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NP Platformed: O.J. Simpson's death is an occasion to remember comedy great Norm Macdonald

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Plus: Iran pounces, again View this email in your Alternate text NP PLATFORMED Welcome to NP Platformed, a daily newsletter from NP Comment. Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here to have National Post deliver it to your inbox. QUOTE OF THE DAY "The message being sent by the mullahs in Tehran is clear: we can — and will — terrorize your population, wear down your air defence systems and strike deep in the heart of Israeli territory any time we please." — Jesse Kline Alternate text Theo Wargo/Getty Images DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER  The past week saw a strange quasar of generation X nostalgia appear on social media. On Thursday, the family of O.J. Simpson announced the death from cancer of the 76-year-old running back/murderer. One immediate and perhaps unforeseeable effect of this was to revive the still-fresh memory of Norm Macdonald (1959-2021), the incomparable Canadian comic who tormented Simpson from the “Weekend Update” fake-news chair on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL).  Macdonald’s unexpected 1998 firing from “Weekend Update” has often been attributed to the close friendship between Simpson and NBC division president Don Ohlmeyer (1945-2017). Or, in other words, a powerful monster’s revenge on an artist.  The sheer bizarreness of this series of events is fully understandable only in retrospect. Macdonald was the furthest thing imaginable from a moral crusader, but he and his writing partner Jim Downey just found the O.J. Simpson drama irresistible. Every installment of “Weekend Update” would feature an entire digest of terse O.J. jokes in the explosive Macdonald/Downey style. The comedic vendetta, which would never be tolerated on today’s SNL, must have become genuinely unbearable for Ohlmeyer, whose relationship with the Juice was described in 1995 by Vanity Fair’s legendary Dominick Dunne:  “A golfing buddy and old-time associate of Simpson’s who produced one of Simpson’s films, The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story, Ohlmeyer has been from the time of the murders an outspoken advocate for the innocence of his friend. He was a frequent visitor at the L.A. County Jail and one of the celebrants at the victory party at (Simpson’s) Rockingham house following the verdict.”  Just think of it: O.J. Simpson is let off the hook by the jury in the face of overwhelming evidence, and Ohlmeyer is waiting there, at his house, with champagne. Meanwhile, Norm opened the first post-verdict “Weekend Update” with the deathless words, “Well, it is finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California.”  Ohlmeyer insisted at the time that the firing of Macdonald — and Downey, perhaps the most revered of all SNL writers — had nothing to do with O.J. He simply claimed without visible evidence that the Macdonald/Downey “Weekend Update” had been bad for ratings. Macdonald tried to take a conciliatory view in public, admitting that in choosing material for “Weekend Update,” he often followed his own comic judgment rather than monitoring audience reactions obsessively in dress rehearsals.  What’s now known is that Ohlmeyer pursued the feud further after firing Macdonald. He refused to allow NBC to promote Macdonald’s post-SNL movie Dirty Work, now considered a cult classic. This was an extraordinary violation of SNL operating procedure; to this day the show underpays its writers and performers on the promise that the SNL platform will be an unparalleled gateway to Hollywood later on.  Ohlmeyer also tried unsuccessfully to bar Norm from guest appearances on Conan O’Brien’s Late Night. No one has said much about what career avenues Ohlmeyer might have been successful at blocking off to Macdonald, but we should bear this in mind in evaluating Macdonald’s slightly erratic, vaguely unfulfilling post-SNL career: his comedy had made him a genuine, powerful enemy at his own undoubted cost.  Downey, who was brought back to SNL in 2000 and who is still alive and hilarious, reminisced about the feud for Vulture in 2014:  “That’s the thing I kind of liked about Don, actually: his friendship with O.J. was so old-school. It was so un-showbizzy. He ended up firing me, as well as Norm, but I can’t honestly say that a part of me doesn’t respect Don for his loyalty. Most people in show business would sell out anyone in their lives, for any reason at all, including for practice. Don was the opposite. He threw a party for the jurors after the 1995 acquittal. And he stuck with O.J. through it all.”  We’ll just observe that “including for practice” is a line most comedians would go their graves proud to have written. Downey, the master craftsman, tacked it on to a sentence in an interview with a weblog. There were giants in those days …  — Colby Cosh  THE LATEST IN NP COMMENT Israel, U.S. should seize opportunity to destroy Iran's nuclear program Jesse Kline: No other country would be expected not to retaliate against a clear act of war Iran's attack on Israel was inevitable; Trudeau is on the wrong side of history Rahim Mohamed: The true danger to the Middle East has always been Tehran Canada must support its troops if the troops are to support us NP View: With global tensions rising, soldiers may soon be asked to do more than they are already — and it's our job to make sure they're prepared Stories of those who pay the price of our freedom must be told Gen. Rick Hillier: Canadian heroes inspire me, especially now, in a time when cynicism and self-interest often dominate Rick Hillier is right to decry the death of the Canadian dream Michel Maisonneuve: Is there sufficient leadership out there to bring our country back? 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Let's stick to these guides for tax policy: efficiency, simplicity and fairness The dirty, but not so little secrets of the federal carbon tax Dan Kelly: Small business was promised carbon tax rebates. But they have received nothing so far and now their share is being cut almost in half Taming inflation won’t bring prices back down Herbert Grubel: The Bank of Canada's 2% target means prices rise 50% every couple of decades. Is that really good for us and our economy? FROM ELSEWHERE Does America’s near future involve a rapid free fall into paganism, or a return to public Christianity? Conservative essayist N.S. Lyons takes the temperature for First Things.  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Advertisement Was NP Platformed forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it or other newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. We'd like your feedback. 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