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Norm Macdonald used Charles Woodson in setup for one of the best ESPYs jokes ever

The former Wolverine and Heisman Trophy winner was used as a setup for the late comic during the 1998 ESPY Awards.

KAABOO Del Mar Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Comedy fans around the world are mourning the loss of Norm Macdonald, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 61. The late comic, known for his precise delivery and deadpan style of humor, was privately battling cancer for the last nine years.

Macdonald was best known for his time spent on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s, where he anchored the Weekend Update segment. Many of his iconic moments came at the expense of OJ Simpson during his trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson, his ex-wife, and Ron Goldman.

While hosting the ESPYs in 1998, Macdonald may have delivered one of his most crushing blows to Simpson. And Michigan Wolverines legend and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson was kindling for it.

“And there’s Charles Woodson! How about that? What a season he had. He became the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. Congratulations, Charles, that is something that no one can ever take away from you,” Macdonald said near the end of his monologue. “Unless you kill your wife and a waiter, in which case, all bets are off.”

Macdonald frequently went after Simpson during his Weekend Update segments. This upset NBC head Don Ohlmeyer, who was friends with the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner at USC. Macdonald would later be fired at SNL in 1998 but returned to host the show in 1999 and gave the network a verbal middle finger during his monologue.

We are a sports website, namely covering the Michigan Wolverines. This is normally a content slot that is reserved for that topic, as are all of our others throughout the day. Celebrity deaths do not always resonate with a lot of people, but the loss of Macdonald is an enormous one as evidenced by the reaction to his passing. It hit me a little harder than I would have previously thought, as well.

Macdonald’s dry wit and stoic delivery were unique. He could mold a cringy, unfunny joke into the most hilarious thing you’ve ever heard simply by the way it was packaged. He also suffered no fools and paved his own way when the powers that be pushed back on him. Macdonald was one of those people that were so naturally funny that it makes you angry.

When I was younger, I always thought he was a jerk. I didn’t get his comedy or why people thought he was funny. That would erode as I got older. I’ve spent many a late night going down talk show rabbit holes on YouTube. They broke the mold with Macdonald, who could get even the most stone-faced comics and hosts to crack with the words that came out of his mouth.

Cancer is a cruel fate and it takes so many talented and wonderful people from us far too soon. It’s a sad reality that so many people have to face, and it really does take a village to lift someone up going through that. For those in Macdonald’s inner circle to keep that a secret is incredibly brave and admirable.

Celebrate life and celebrate the people around you because you never know what battles they are facing. Choose kindness. Be a good friend and family member.

And always, always remember to find time in the day for a good laugh.