The New York Post
JUNE 11, 1998 -- BY SU AVASTHI
TV tiff boosts Macdonald
on silver screen
It's fresh-faced underdog vs. the corporate hotshot - and the
underdog appears to be winning.
NBC-TV honcho Don Ohlmeyer's high-profile attempts to squelch
the star-turn movie debut of former "Saturday Night Live" player
Norm Macdonald seem to have backfired.
In fact, with the acid-tongued comic's big-screen comedy "Dirty
Work" opening tomorrow, Tinseltown insiders are wondering
whether the executive's bizarre battle with Macdonald may have been
the best thing ever for the Canadian comic's career.
The headline-grabbing media feud began when the Peacock
network's West Coast president demoted Macdonald from his
longtime "Saturday Night Live" gig as acerbic anchor on the show's
satiric "Weekend Update" segment.
The TV bigwig - who reportedly told Macdonald he'd been removed
because he wasn't funny - again made news when he attempted to
ban ads for "Dirty Work" on NBC. Such a step was virtually
unheard of in Hollywood.
The brouhaha instantly turned Macdonald into a sort of media martyr.
For instance, comedy heavyweights (and former NBC employees)
David Letterman and Howard Stern rushed to his defense, both
featuring the embattled funnyman on their shows.
And in other media, the exchange repeatedly portrayed Macdonald as
the wronged little guy caught in the midst of some bizarre vendetta by
a corporate bully.
That has done wonders for his visibility, said experts.
Don Ohlmeyer "certainly did him a favor by getting millions of
dollars of publicity, and he's handled it in such a charming,
be-dimpled way that you really want to root for him," said Barbara
Lippert, an image columnist at New York magazine.
"Whenever we see brutal control and repression at the top, we'll root
for the underdog."
Macdonald's dismissal from the "Weekend Update" slot immediately
led to an increased cult following, fostered by a number of Internet
sites that track all the sins committed by "those weasels at NBC."
"Why do all this?" asked Noel Gross, editor of the Fake News site,
which has gotten more than 40,000 hits since Macdonald got the
boot. "Well, as most were back in January, I was shocked to hear
him tell the world he'd been fired as the "Weekend Update'
anchor. The next morning, I established a Web page to keep folks
Meanwhile, the man at the center of the storm told Post Plus that he
hasn't welcomed all the free press he's gotten courtesy of Ohlmeyer.
"He hurt my career my impugning my comedy talents publicly," said
a serious Macdonald yesterday. "I can't say, "No, no, I'm funny!
Seriously, I am!
"The only thing that's helped is other people reacting to this in the
comedy community," he added.
Ohlmeyer's strategy "was not something that I ever sought out ... in
fact, it's my theory that Don Ohlmeyer wants to be famous."
An NBC spokeswoman told Post Plus that Ohlmeyer had no
Ironically, "Dirty Work" - Macdonald's first star vehicle - is about a
guy who keeps getting fired. Eventually he opens a revenge business
and hires himself out to people who want to get even.
Directed by Bob Saget, former host of "America's Funniest Home
Videos" and co-star of the sitcom "Full House," the MGM movie
also stars Chevy Chase and Don Rickles.
"This situation has helped in the sense that he's getting so much
media attention, and in general we're predisposed to root for the
underdog," said CNN showbiz expert Martin Grove. "What this will
do is heighten awareness. But I don't think that alone can sell
© 1998 New York Post. All rights reserved.