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Conan O'Brien Reveals His Gutsy Response To Network Request To Ban Norm Macdonald From Late Night

The entertainment world was shocked and saddened this week to learn the news of the death of comedy legend Norm Macdonald, the brash, former "Saturday Night Live" cast member who died from cancer. Naturally, tributes poured in from Hollywood over the loss of Macdonald, and now, stories from some of his closest confidants — including one from former late-night host Conan O'Brien — are being revealed for the first time.

While Macdonald was a seasoned standup comedian, as well as television writer and TV and film actor, some of his most high-profile work was featured on "SNL" from 1993 to 1998 where, among other things, he was the solo anchor on the sketch comedy's popular "Weekend Update" segment. Among his stinging observations, Macdonald relentlessly mocked former NFL star O.J. Simpson from the "Weekend Update" news desk — constantly calling into question Simpson's acquittal on double murder charges in connection with the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

While the faux news anchor's constant ribbing left audiences in stitches, NBC executive and Simpson's friend, Don Ohlmeyer, reportedly did not think the comedian's caustic commentary was a laughing matter, and before too long, Macdonald was fired from "SNL." Ohlmeyer, who passed away in 2017, reportedly denied having anything to do with the comedian's termination from the show.

While Ohlmeyer's role in Macdonald being let go from "SNL" may still be up for debate, O'Brien is making clear that the TV executive didn't want the comedian to appear on his late-night talk show.

Conan O'Brien says he got a directive: 'You can't book Norm Macdonald'

According to The Wrap, O'Brien said in the September 16 episode of his podcast, "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend," that Ohlmeyer requested that the TV talker ban Macdonald from his then-NBC talk show, "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

"The word came down. 'You can't book Norm Macdonald.' It came from the top, from Don Ohlmeyer," O'Brien revealed in his podcast. "I wrote a letter to Don that said, 'You know, I got this directive. You've hired me to do the best show I can do, and this is my best guest.'"

O'Brien said he received his letter back from Ohlmeyer, with a notation in the margin that was something to the effect of "I expected better from you," The Wrap reported.

"It was basically me being told ... I'm really disappointed in your lack of loyalty or something, and I felt at the time, that's not a lack of loyalty. That is loyalty," O'Brien said. "I always greedily wanted more Norm."

Macdonald, who never showed a fear of reprisal for his sharp comedic observations, was a mainstay on the late-night talk show circuit, appearing more than two-dozen times with O'Brien on his NBC and TBS talk shows. Macdonald also appeared on different iterations of "The Tonight Show," with hosts Jay Leno, O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon.

Macdonald also a frequent guest on David Letterman's talk shows over the years. Letterman had the distinction of hosting the standup comedian's late-night debut on NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman" on May 9, 1990. Twenty-five years later, on May 20, 2015, Macdonald was Letterman's last guest on his final episode of "The Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS.