Something happened the other night that surprised me. I laughed at OJ Simpson.
I LAUGHED AT OJ.
Here’s how it happened. I went with friends to see “The Naked Gun” at the Screening Room, a local cinema-café that shows classic movies.
And when it comes to comedies, “The Naked Gun” is a classic. It’s on my list of the five funniest movies ever made. I saw it several times in movie theatres when it first came out, and have seen it approximately a zillion times over the years at home.
But there’s a difference between watching a movie at home and seeing it in a theatre…even a small one.
Seeing it in this setting…a room full of people laughing and giggling along with me (although I was louder than most) made a very funny movie even funnier.
And OJ was truly funny.
The first scene….where he gets riddled with bullets, then burns his hand on a hot stove, has a window slam down on him, bounces off wet paint, gets his foot caught in a bear trap….great slapstick humor.
The same for the scene where the hospital bed keeps folding up on him.
And at the end, when Leslie Nielsen sends his wheelchair careening down the steps at the stadium and he goes flying like a rag doll….laugh out loud funny.
And not once, while I was laughing at OJ, did I think about the fact that he brutally murdered two people. (Allegedly. Never convicted. But we know the truth, don’t we?)
Anyway, while I was laughing at him being bonked and bounced around like one of the Three Stooges, I never thought about Nicole and Ron. A savage double slaying that became part of the late night comedy monologues. A murder trial that was must-see TV. And a verdict that helped drive a wedge through race relations in this country.
But I thought about all of that after the movie.
I thought about how sad it all was. I thought about the two people who died, and all the other people who are still suffering.
Even if you think he got away with murder, think about him today. Sitting in a Nevada prison cell.
Talk about a fall from grace. It doesn’t get much more extreme than him.
Hall of Fame football player. Acting career. Commercials. Rich, famous, and really really popular.
People all over America loved and idolized him. Here in Buffalo, we loved and idolized him even more.
He was ours. He was the greatest Buffalo Bill of all time. (Sorry Jim, Thurman, and Bruce….if you only look at skill on the football field, it’s no contest)
Then he became a villain. And a punch line. And a convict.
When I worked at Skunkpost, I wrote stories about OJ all the time. Most were snarky, but some were serious. Some were even picked up by national publications. Because all you have to do is put OJ in a headline, and people will read the story.
Skunkpost was 15 years after the murders, and OJ was still making news.
Hell, he’s still making news now.
Just today I saw a story about potential casting for a mini-series about his trial.
The other day I read that ESPN’s “30 for 30” series is going to do a long-form documentary about OJ.
It will never stop.
And we’ll never stop being interested.
Even if for a couple hours in a movie theatre, we forget how much we hate him now, and remember how much we liked him then.
And we laugh.