Few could have predicted the runaway success of “The People v. O. J. Simpson," the ten hour mini-series on a two-decade-old case starring actors who haven't been relevant in about that long. Airing its final episode last night, the show's record-breaking ratings confirm our enduring obsession with the 1995 trial, along with its unique ability to snake into strange corners of mass media.
From Seinfeld, to The Simpsons, to South Park, there was no shortage of O.J.-related satire in the immediate aftermath of his acquittal. But perhaps the most significant, stunning pop culture development happened behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live, when Norm Macdonald was fired from his "Weekend Update" spot, allegedly for his unrelenting jokes about O.J. Simpson.
NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, a long-time friend of O.J. Simpson, was responsible for the decision—leading to widespread speculation that the beloved comedian had been canned for his O.J.-bashing. In one of the more memorable episodes of the Late Show With David Letterman, Macdonald candidly discusses the firing at length, though he takes no shots at any of the NBC executives. Letterman, on the other hand, calls Ohlmeyer an "idiot" and his guest a "quisling."
Macdonald didn't depart from SNL immediately, appearing in a few more sketches before eventually quitting at the end of the season. To this day, he maintains that the incessant O.J. jokes weren't responsible for his firing, and that Ohlmeyer simply didn't find him funny—a conclusion that seems difficult to believe.