Conan O’Brien Says NBC Executives Tried To Ban Norm Macdonald From His Show

by Joe Rutland

If you’ve followed the career of Conan O’Brien, you know that he loved having Norm Macdonald on his shows. NBC, though, thought differently.

O’Brien, who started hosting “Late Night” for NBC in 1993, wanted to do solid work. He also knew having Macdonald, who died on Sept. 14 after battling cancer for nine years, would make his show better.

NBC and Macdonald, though, had a well-known spat after the comic refused to stop making jokes about O.J. Simpson. Network executives, namely NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer, fired Norm Macdonald from “Saturday Night Live” reportedly over the Simpson jokes. Ohlmeyer, who claimed before he died in 2017 that he didn’t fire the comedian, was not happy with O’Brien.

We don’t really know if the network was bluffing or if O’Brien stuck his nose up to those demands. Norm Macdonald made numerous appearances on the one-time writer for “The Simpsons” TV talk show, both on NBC and TBS.  

Conan O’Brien Recalled Don Ohlmeyer Response In Letter About Norm Macdonald

An article from BroBible revealed those true thoughts from O’Brien about the Macdonald situation.

“I wrote a letter to Don that said, you know, I got this directive [not to book Norm Macdonald],” O’Brien said as part of his “Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend” podcast. He spent over an hour reflecting on Macdonald and brought up the letter he sent to NBC executives.

“You’ve hired me to do the best show I can do, and this is my best guest,” O’Brien said while citing a sense of “loyalty” to Ohlmeyer, who hired him to host “Late Night” at NBC. “I need to do my job, which is the best show I can do,” he said in the letter.

O’Brien received that letter back. Ohlmeyer responded with a note in its margin, where he wrote something like, “I expected better from you.”

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

David Letterman Remembered Macdonald As Person With ‘Bizarre Mind and Earnest Gaze’

He did have Norm Macdonald on his NBC show as well as his TBS show, “Conan.”

Speaking of O’Brien and Macdonald, when news of the comedian’s death broke, among those offering tributes was late-night, talk-show legend, David Letterman. He also had Norm Macdonald regularly on “The Late Show” on CBS. Letterman’s sentiments were presented on Twitter.

“I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze. (I’m trying to avoid using the phrase, “twinkle in his eyes”),” Letterman wrote. “He was a lifetime Cy Young winner in comedy. Gone, but impossible to forget. Dave Letterman”.

Letterman and other comedians respected Macdonald.