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Remembering Norm Macdonald and his Opening Monologue from the 1998 ESPY Awards

Norm Macdonald’s legacy has to include his legendary turn as the host of the ’98 ESPYs.

Remembering Norm Macdonald and his Opening Monologue from the 1998 ESPY Awards

Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

The world lost a great comedian this week with the news that Norm Macdonald passed away at age 61 after a private battle with leukemia. Though Norm was most notably known for his work on Saturday Night Live, particularly as a host of “Weekend Update”, one of my favorite clips of his work was his monologue as the host of the 1998 ESPY awards.

In the wake of Macdonald’s passing, I thought it would be appropriate to relive that wonderful mix of sports and comedy. If you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest you watch the full monologue below.

And if you have seen it, I would bet my life savings it’ll still make you laugh.

Macdonald was brilliant as the host of many awards shows. He had the ability to make it seem like he didn’t care at all about what he was hosting while simultaneously coming off as the nervous, awkward comic. His deadpan delivery made for incredible comic timing. Another of my favorite clip is his slaying at the 1997 White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Seemingly sweating bullets, Norm roasts the fourth estate and has Bill Clinton in stitches.

Like most award show hosts, Macdonald went out on a limb, saying things about those in attendance that nobody would say to their faces. But it was the final joke at the ’98 ESPYs that will go down in infamy. After congratulating Charles Woodson for winning the Heisman Trophy, Macdonald tells him that’s something that no one can take away from him…”unless you kill your wife and a waiter.”

It was the latest in a long string of Macdonald’s jokes at the expense of O.J. Simpson, who the comic eviscerated weekly on SNL. The same year as this ESPY’s, Macdonald was fired from Weekend Update and later from SNL. His ousting possibly stemmed from his anti-O.J. sentiment, which angered Simpson’s good friend Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC’s West Coast division.

Whether that was true or not, Macdonald’s joke about Charles Woodson was just one illustration of his brilliance. And his monologue at the ESPYs was one of the best sports-related comedy sets I’ve ever seen.

RIP Norm Macdonald.

Craig has spent the last ten years as a sports information professional, working for several schools across New England at the Division 3 level. A native of Peabody, Mass., Craig is a life-long Boston sports fan. He is also an avid player of fantasy football and baseball, and commissioner of the AKA Family Fantasy Football League. Like most other Turf team members, Craig has a penchant for theater, spending his high school and college years as a set designer, sound designer and theater shop worker. He became a father shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, and as such, hasn't really left his home since last December.

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