonald will almost certainly be best remembered for his time on "Saturday Night Live," the show that made him equal parts famous and infamous in the comedy community. Allegedly owing to his stalwart refusal to stop making fun of NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer's friend O.J. Simpson, Macdonald was ousted from the show in 1998 after a beautifully divisive run behind the Weekend Update desk. Here, we take a look at some of the comedian's best and worst moments on the show from the critical, objective perspective of an unbiased onlooker.

The best: Macdonald and Costello

On December 6, 1997, Nathan Lane hosted "Saturday Night Live" for the first and, to date, only time. He did some great work, but the funniest part of the night — again, empirically — came during a segment on weekend update.

"...Earlier this week, folks, police made a gruesome discovery in the closet of a Bronx apartment," Weekend Update host Norm Macdonald shared with viewers, "the body of an elderly woman. The woman had been dead for some time, and her corpse had, in fact, been mummified. Here with more on this case is the policeman who discovered the body, Officer Lou Costello." Cue Nathan Lane, hemming and hawing in a police officer's uniform and nailing a Lou Costello impression while Macdonald interrogates him in peak Bud Abbott form.

The audience reaction is classic Macdonald — maybe one in ten people gets what's happening, but that 10% thinks it's incredible. "This is going nowhere," Macdonald says. "You're telling me," says Lane, ad libbing. Poetry.

The best: Celebrity Jeopardy

Twice a year between 1996 and 2002 and on a handful of special occasions after that, audiences were treated to one of "SNL's" most endearing sketch formats in its purest and uniformly hilarious iteration.

"Celebrity Jeopardy," according to Macdonald's own recollection in a 2016 Howard Stern interview, was a concept borrowed from "SCTV's" "Half-Wits" sketches, and was born of the comedian's desire to do a Burt Reynolds impersonation. The result was some of the best and most quotable television comedy of the era. Thanks to "Celebrity Jeopardy," everyone suddenly thought that they could do a Sean Connery impression. Thanks to "Celebrity Jeopardy," everyone knew the difference between Alex Trebek and a mallard with a cold.

The bad news is that Norm Macdonald never got to do his Burt Reynolds impression. The good news is that he had the opportunity to play another character, Turd Ferguson, who had a funny name and, on top of that, a funny hat.

The best: Basically every running gag on Weekend Update

"This week at the O.J. Simpson trial, the infamous bloody glove was finally introduced into evidence," Norm Macdonald reported to viewers from behind the Update desk. "And O.J. didn't help his case any by blurting out 'There it is, I've been looking all over for that thing.'"

From Princess Diana to Michael Jackson to the never ending stream of O.J. Simpson jabs, Macdonald rarely shied away from pop culture's raw nerves, regardless of the reaction that his two cents got from the audience in real time. Watching him dig his heels into a bit that he knew would get groans week after week was like seeing Bugs Bunny energy caught in slow, syrupy snark, doled out one word at a time to millions of viewers who never understood that they were the "SNL" star's Elmer Fudd. To his credit, Macdonald kept it going to the point of self destruction.

The worst: That time that he got fired

The story goes that one person with sway wasn't wild about Norm Macdonald's O.J. Simpson jokes: Don Ohlmeyer, the president of the West Coast division of NBC. "That's his buddy," Dennis Miller said of O.J. and Ohlmeyer's relationship in an interview with Macdonald in 1998, and Macdonald agreed.

Rumors have persisted for years that Ohlmeyer, who spent time at both ABC and NBC's sports divisions, was close with Simpson and tried to pressure Norm to stop telling jokes like "In Los Angeles this week, the defense suffered a setback in the second O.J. trial when Simpson was ordered to turn over a secret video tape, which lawyers say contains proof of his guilt. What's on the tape? The first O.J. trial." Norm, however, kept it going right up until December 13, 1997, his last night behind the Update desk, when he regaled viewers with a story about Simpson butting heads with a restaurant owner until they agreed to designate a "murderer and non-murderer section." By the time the show came back from break, Norm had done the worst thing he ever did, even counting "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo:" He'd been fired.

Speaking to Marc Maron on "WTF," Macdonald would later state that it wasn't as much about the Simpson jokes as it was that he refused to step in line with "SNL" marching orders, which makes this next part even funnier.

The best: When he came back after being fired

It's one thing to get fired from the job where you've worked for years, but it's another thing when they call you the next week with questions about how the copier works.

In October of 1999, a year and a half after his dismissal from the show, Norm Macdonald was asked to come back and host "Saturday Night Live." If that seems to you like it's not much time to go from a purportedly terminable lack of talent to star of the show, you're not alone.

"They fired me because they said I wasn't funny," Macdonald recalled during his monologue at the top of the show. "...Now, this is the weird part, right? It's only a year and a half later, and now they ask me to host the show ... How did I go, in a year and a half, from being not funny enough to be even allowed in the building to being so funny that I'm now hosting the show?"

Then the punch. "And it occurred to me, I haven't gotten funnier!" he continued, with the sunny tone of a neighborhood ice cream man handing out free Cornettos. "The show has gotten really bad!"

"Okay, so let's recap," he concluded. "The bad news is, I'm still not funny. The good news is, the show blows. Alright folks, we've got a bad show for you."