The thought of Norm Macdonald appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show in the immediate wake of his disparaging comments about the #MeToo movement had some producers in tears and ultimately led to his visit being scrapped at the last minute.
Visiting Howard Stern’s radio show the morning after his cancelled Tuesday Tonight Show drop-by, Macdonald said that he had arrived early at the late-night show to pre-tape a “True Confessions” segment with fellow guest Matthew McConaughey when “some people, from NBC or The Tonight Show, I don’t know who they were,” stopped by his dressing room and questioned the prudence of doing that particular bit at this time.
The visitors then made clear to Macdonald that Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon would need to acknowledge his controversial remarks about the #MeToo movement. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Macdonald had said he was “happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit.” He also suggested that Louis C.K. (the subject of multiple sexual misconduct allegations) and Roseanne Barr (ousted by ABC for racist comments) should get together to commiserate, explaining, “There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day. Of course, people will go, ‘What about the victims?’ But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that.”
Eventually, a “concerned”-looking Fallon himself stopped by Macdonald’s dressing room to ask, “How should we play this?” As Macdonald told Stern, “Part of the reason I love [Jimmy] is because he does nothing about the news. He’s just a song-and-dance man. He’s not a political comedian.” (Interestingly, Macdonald was the second guest on The Tonight Show the night Fallon famously mussed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hair.)
Fallon and Macdonald agreed they would address his #MeToo remarks at the end of their interview, following some reminiscing about the late Burt Reynolds (whom Macdonald used to imitate on Saturday Night Live). After Macdonald rebuffed the producers’ idea to open the show with an apology, Fallon returned to say that he was feeling a lot of pressure from people, noting that some senior producers were “crying” over the idea of letting Macdonald appear on-air.
“He was very broken up about it, he didn’t want this,” Macdonald told Stern. Realizing they were facing an impasse, “Jimmy said, ‘Come back whenever you want, but I think it will hurt the show tonight,'” Macdonald related. “I said, ‘Jimmy, that’s the last thing I want to do, is hurt your show.”
In a statement released Tuesday evening, NBC said, “Out of sensitivity to our audience and in light of Norm Macdonald’s comments in the press… The Tonight Show has decided to cancel his appearance.”
As for the THR interview that drew all this fire, Macdonald told Stern, “I have great sorrow that people took it that way,” adding: “I’m totally behind the #MeToo movement. I never said that the victims didn’t go through anything. What I was saying was the reason to put Louis and Roseanne together to talk was because only a few people in the whole world have gone through this new thing where everything is stripped from them…. I wasn’t saying that was way worse than what victims went through. What the victims went through is horrible.”