Before Ricky Gervais, There Was Norm MacDonald at the ESPYs

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Lost in the uproar over Ricky Gervais's performance at the Golden Globes Sunday night is the fact comedians have been finding humor in Scientology, the Hollywood Foreign Press, and the fact nobody listens to Cher for some time now. We have no idea if Bruce Willis has ever noticed his ex-wife's new boyfriend is young enough to be his son (we suspect he does), but the viewers in the Golden Globes core demographic have.

And for sheer offensiveness, nothing Gervais offered Sunday night came close to matching the sweaty hilarity of Norm MacDonald's opening monologue at the 1998 ESPY awards. Rewatching the eight-minute monologue on YouTube today, the references to statutory rape, "dirty foreigners", crack cocaine, Michael Jordan's gambling troubles, transsexual speed skaters, and the Heismann Trophy being an honor nobody can ever take away "unless you kill your wife and a waiter" are as bruising as ever. We can only imagine how it played with a crowd judging MacDonald against previous ESPY hosts Tony Danza and Jeff Foxworthy.

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Ray Gustini is the author of Lucky Town, a forthcoming book about sports in Washington, D.C. He is a former staff writer for The Atlantic Wire.

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