The Late Show with David Letterman
JANUARY 7, 1998 (CBS)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is it. This is when Norm announced to the world his "reassignment" -- by Don Ohlmeyer -- away from the "Weekend Update" anchor desk. Letterman's own experiences at NBC fuel this roasting of "Those Weasels at NBC." It's also the broadcast that was the catalyst for this website. We were so shocked and angered by NBC's bone-head move that we immediately set up "WE WANT NORM" -- a simple web page that got the word out about Norm's plight and provided fans a means to protest the network's blunder. -N!

Canned By Don Ohlmeyer

DAVE: Thank you very much for being here. You don't mind if I ask you a question?

NORM: What's that?

DAVE: I hear today, I hear this story, there's like this press release, that you got your ass fired. Is that true?

NORM: Yeah.

DAVE: No, you didn't get fired.

NORM: Yeah, they fired me.

DAVE: No, they didn't fire you.

NORM: No, I'm serious. I talked to a guy that said I'm fired. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Fired from your television job?

NORM: From on the Weekend Update, you know I do the news segment?

DAVE: Yeah, the Weekend Update.

NORM: Yeah, and I do the jokes and I do uh, you know?

DAVE: Sometimes, many times, the best part of the show.

NORM: Yeah. [Applause.] But it's all a matter of opinion. That's your opinion.

DAVE: That's my opinion, yeah.

NORM: But then the guys that can fire me, that's not their opinion.

DAVE: Now why would they fire you? Who fired you, first of all? Let's get some names here, let's get this on the record.

NORM: Well, I don't know the guys, cause the guys I work with are like Lorne Michaels and stuff.

DAVE: Did Lorne Michaels fire you?

NORM: No, he didn't, he didn't fire me, he likes me and stuff.

DAVE: Well it's his show, isn't it?

NORM: I thought it was his show, yeah.

DAVE: Well then how can a guy come in from the outside and fire you? Somebody from ABC fired you?

NORM: No, no, they're NBC. What happens is, you work on the show, and then there's these guys that hang out in the halls.

DAVE: Yeah, we got 'em here!

NORM: And they're called executives, they're NBC executives, right? And then, I'd see 'em, I didn't know who the hell they were, what they did, you know? Now I know what they do, they fire me from Weekend Update. But they said that this guy Don Ohlmeyer, who turns out to be the president --

DAVE: Yeah, now I know Don Ohlmeyer, and just between you and me, he's an idiot.

NORM: Oh! [Laughter.]

DAVE: So, I wouldn't take it seriously. If this guy fired you, you may still have a job, you never know. I'd wait for some paperwork.

NORM: No, I phoned him, you know.

DAVE: Oh, you had to phone in to pick up your messages from Don -- oh man!

NORM: Yeah, so I said, "Hey," you don't know what to say, you're like, "Hey, how's it goin' there?" you know, you're tryin' to talk about something else. "Did you have turkey there, for the thing?" or whatever, I don't know. And then, so he goes, "Oh yeah, I'm firing you from the show," and then I said, "Oh, that's not good." And then I said, "Why is that now?" and he goes, "Oh, you're not, you know, you're not funny," and then I said, "Holy Lord, that's even worse news!" you know? Because I don't got nothin' to fall back on. [Laughter.] No, he's a good man.

DAVE: He just fired you, what do you mean he's a good! What is wrong with you?! You quisling, stop that!

NORM: I don't know what quisling means, but -- [Laughter.] But I mean, to me, you have to be philosophical about these things. I mean, at first when I found out, I was upset, but then I really started to think about it, and plus I drank a lot of whiskey. And then afterwards --

DAVE: To put the edge off it a little, I'm guessing. Yeah.

NORM: Yeah, I just thought, "Ahhhahhhahhh," like that. But then the next day I sobered up, and I remembered, you know, that, uh -- I still had some whiskey left. [Laughter.]

DAVE: So you went right back to it. But, now Norm, far be it from me to tell you how to lead your life or your career, because Lord knows you've been very, very successful, but if the guy says to you, "We don't want you on the Weekend Update," and that's like your signature piece, you're kind of like the anchorman not only of that segment, but of the entire Saturday Night Live show. If things aren't going great, they give the ball to you. You're the damn quarterback, Norm! You're the one who punches it over the goal line for pay dirt! [Applause.] So now, if Mr. Bigshot-Cologne-and-Cufflinks Don Ohlmeyer, if he says, "We don't want you on the Weekend Update," I'd adios. I'd get in a cab.

NORM: Yeah?

DAVE: Absolutely. Hit the dirt. Come on over here to CBS, we'll get you a nice show. We'll put together a nice show for you. [Applause.]

NORM: Alright. [Laughter.]

DAVE: You're no quisling!

NORM: I've never been called that.

DAVE: Well now, will you stay on the rest of the show?

NORM: Yeah, I'm gonna stay. I do, also, other than doing Update, I do sketches, but like I stink in those. You know, he thinks I'm funny in those.

DAVE: Yeah. Oh, it's just the Weekend Update he doesn't think you're funny.

NORM: Yeah, he doesn't think I'm funny in Weekend Update and uh, God only knows. I mean, it's just a matter of opinion. He also thinks O.J. is innocent, so -- [Laughter.]

DAVE: Exactly. Don't let this pinhead push you around, for heaven's sake.

NORM: No, he's not a pinhead, he's a uh, he's a nice -- he's a fat guy.

DAVE: There we go, now! Come on Norm! Let's go. Let's get a little heat on here!

NORM: No. It's funny when you don't like a guy just cause he's fat, you know what I mean?

DAVE: No, it has nothing to do with him being fat.

NORM: No, it doesn't have anything to do with him being fat.

DAVE: You don't like him cause he's a dope.

NORM: No. It's just that, you know what I've always said is, uh, I've said, "Comedy is subjective."

DAVE: Uh, huh.

NORM: I never really said that. [Laughter.]

DAVE: No, I didn't think you did.

NORM: I said, I usually say, "Whiskey is good." [Laughter.]

DAVE: Yeah, that's right. But Norm, you're very, very funny, you're like the strength of that franchise now.

NORM: Well, do you know any guys over there you can give a call to or anything?

DAVE: Yeah, they're gonna take a call from me. You're lucky they took your call so they could fire you! Are you kidding?

NORM: Oh, but they're alright.

DAVE: Are you getting some support from the rest of the cast members?

NORM: Well, you know, the people on the cast, like they go -- you know when you work at a place, some people like you some people hate you?

DAVE: Oh yeah, you don't need to tell me that [Laughter.]

NORM: So people come up to you and go, "Oh man, I'm sorry." And then, either they're sorry, or they're not sorry.

DAVE: Yeah, that's right.

NORM: So, how the hell do you know?

DAVE: No, you don't really know. But you can tell.

NORM: Well sometimes you can tell, like, you walk into a room, and then everybody will stop talking, and then so you go, "Hey, were you just talking about how you were glad I got fired from the Update?" And they go, "No, no, we were talking about uh -- hats." [Laughter.]

DAVE: But now let me go back to this, and I don't want to embarrass you again, but if Lorne Michaels, the guy who created the show, the guy who's kept the show in business all these years, it's his show, Mr. Bigshot, Mr. Table-at-Orso's, Lorne Michaels, why doesn't he step in, why doesn't he throw himself in front of this gorilla to save your job? What's going on there? It sounds to me like he's a quisling.

NORM: He is?

DAVE: Well, it's what it sounds like.

NORM: Maybe we can get a dictionary at the break. [Laughter.]

DAVE: You know what I'm saying? Didn't Lorne Michaels hire you?

NORM: Yes, he did.

DAVE: Well then who ought to be able to fire you?

NORM: Lorne Michaels, right?

DAVE: Right, so where was he? Did he fire you?

NORM: No, he didn't fire me.

DAVE: But, he's like your buddy, right? You're buddies with Lorne.

NORM: Yeah, he's a good man and he's always --

DAVE: Now what did he say to you?

NORM: -- been very supportive of me.

DAVE: Well, I guess not. What did he say to you?

NORM: He said to me ... "Look Norm, this is the deal. I want you to stay on Weekend Update."

DAVE: Oh good. Well there you go, well great, you got the job back. That's good news. [Applause.] Atta boy, congratulations. ... [Commerical break.]

Canned By Don Ohlmeyer II

DAVE: [Returning from break.] Whaddya got there, Norm? You looked up "quisling."

NORM: [Holding dictionary.] Yeah, I looked up "quisling." And, also, there's -- do you know what "quizmaster" means?

DAVE: Yeah, that'd be like Alex Trebec. Yeah, I knew that.

NORM: Quisling is "a master of ceremonies on a game show." [Wrong-answer buzzer sound.] No, a quisling is "a traitor who serves as a puppet of the enemy occupying his country."

DAVE: Exactly, that's what I'm talking about. [Correct-answer bell sound.] Thank you very much. Norm Macdonald, you sir, are no quisling.

NORM: You know, I thought I was dumb when I didn't know what a quisling was, I think I'm even dumber now cause I still don't know what it is. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Now, Norm, a couple of things come to mind here. This seems so preposterous to me, so unfathomable, so unreasonable, that I'm guessing, oh, it's like a stunt, like a publicity stunt, like big time wrestling, or something. Is it that kind of deal? Where you and Don Ohlmeyer will have a feud and you'll wrestle on the show or something for your job? One of those deals?

NORM: No, no, I like Don Ohlmeyer.

DAVE: Oh, now how can you like -- this weasel fired you!

NORM: No, but he doesn't think I'm funny.

DAVE: And yet you like the man.

NORM: Sure, I mean -- you know?

DAVE: Here's what --

NORM: A lot of people don't think I'm funny.

DAVE: Enjoy you're complimentary beverage. Now, tomorrow night --

NORM: It ain't whiskey, but it's good. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Now there's a great song. Now, tomorrow night come back on the show, or Friday night come back on the show and do Weekend Update. You can do Weekend Update here. You can be the Weekend Update guy on this show.

NORM: That'd be great!

DAVE: Well there you go! [Applause.]

DAVE: Now, whose taking your place on the Weekend Update?

NORM: I don't know. Apparently they had some press release today, but I don't read the papers, which is -- that wasn't good either.

DAVE: No, not if you're in charge of Weekend Update, you just blatantly admit that you don't know what's going on. [Laughter.]

NORM: I did too many Nixon jokes.

DAVE: I tell ya one thing, I'll tell you whose taking your place: Nobody can take your place, Norm Macdonald, that's what I think.

NORM: Awww. That's nice. [Applause.]

DAVE: You don't seem to be taking this too hard, you seem to be taking it pretty well.

NORM: Well, I mean, I don't know, because if somebody doesn't like you, and they own the joint, you know, that's fine, I mean, I don't know.

DAVE: Yeah, but why would you want to work in that atmosphere? Why wouldn't you want to take a hike and say, "Well I'll show you, I'll take my little Weekend Update someplace else and bury you punks!"

NORM: I don't know, I guess I'm a goddamn quisling or something. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Well Norm, jeez, I hope you land on your feet, I think you're gonna -- but you'll be in part of the show anyway, right?

NORM: Yeah, I'll be doing, you know --

DAVE: Yeah, I know.

NORM: -- those things. I'll be. You know, now, I find out --

DAVE: That hilarious impression of me, you'll be doing that I guess.

NORM: No, I won't do that.

DAVE: Why didn't they fire that? [Laughter.]

NORM: What they do is they, now they're saying, "Oh, we'll put you in a whole bunch of sketches," which I don't want to be in, because --

DAVE: Of course.

NORM: -- then they're like, "Here, you're the scientist and, uh, you're the scientist in charge of Monkey Boy, or some damn thing. And then I'm like running in going, "Hey, cheerleaders, what's going on, uh, I haven't seen Monkey Boy." [Laughter.] And I don't know how to do that stuff.

DAVE: That ain't a bad sketch though, Norm. That ain't bad. That's got possibilities.

My Mom

NORM: [My mom] came to visit me in New York, you know? And she's real sweet, you know. She doesn't know much about show business, but she always tries cause she knows I'm in show business.

DAVE: Right, yeah.

NORM: I mean, until tonight. [Laughter.] So she always tries to give me like the showbiz news, and I remember a couple years ago she phoned me up, she goes, "Oh my God, have you heard the news? Liza Minelli's a phony!" And that was her, like, story.

DAVE: Liza Minelli's a phony?

NORM: Yeah, and I thought, how can that be, like, a story? Like, I mean, I'm sure she probably is a phony, you know, but how would that be a scoop? And then like, it took me awhile to figure out she was talking about, uh, them, remember that Milli Vanilli?

DAVE: Yeah. Oh! Oh, she's -- [Laughter.]

NORM: So, she's like, into that stuff, you know.

Bill Cosby

DAVE: She must be very excited and proud, though, I mean cause you've worked with big big stars, like, I know you've worked with Bill Cosby.

NORM: Oh yeah, Bill Cosby, man, he's my favorite guy ever since I was young. And I got to open for him at this comedy thing, and he was the greatest. I got to meet him and stuff, and you know, when you meet these guys, it's so, like, you know, you're all shocked or something, you know, cause you can't believe you're talking to this guy, and so I told him, I said -- and you know, he's always funny, he has that funny way of talking, so I go, "Hey, hi, nice to meet you Mr. Cosby," and he goes, like, [Cosby voice] "YES! YES!" [Laughter.] and then you just laugh, you know? And then, so I go, "Oh man," I go, "you're my favorite," you know? "And ever since I was a little kid I always listened to you. You're my dad's favorite comedian ever," you know? And he goes, [Cosby voice] "NOW WHERE IS YOUR DAD FROM?" You know?

DAVE: That's pretty good. That's pretty good.

NORM: Oh, maybe I'll do it this week on the show. [Laughter.]

NORM: So I tell Cosby, you know, I say "Oh, my dad's from Ottawa." So he turns to his buddy Ben, his manager or something, and he goes, [Cosby voice] "BEN, ISN'T WE ARK THE OTTAWA?" You know? And Ben goes, "Yes, we are playing Ottawa soon." Ben understands everything Cosby says. He goes, "Yes Mr. Cosby, we are, we do have a gig in Ottawa coming up" And he goes, [Cosby voice] "WHAT IS YOUR FATH -- GET ME A PAPER," so he gets a paper, and he goes, [Cosby voice] "HERE NOW, WRITE YOUR FATHER'S NAME ON THE PAPER." [Laughter.] Like everything's funny he says. If I said, "Write your father's name on the paper," nothin'.


NORM: So he goes, [Cosby voice] "AND THE PEN. THE MAN NEEDS THE PEN!" So I get the pen and the paper, you know, so I'm writing down my father's thing, and then all of a sudden, I realize that, uh, my father's dead. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Yeah, that's a problem. Oh man.

NORM: So I like panic, you know, I'm in this situation where my dad's been dead eight, nine years, and I've got the paper and the pen, you know?

DAVE: Sure, yeah.

NORM: And so I know Ottawa's area code, so I write that, and then I'm just writing down, like, random numbers, you know? And then I go, "Here you go Mr. Cosby, this is my father-who's-still-alive's number here." And he's like, [Cosby voice] "AGGIGGIGGAHH!" you know? And then, so I thought like, "God man, that's a stupid thing I did," you know? And, then a couple weeks later, I get a call, and it's Bill Cosby on the phone, and he's like, [Cosby voice] "I PHONED THE NUMBER!" And he's so sweet, like he'd actually phoned my father's number, like what a great man, you know? And he said, [Cosby voice] "THE MAN DOES NOT LIVE WITH THE NUMBER. THE MAN ANSWERED, AND NOT YOUR FATHER," you know? So I'm like, "Well, I'm pretty sure." [Laughter.] Cause I couldn't go, "Oh yeah, I forgot, he's been dead ten years!"

DAVE: Yeah! Oh man! Well Norm, I hope we've been able to get you through your darkest hour, and I hope you'll somehow find the will to carry on. And normally this would be the time when we'd mention the show on Saturday night, but I'm so ANGRY about this, that I don't care about the show Saturday night, and neither should you.

NORM: Awww. [Laughter.]

DAVE: Good to see you, Norm.

NORM: Thank you, man.

DAVE: Come back anytime. Norm Macdonald.

Thank you "Another Bad David Letterman Web Page" for providing this transcript.