Live from New York: An Oral History of Saturday Night Live

Written by: James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales

Live from New York: An Oral History of Saturday Night Live Book Cover
WHEN A YOUNG WRITER named Lorne Michaels talked NBC executives into taking a chance on a new weekend late-night comedy series, nobody really knew what to expect-not even Michaels. But Saturday Night Live, launched in 1975 and still thriving today, would change the face of television. It introduced brash new stars with names like Belushi, Radner, Chase, and Murray; trashed taboos that had inhibited TV for decades; and had such an impact on American life, laughter, and politics that even presidents of the United States had to take notice. Now, Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Shales and bestselling author James Andrew Miller bring together stars, writers, guest hosts, contributors, and craftsmen for the first-ever oral history of Saturday Night Live, from 1974, when it was just an idea, through 2002, when it has long since become an institution. In their own words, dozens of personalities recall the backstage stories, behind-the-scenes gossip, feuds, foibles, drugs, sex, struggles, and calamities, including personal details never before revealed. Shales and Miller have interviewed a galaxy of stars, including Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, Jon Lovitz, Jane Curtin, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Dana Carvey, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Garrett Morris, Molly Shannon, Damon Wayans, Chris Elliott, Julia Sweeney, Norm Macdonald, and Paul Simon-plus writers like Al Franken, Conan O'Brien, Larry David, Rosie Shuster, Jack Handey, Robert Smigel, Don Novello, and others who got their big breaks as part of the SNL team. The Coneheads, the Blues Brothers, Buck-wheat, Wayne and Garth, Hans and Franz, the Cheerleaders, Todd DiLaMuca and Lisa Loopner, "Cheeseburger cheeseburger," Mango, the Church Lady, Ed Grimley-they're all here. And for every fabulous character on-screen there was an outrageous maverick, misfit, or rebel behind the scenes. Live from New York does what no other book about the show has ever done: It lets the people who were there tell the story in their own words, blunt and loving and uncensored.
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Live from New York An Oral History of Saturday Night Live Reviews

Julie Ehlers
Well, I feel like I know more about Lorne Michaels--and how people feel about him--than I'd ever want to know. Why did the authors think he needed his own section?

This book was interesting, but the worshipful quality of it was annoying as hell. It's just a TV show. It's not changing the lives of anyone except its stars. But in this book, it's portrayed as one of the most significant things to happen in the U.S. Whoever criticizes the show is wrong, and wrong to do it, and any star who criticizes Well, I feel like I know more about Lorne Michaels--and how people feel about him--than I'd ever want to know. Why did the authors think he needed his own section?

This book was interesting, but the worshipful quality of it was annoying as hell. It's just a TV show. It's not changing the lives of anyone except its stars. But in this book, it's portrayed as one of the most significant things to happen in the U.S. Whoever criticizes the show is wrong, and wrong to do it, and any star who criticizes it or calls is racist or sexist is just wrong. Plus, how did the authors choose which guest hosts to interview? Why so much Gwyneth Paltrow?

Don't get me wrong--this was an entertaining book. But a little perspective is in order.
Emma Darcy
This book is an amazing insight to the people who worked for and in SNL. There's an ego to it, yes, and there was misogynism and greed and selfishness but there was also genius and generosity and love. SNL truly has a life of its own.

The worst part was reading the ridiculous reviews. I can only imagine many of them were by people who read the book despite somehow not being interested in what it was about. Why did you read it if you didn't want to know the truth? What were you expecting? I think This book is an amazing insight to the people who worked for and in SNL. There's an ego to it, yes, and there was misogynism and greed and selfishness but there was also genius and generosity and love. SNL truly has a life of its own.

The worst part was reading the ridiculous reviews. I can only imagine many of them were by people who read the book despite somehow not being interested in what it was about. Why did you read it if you didn't want to know the truth? What were you expecting? I think it is indicative of the general public's terrifying inability to distinguish real life from fiction anymore, and criticise real life events as if it were fiction.
Matt Ockmond
Because of it's length I've put this one off for a while, and then this newer edition included almost 200 new pages about the casts that had been on since it's last publication. I was so pleasantly surprised how exciting and fun it was to read. Given a clearer schedule I would have read it in a week. Even though you think you've heard all the stories there are to tell about them the parts about the first cast were fantastically entertaining, as well as each page that followed. If you're a fan of Because of it's length I've put this one off for a while, and then this newer edition included almost 200 new pages about the casts that had been on since it's last publication. I was so pleasantly surprised how exciting and fun it was to read. Given a clearer schedule I would have read it in a week. Even though you think you've heard all the stories there are to tell about them the parts about the first cast were fantastically entertaining, as well as each page that followed. If you're a fan of the show you really should read it sometime.
At the Earth's Core :: Brokedown Palace :: Ravelstein :: To Jerusalem and Back :: The Long Run: A Tale of the Continuing Time
Megan
Wow. I couldn't put it down, and it's a heavy 600 page read! The beginning of snl has always fascinated me with it's rock and rollness. The great thing about this book is that it is all interviews, there are certain fill in the blank paragraphs but its about 1% of the book. If you have any desire to read about the politics, drugs and humor of snl, this is the book for you.
Judy Williams
If you have ever watched and liked Saturday Night Live during its history, you'll enjoy this book. The 750 pages consists of interviews with most of the cast members, writers and executives who have been a part of SNL since 1975. It's a fascinating glimpse into an iconic show that seems able to reinvent itself continually.
Cheryl Gladfelter
I have read the previous edition of this book several times. This was my first time reading the updated 40th anniversary.

Reading the interviews and seeing how people differ on different aspects of the show or relationships is really fascinating. This new version is interesting because some of the previous interviewees have since passed away.

The reflections of Gilda are the best part.
Jason Mashak
Moments of perplexity, laughter, and tears. So many of the people who have affected both my personality and my writing have their starts and stories documented in this book. A great testament to something worthwhile remaining in American culture, despite its late-night only weekly time slot.
Julia
Reading all of these stories from cast, writers, and hosts of SNL was the most amazing thing ever. As a person obsessed with SNL and comedy I learned so much and learning about the history of SNL it was incredible.
Seth
This was some excellent guilty pleasure Summer reading although I can't say I came away with much except for more enduring love for Gilda Radner, more contempt for Chevy Chase, and more deep desire to one day be Lorne Michaels.

Jen
Not bad! Some really interesting anecdotes but it did drag at points. The nice thing is that you can skip over if you're not interested in something specific since it's nothing is really alone crucial.
Sandy
fun. Grew up with this show and remember nearly all the crew changes. Nice to get more insight on the writers. But once Michaels returned to the show the book gets repetitive. Interesting to hear what makes a bad guest a nightmare. Recommended if you're a big fan of the show.
Kelli
Very fascinating to learn about the history and experiences of this iconic show through numerous generations.
Meghan Moses
Interesting look inside SNL. Oral histories from the show's creators, staff, stars, and writers. It is long, but a great read!
Dave
Loved it. I've been a fan of SNL since the beginning and it was interesting to hear about all the antics that went backstage over the years.
Still

Best book available about the early to middle years of SNL.
Some very funny stories on almost every page of this oral history.
Recommended to all of my fellow aged baby boomers.
Brad
A page-turner all the way through, this oral history surprised me in how it stayed interesting even during the periods of SNL I was less familiar, which is quite an accomplishment in a 565-page book. I even enjoyed reading about seasons I only know through reruns...which honestly feel quite dated to me. (Ducks.) But comedy changes, evolves/devolves, blah blah blah.

One of the advantages of oral histories is getting more than one account, sometimes contradictory accounts. One of the disadvantages A page-turner all the way through, this oral history surprised me in how it stayed interesting even during the periods of SNL I was less familiar, which is quite an accomplishment in a 565-page book. I even enjoyed reading about seasons I only know through reruns...which honestly feel quite dated to me. (Ducks.) But comedy changes, evolves/devolves, blah blah blah.

One of the advantages of oral histories is getting more than one account, sometimes contradictory accounts. One of the disadvantages of this model is that (a) more pages devoted to different accounts of the same thing results in (b) less pages devoted to everything else. People who want to know everything will not find it in an oral history, but will learn things that probably are not in other books. This particular oral history focuses primarily on the personalities of the people involved in the show (writers, performers, executives), how they interacted or clashed with other personalities, their personal visions of what the show is or can be, their anecdotes from the studio and the story of how the show first came into being from those who lived it. Disappointingly, what it doesn't focus on is the minutiae: the writing process, the creation of characters, the evolution of particular sketches, the performance experience, how sketches are chosen, etc. Some of the people interviewed act quite guarded, some seem quite comfortable saying anything and everything regardless of consequences, some seem embittered (Janeane Garofalo) making them seem less unreliable as sources, but for the most part those interviewed are offering up information they'd probably give to anyone interviewing them. What is amazing is the access these authors were given. Taken piece by piece, it seems more like a tribute to the comedy factory of SNL and, effectively, its capacity to launch comedians into celebrity status. What makes it an effective historical document is how those stories are pieced together.

One of the most interesting things is seeing the evolution of how the bigger celebrities from different casts respond to being interviewed. Those of the earliest cast are fearless in saying anything they want because nothing they say will tarnish their "classic" period. Those during the non-Lorne years can comfortably bash anything from that time because it is popular to do so, making any positives more noticeable. Those during the early-90s have a clear reverence for the show, having watched it growing up and for it launching their particularly successful post-SNL careers (Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, David Spade). Those from the late 90s to the 2001-2002 cast (being interviewed as this book was completed) are much more cautious and diplomatic about what they say.

The book also has its downsides:
(1) The book acts like SNL was only comedy taste maker, as if it were an indisputable fact and the whole world watches each week for fear of otherwise being a pop culture illiterate.
(2) The author interludes are usually redundant and often silently claim superiority of opinion, namely excessive favor/nostalgia for the first five years and the idea that no other cast can compare.
(3) At times, the storytelling lacks the tools necessary to help those who aren't scholars of SNL or NBC understand who or what is being discussed. Other oral histories offer bracketed text to explain the "in" stuff that is said. (Ex: An interviewee mentions "Brandon" and the reader wonders "Who is Brandon?" Eventually someone offers Brandon's last name, but still no explanation of who Brandon is...so the reader looks it up online.)
(4) The storytelling also has some confusing detours from chronology. (Ex: someone who the book says has been fired suddenly comes in to comments on a topic/person that seems like a later period. It would have helped to put the names of the different cast members at the top of different sections to aid the chronology...instead of in an appendix at the end.)
(5) The main fault of the book was not saying who wrote what sketch, what each performer's strength or claim to fame was or including any script excerpts. The only times it seemed to do this was with the mega-celebrities. (And even then, a favorite character is mentioned, like Billy Crystal's Fernando, but the reader is never given any idea of who these characters were or what their sketches were like.) Not all the cast members are represented, for sure--from the 90s, Ellen Cleghorne is never mentioned, Rob Schneider is maybe mentioned once, and Tim Meadows contributions to the show are never mentioned, despite being on SNL for around decade--but the book gives clear preferential treatment (pages) to those who went on to greater success. What about those who didn't have successful post-SNL careers? Their stories are just as important and valid for historical record.

---

Some quotes:
Steve Martin: "When you're young, you have way fewer taboo topics, and then as you go through life and you have experiences with people getting cancer and dying and all the things you would have made fun of, then you don't make fun of them anymore. So rebelliousness really is the province of young people--that kind of iconoclasm." (123)
Lorne Michaels: "I was going to have to fire some people, many of whom had lived up to the top of their talent, but the mistake was made five years earlier in the hiring. Quite often the least talented are the ones who most want you to know how loyal they are." (181)
Tim Kazurinsky: "I've always found that cocaine causes constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth." (254)
Rudolph Giuliani: "I don't know if that was the funniest Saturday Night Live ever, but to me it was, because it was like I literally hadn't laughed from September 11th up to that point. So it was a little bit like when you go to a restaurant and you're very hungry ad the food tastes terrific; you're not sure if the food is terrific or you're just very hungry." (506)
Steve Martin, on Lorne Michaels: "I think I understand him. I never found him inscrutable. I hear it sometimes said about myself. When you're dealing with all different kinds of people all day, and everyone has a goal toward you, a lot of times you don't fulfill their goal, and then they think, 'Oh, uncommunicative,' when really it's just that there's no time to fill everyone's goal." (533)
Frank
So I finally finished Live from New York and the fact is I don't think I could give this book five stars even if it had no real problems, because it discusses a TV show that was live, and constantly references that TV show. The problem is often times I had to go look up an episode or a sketch on Hulu or YouTube to get what they were referencing. Once I saw the episode they're referring to I totally understood the situation they're talking about but honestly the book is a bit rough in that aspect So I finally finished Live from New York and the fact is I don't think I could give this book five stars even if it had no real problems, because it discusses a TV show that was live, and constantly references that TV show. The problem is often times I had to go look up an episode or a sketch on Hulu or YouTube to get what they were referencing. Once I saw the episode they're referring to I totally understood the situation they're talking about but honestly the book is a bit rough in that aspect.

So with that being said this book is only for true fans of the show. And since the book spans the entire first 30 years of the show, having only seen one decade of the show isn't really enough, to really appreciate the book you need to have seen most of the show. Hulu does have every season and every episode available to stream. But until you've seen it all I feel like the book will probably be missing something (and last year I had seen every episode, good AND bad...)

If you're familiar with Saturday night live though the book does shine. Almost everyone is in here (the notable exception being Eddie Murphy, though they address it.) most omissions are due to people passing away, but what's remarkable is those people shine through even though they aren't in the book, John Belushi, Michael O'Donoughe, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and Gilda Radner are all as present in this book as any other character, and that is a great boon to the book. Without those five people this book would be almost pointless, but their stories get a lot of pages, and honestly, that's what makes the book work.

And what is most interesting is the book really gets into the behind the scenes stuff at the show during the first five to ten years. The stories are fascinating, and people seem to be blunt about what went on at the show.

That being said the book falls apart in the second half. The first half of the book up until about 3-4 years after Lorne comes back and they get the first great cast (Dana Carvey, Lovitz, and Hartman), the entire book works, pacing is flawless, the areas of the book are well framed, and the stories are coherent. After that part it feels like the proofreader took a vacation, or the author stopped trying. There were larger casts in those years, but the fact is most of the part of the book starts jumping around to random years, and it loses its cohesive narrative.

Though in addition there are some very odd omissions. There's a great deal of time spent on Sinead O' Connor, understandably, almost five pages. But only a handful of pages on Charlie Rocket, no mention of Martin Lawrence and his censored stand up, or any mention of how Will Farrell used to try to break up Fallon (or hell any mention of Fallon or most actors breaking).

I think the worst of these though is the absence of Charlie Rocket. There is about a solid 20-30 pages on how bad Jean Doumanian was but no one thought to mention more about Charlie Rocket than he said "Fuck" on live television, which in itself is a good story. However there's a better story, and it frames that season perfectly. Charlie Rocket was called a mix between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. Now go watch any episode he was in during that season (honestly they were all horrible, and the book does say that). They billed this guy as the next great coming and no one brought that up? The author didn't feel that he should mention it?

Charlie Rocket has since passed away, but what I found awkward was as the "star" of that season, he is barely mentioned at all. No one tried to explain how it wasn't his fault, and no one brought up the hope they had at the time period? It's the strangest omission.

On the other hand there are a number of parts of the book that I wonder if they needed. The final chapter is a sickly sweet tribute to Lorne, where everyone had to say that one nice thing about him. If I found out the book was written by Lorne, it wouldn't have surprised me considering that final chapter. The chapter was a nice piece, but felt like it was twice as long as it really needed to be. I appreciate how important Lorne is to the show; in fact the rest of the book hammers that in. The last book feels like a bit of sucking up at the end of the report to try to get a better grade from the teacher and honestly I don’t know if the book needed that.
In addition there are a couple quotes by Ralph Nader of all people. Now most people say something interesting about the show, or about how everything works, or even what it's like on the show. Nader (who hosted) had two quotes and they both were baffling about why he was included. One was on the nature of satire, and how Russia excels at it. And the other was about baseball statistics satire, and how America now needs it. The problem is neither of the quotes really ties into the narrative at all which is about weekend update. Yes they were talking about how weekend update became more satirical, but the quotes don't even tie much into that, it's just banality from Nader which might not be a shock to someone who has heard much of what he has said recently. Maybe they figured he spent the time talking to the author that he deserved a quote, but if that's the best quote they had by him? I shudder to imagine what he said otherwise.
The sad part is the interesting stories are about the first five years. I don’t know if it’s a problem with the statute of limitations on criminal proceedings, or just the fact that the only time the show was really wild and rebellious was in the first five years, but overall If you wanted to just read the first hundred or so pages (out of 600) and call it day, it’d be understandable. Overall I’d give the book a four even with all the flaws because there’s a lot of interesting stories but there’s probably a handful of stories in the entire book that’s really worth it, and most of them have already been posted multiple times online because of how people like to gossip. The book instead gives the reader a view of what SNL is really like, and the fact is it’s kind of interesting in that respect. But for anyone other than a diehard fan, this would be a hard and pointless read I think.
Jenni V.
There aren't many books, especially one clocking in at 700+ pages, that I love so much I would immediately start over and reread as soon as I finished it. This is one of them, combining my love of Saturday Night Live and "behind the scenes" stories into one page-turning read.

I read the original version before I wrote reviews so since the layout of the book is original version - new pages for the last 10 years - wrapping up with a chapter on Lorne, I'll write my review the same way.

THE ORIGINAL There aren't many books, especially one clocking in at 700+ pages, that I love so much I would immediately start over and reread as soon as I finished it. This is one of them, combining my love of Saturday Night Live and "behind the scenes" stories into one page-turning read.

I read the original version before I wrote reviews so since the layout of the book is original version - new pages for the last 10 years - wrapping up with a chapter on Lorne, I'll write my review the same way.

THE ORIGINAL BOOK

I liked the format of taking a topic and/or year and going back and forth with everyone's comments instead of writing each person's full perspective separately. It really highlighted the different perceptions people had while participating in the same event. The book isn't necessarily 'fact based' as the authors don't insert their opinion of who is correct; they just put what everyone says together and let us be the judge. Two clear examples of this were how many people took credit for the creation of the show and how many people took credit for discovering Eddie Murphy. I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle of most of these anecdotes when taking into consideration the haziness of people's memories, the length of time that has passed, and the drugs some people were on at the time.

Like the show itself, not everything is going to hit. Some stories are funny, some are bitter, some are weird, some are emotional. I wonder if it was awkward for people to read what others said about them...there were definitely some less-than-flattering descriptions in here!

Okay, okay Joe Piscopo, we get it...you're the best Frank Sinatra if you do say so yourself. And you do. Often. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mike Myers appeared to be very kind in how he talked about his co-stars and Lorne.

THE UPDATED CHAPTERS COVERING 2004 - 2014
The recent years were interesting but not as dishy or informative. Is it really because things aren't as crazy as they used to be, or were people holding back because they're still working together?

LORNE
It made sense to end with the chapter on Lorne but since it had old and new material, it was a little strange because some of the people had since passed away but were speaking/being spoken about in the present tense, and any numbers (ages, etc.) from original quotes were off when reading in the context of the updated version. I think some editing could've been done in this chapter to reflect the years that have passed since some of the quotes were given without altering the spirit of the quote.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"The premiere was less than a month away - October 11, 1975. A day which will live in comedy."

"I remember the terror. You know, the total exhilaration of it. I just didn't know you could have that much fun over thirty. It was like the inmates taking over the asylum. Totally." ~ Candice Bergin

"The idea that some of the things would not be necessarily accessible to everyone didn't matter. As long as there were a few people out there who thought it was hilarious, that's what mattered." ~ Paul Shaffer

"Two guys named Chris, hired on the same day, sharing an office, okay? One's a black guy from Bed-Stuy, one's a white guy from Madison, Wisconsin. Now - which one is going to OD?" ~ Chris Rock

"It's a one-week performance camp where everybody's operating from a sense of just incredible amounts of glee and manic energy as well as vast amounts of fear and flop sweat. That's Saturday Night Live, and there is absolutely nothing else like it." ~ Tom Hanks

"When I came here Lorne told me, "We don't go on the air because the show's ready, we go on because it's eleven-thirty"." ~ Darrell Hammond

"When you think of all the different sketches that have gone into SNL since, what, 1975 - when you think of all the things they've done, there's a lot of chaff among the wheat. But God, the wheat is spectacular." ~ Don Ohlmeyer

Find all my reviews at:
http://readingatrandom.blogspot.com/
Angela
Great book to read when one is, as I am, in the midst of an American comedy appreciation resurgance, thanks to the likes and genius of Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and even the male comedian, Bill Hader (proving that, despite what some intellectuals would have you believe, men can be funny too!).

The main criticisms against this book - that its uber-devotional authors gloss over the grimy, unpleasant, or even "meh" aspects of SNL (the fact that it was s Great book to read when one is, as I am, in the midst of an American comedy appreciation resurgance, thanks to the likes and genius of Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and even the male comedian, Bill Hader (proving that, despite what some intellectuals would have you believe, men can be funny too!).

The main criticisms against this book - that its uber-devotional authors gloss over the grimy, unpleasant, or even "meh" aspects of SNL (the fact that it was so white male-centric for so long, the fact that its mythos often exceeds its actual skit quality) - is true, though not enough to capsize the book. It's actually an amazing piece of research; and the way they structured their mountains of oral material into an informative, insightful narrative was hugely impressive (to me, at least!). It's also, well, true, that SNL has seeped into the fibers of post-1970s American culture in a way that not much else has: not just in its catchphrases ("Trick question: Mike Ditka is God.", "More cowbell!"), but also in its iconic former castmembers (from Bill Murray to Tina Fey), and certain seminal spin-off films like Ghostbusters, Wayne's World etc. It's actually surprising - even horrifying - to me how much of my own comic sensibilities are derivative of that first generation of SNL writers and performers. In fact, it's interesting to compare their influence - at least on Americans of my age - versus the influence of Monty Python. I'd argue that SNL humor was mainstreamed sooner (via the show, its stars, the 1980s films), while Monty Python is still kinda cultish (even though, God, does it feel fusty sometimes - but I guess you can still find people who don't get "Ni!" or "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!").

I'm also generally a sucker for biographies and oral histories, and so this was compulsively readable. If you're also a bit of a pop culture obsessive, then it's doubly pleasurable to read about the likes of Don Novello (one of the most wonderful, and unfortunately underrated/forgotten comedians from the doomed 1980-1981 season!) or Chris Farley (oh, Chris Farley!).

I guess some things I missed/would have liked to hear more about were:
- How the comedy landscape evolved, especially with the ascendance of the Daily Show/Colbert Report in the 2000s; talk about competition!
- The SNL catchphrase as pre-Internet meme.
- The way post-SNL careers can take flight (e.g. Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy) or crash and burn (e.g. Chris Kattan). And why!
- How the structure of the cast seems hard-coded into the show, with many archetypes reincarnating with every turnover: the lovable slacker (Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Andy Samberg...), the impressionist/utility player (Phil Hartman, Daryl Hammond, Bill Hader), the black guy (Eddie Murphy, Garrett Morris, Tracy Morgan, Tim Meadows, Kenan Thompson), the "slob" (John Belushi, Chris Farley, Horatio Sanz, Bobby Moynihan). It's actually a bit tiring - especially since it seems landing in the slacker archetype gets you much better odds of post-SNL career survival, and landing in some of the other archetypes relegates you to being underused and underappreciated (I think specifically of Tim Meadows, Horatio Sanz and Bobby Moynihan, who were/are absolutely brilliant and never really got/get enough spotlight skits).
- And the successful meta spinoff, 30 Rock!

Oh man. As you can see, I have a lot to say about this comedy show. As do the authors: This book clocks in at a hefty 600+ pages! But they are very happy, often funny, really fascinating 600+ pages.
Brooke Everett
I am an avid SNL fan. I watch it every week, and have been doing so since middle school (with a big lapse while I was in college). On Saturday nights right before the extreme awkwardness of puberty hit, I'd stay up late to watch it. I was too young to go out, too old to just go straight to bed. Life was simpler. Opera Man, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Wayne's World, Matt Foley, and the Gap Girls made me die laughing. (I still regularly roar Farley's classic line, "Lay off me; I'm starving!" when a p I am an avid SNL fan. I watch it every week, and have been doing so since middle school (with a big lapse while I was in college). On Saturday nights right before the extreme awkwardness of puberty hit, I'd stay up late to watch it. I was too young to go out, too old to just go straight to bed. Life was simpler. Opera Man, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Wayne's World, Matt Foley, and the Gap Girls made me die laughing. (I still regularly roar Farley's classic line, "Lay off me; I'm starving!" when a plate of fries lands in front of me and I attack them.)

People are surprised I'm still so into it. My explanation is that it's the thing I root for. I watch it when it's bad, I watch it when it's good. I don't give a crap about sports, but from what I understand, that's how people support their favorite teams. SNL is my favorite team.

And it truly is a team. I just ate up all these stories about what it was like to be there in the beginning, to be a fly on the wall through the writing process, etc. There are tons of different perspectives (some pretty negative, too) - such a huge list of people have been a part of the creative engine for this show since it first aired in 1975.

I wish there was an addendum for the years after 2002! Amy Poehler and Tina Fey didn't come into this story until the very end.

Lorne Michaels: "We wanted to redefine comedy the way the Beatles redefined what being a pop star was. That required not pandering, and it also required removing neediness, the need to please. It was like, we're only going to please those people who are like us. The presumption was there were a lot of people like us. And that turned out to be so." p. 79

Al Franken: "It's always a tug-and-pull of how much direction you can give somebody, how much they trust you, how much they don't, how much they trust their own instincts, the mood they're in. It depends on the cast member. You have to know each cast member to get the best work that you can out of them." p. 140

Bill Murray, on John Belushi: "He really could find the essential in a moment and in an experience. He was something." p. 264

Lorne Michaels: "Some people, their whole lives, are just injustice collectors. They're going to find new injustices every day. That's what they do, and that's who they are." p. 414

James Downey: "To me it was always, number one, to do comedy about things that are going on in politics or the culture, and do it without confusing or offending the smarter people. I always thought that if comedy is going to confuse anybody, by rights it should be the stupider people. You shouldn't be punished for knowing more." p. 416

Chris Rock: "Is Lorne arrogant? Yeah - but hey, man, I know arrogant cab drivers. I know arrogant hot dog guys. This guy produces Saturday Night Live. He made The Rutles, one of my favorites. So, you know, there's arrogance with no reason to be, and there's arrogance with plenty of reason to be." p. 438

"An executive with delusions of creativity, like a wounded pig, is a dangerous animal." p. 439

Alec Baldwin: "There are people I worked with there who I never thought in my wildest dreams that they'd go on to become the apotheosis of movie comedy of their day. So now I'm nice to everybody on the show. No matter who I work with, no matter what a sniveling, drooling wuss they are, I embrace them all like they're my dearest friend and my most respected colleague." p. 448

Amy Poehler: "I think as I've learned through meeting many people that come through here, Vanity is the Death of Comedy. The minute you start feeling you're hot stuff, you're in trouble." p. 529
Diane
An amazingly detailed history of SNL from its beginnings to 2014. The book takes the form (mostly) of quotes taken from interviews with cast members (past and present), producers, writers, hosts, and directors. It's like they're all in one big room having a conversation. There are disagreements over exactly what happened, of course, and the some people still hold grudges after all these years (Janeane Garofalo, for example). However, for the most part, they have fond memories, even of the bad th An amazingly detailed history of SNL from its beginnings to 2014. The book takes the form (mostly) of quotes taken from interviews with cast members (past and present), producers, writers, hosts, and directors. It's like they're all in one big room having a conversation. There are disagreements over exactly what happened, of course, and the some people still hold grudges after all these years (Janeane Garofalo, for example). However, for the most part, they have fond memories, even of the bad things.

The early parts of "Live from New York" (1970s to 1980s) are definitely worth the price of the book. For me, those years represent SNL in all its glory. I especially loved the dark, mischievous writer, Michael O'Donoghue. Whenever I think of SNL, I think of original Not Ready for Primetime Players - Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. They were wonderfully rebellious, funny, and subversive. Everyone else has been riding their coattails.

A couple of funny quotes from the early years:

Judith Belushi (John's wife):

"In John’s first interview with Lorne, one of the first things he said was, “My television has spit all over it.” That’s how he felt about television. He was asked to do a few television things. He was offered a guest shot on Mary Tyler Moore, which everyone thought could easily turn into a character role. And it was kind of a big deal to say no. He even liked Mary Tyler Moore. But he needed to be political and outrageous." (Can anyone see John Belushi on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show"? Because I can't.)

Howard Shore:

"We were really kind of subversive in a number of ways. O’Donoghue and I were always trying to book acts on the show and then do things to them. They were so happy to be on the show, they didn’t really notice. I remember when Robert Klein hosted, O’Donoghue put ABBA on a Titanic set and tried to drown them. He thought ABBA was kitsch." (BTW - I like ABBA, but I can't really blame them for this.)

Interestingly, there is no mention of the 1995 controversy over Jay Mohr's Irish Bartender sketch, which turned out to have been stolen word for word from another comedian, Rick Shapiro. Mohr is briefly mentioned on page 409 and then his name doesn't turn up again until the cast lists at the back. There are a couple more omissions like that (such as Jenny Slate's dropping of the f-word), but most of the controversial stories are included.

My problem with the book is that it starts to get rather dull in the mid-90s with the departure of Chris Farley and Phil Hartman. After that, the cast members are mostly just patting themselves on the back and talking about how wonderful they or their fellow performers were. They also go on and on about how they live healthy unlike the earlier performers, and things are so much better now, etc., etc., etc. There's a certain smug superiority that surfaces in several of the quotes.

The early years are covered in great detail, but the later years are not. The book sails through the 1990s and later, so I never really got a feel for any of the cast members or writers. The last chapter (before the cast lists) is basically a "kiss fest" for Lorne Michaels with everyone (with a few exceptions) talking about how wonderful he is.

Despite my issues with "Live from New York," I do recommend it to anyone who wants to know the history of SNL.

Tung
After thirty-plus years on television, SNL is officially an American institution. Clips from the show play in syndication or float around YouTube, and this past year’s election coverage re-affirmed the power humor has, and the power this show has. Live From New York gives you the inside scoop on the first twenty-five years of the show: the backstage relationships, the infighting, the show’s creation and near-cancellations, etc. What makes this book’s prose unique is that rather than dig up dirt After thirty-plus years on television, SNL is officially an American institution. Clips from the show play in syndication or float around YouTube, and this past year’s election coverage re-affirmed the power humor has, and the power this show has. Live From New York gives you the inside scoop on the first twenty-five years of the show: the backstage relationships, the infighting, the show’s creation and near-cancellations, etc. What makes this book’s prose unique is that rather than dig up dirt by speaking to people and then finding ways to summarize other people’s words, Shales and Miller simply paste together snippets of interviews and use the important players from the show to tell the oral history of SNL directly. The book features quotes from virtually everyone you would expect to hear from: Lorne Michaels, NBC executives, SNL writers, guest hosts, and cast members from every time period of the show – both those that loved their experience on SNL to those that despised their experience. The only ones missing are the ones that died before the book’s inception (Belushi, Hartman, Radner, and Farley) and the ones who have distanced themselves from the show for various reasons (read: Eddie Murphy). The book also covers all of the various topics you would expect an oral history to cover: how the show started, how extensive Lorne’s influence over the show and over the cast members really is, how people felt about the deaths of the castmates, the difficulty of being a woman or a minority on the show, how meddling particular NBC execs really were. It’s an engaging read, especially if you grew up watching the show. My three criticisms: first, as expected, there’s a lot of hero worship – A LOT. It is repeated throughout the book what a creative force SNL is and how ground-breaking and culturally influential. We get it; SNL is one-of-a-kind. Lorne Michaels is given a similar treatment. Even though Shales and Miller include a number of quotes from people describing how difficult Lorne is to work for or how he screwed them over, for every negative quote there are ten reverential ones. Sometimes the ongoing fawning grew tiresome. Secondly, as one might expect from a narrative that bounces from quote to quote to quote, there are places where it feels a little ADHD. There’s too much history and too many events and milestones and scandals to cover, and even though the book is 600 pages, there were places where the narrative feels rushed and forced. Lastly, even though there is a diversity of voices in the book, a number of similar sentiments are uttered by the interviewees, so some of it feels repetitive. For example, all of the cast members and writers describe how their experience on the show was like going to war, and how everyone is now bonded and friends for life. That cliché is repeated at least a dozen times by different people. Another example, everyone hated Chevy Chase, and critical quotes appear throughout. Over 600 pages, the similarity of quotes wore on me. But these three criticisms are minor ones, and the entertainment value of the book more than makes up for them. A recommended read.
Ollie
My friend once said that we're not SNL fans as much as we're comedy scholars. Why? Because SNL is a peculiar thing. Why? Because it's been said before, but the show just isn't as good as it used to be, but a lot of us are still mesmerized by it. SNL has meant so much to comedy, and so much to entertainment and so much to some of our upbringings that it feels impossible to move on. Maybe there's some magic in it that we just can't admit to?

Live From New York: an Uncensored History of Saturday Nig My friend once said that we're not SNL fans as much as we're comedy scholars. Why? Because SNL is a peculiar thing. Why? Because it's been said before, but the show just isn't as good as it used to be, but a lot of us are still mesmerized by it. SNL has meant so much to comedy, and so much to entertainment and so much to some of our upbringings that it feels impossible to move on. Maybe there's some magic in it that we just can't admit to?

Live From New York: an Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live is an oral history of SNL, from its humble beginnings to the behemoth it's become. Told through the eyes of executives, producers, writers, performers, guests and hosts, this book is so fascinating and well put together that it's hard to imagine a better way to tell the story of an entity that has affected so many people. Who knows the real story of SNL? Well, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has an opinion and the authors do a fantastic job of switching the focus and highlighting (maybe though bias) the pattern that emerges out of talking to so many people about certain topics. Live From New York covers a wide range of topics, from the beginnings of SNL, the role of the writers and performers, the mechanics and struggles of running a show, the triumphs and failures, the betrayals and drug use, and the life and death that SNL was subject to. This is a lot to cover for a show that's been around for so long and in the hands of so many people, but these oral accounts have such a flow to them and are just so interesting and entertaining most of the time that it's more fun to read than anything. There's plenty to learn and this book gets right to the point. Throughout, we get the answers to so many of our questions, like what role has Lorne Michaels played during the shows' history, why the relevance of the musical guests has diminished so much during the years, what happened during the cast purges that have occurred several times during the show's career, why was Norm MacDonald ousted from Weekend Update, and why some performers can dominate the show while others are neglected week after week.

Authors Shales and Miller of course can't get everyone's opinion and we all have favorites that would not be included in this book or underrepresented, but considering what Live From New York accomplishes here, it's very forgivable. What's not forgivable is that, being published in 2003, this book is already pretty outdated and long overdue for an update.

A must read for any SNL fan.
Greg Talbot
Every so years a comic star arises and takes over cinema in a big way. Someone like Bill Hader or Kristen Wig come seemingly out of no where. But alas, they got their chops from somewhere. Of course, they're from Saturday Night Live.

One of the quintessential formative experiences is staying up late and watching SNL. Like many young pre-internet viewers, I would stay up late, allowing myself to be tired for church, to see the latest from Will Ferrell and the rest of the late 90s cast. To me, the Every so years a comic star arises and takes over cinema in a big way. Someone like Bill Hader or Kristen Wig come seemingly out of no where. But alas, they got their chops from somewhere. Of course, they're from Saturday Night Live.

One of the quintessential formative experiences is staying up late and watching SNL. Like many young pre-internet viewers, I would stay up late, allowing myself to be tired for church, to see the latest from Will Ferrell and the rest of the late 90s cast. To me, the cast before them were the gods of comedy: Farley, Sandler, Meyers. But it didn't take me long to get into the older actors. You seeing Meatballs, Caddyshack, Three Amigos or Animal House and the itch was there.

So this book is just all candy and sweetness. The collection of writers, performers, and freakin Lorne are just amazing. There's so much myth behind the curtains, the personal lives, the stories behind the production that are just wild. Of course there is the wild progenitors of the movement, the 1975 group that started it all. But the story really just begins here.

Beyond the history, there is so much to learn here about the birth of an enterprise. One man's vision (Lorne Michaels) creates this amazing show. Battles were fought to protection the craft, and atmosphere of the show. Stars were launched, comic behemoths like Farley or Belushi descended into drugs or depravity. The human element is so apparent here. All the more reason to get the complete oral history of SNL. Since 2001, it's been documenting the unrelentless comedic unfolding of the SNL players.

There are so many stories, but I really enjoyed reading about Lorne Michaels. You get a sense he is very sure of the person he is. Being principled and in power, his tact, and ability to connect are so important to everyone in his crew. His comments were always the most provocative, most vulnerable, and his ability to say something that is not pleasant really is admirable. Taking the role of a father figure in so many of his staff lives, he has this untouchable status.

Further, as a producer for movies, television shows (Tonight Show, Dana Carvey Show), he controls so much of comedy vehicles that still attraction viewers. Lorne's acknowledgement that his life has had unfathomable sadness and lost are a wise reminder that how we conduct ourselves ultimately is more important that what hits us.

An emotional rollercoaster through so many lives, and covers so much of the culture change. An unmissable read of comedy and building something beautiful out of inspiration.
Damian
This isn't just any old book about the "Not Ready for Primetime Players", this is THE Saturday Night Live bible! And this bible can be split into four books according to their producers: The Old Lorne Michaels Testament, The Jean Doumanian Testament, The Dick Ebersol Testament and what we currently see every Saturday night, The New Lorne Michaels Testament.

The ratings roller coaster this show has gone through makes this an incredible read. From the first five years of the original, untouchable c This isn't just any old book about the "Not Ready for Primetime Players", this is THE Saturday Night Live bible! And this bible can be split into four books according to their producers: The Old Lorne Michaels Testament, The Jean Doumanian Testament, The Dick Ebersol Testament and what we currently see every Saturday night, The New Lorne Michaels Testament.

The ratings roller coaster this show has gone through makes this an incredible read. From the first five years of the original, untouchable cast of Belushi, Murray, Radner, Morris, Chase, Akroyd, Curtin, Newman - followed by the cast nobody knew then and nobody remembers now - followed by the resurrection of the show thanks to Eddie Murphy - followed by the Billy Crystal years - followed by another couple of years of a so-so cast with a couple of standouts in Jon Lovitz and Dennis Miller to help direct it in the right direction - followed by SNL's most successful years with an amazing cast of Carvey, Hartman, Lovitz, Miller, Hooks, Myers, and Nealon - add to that cast with other amazing cast members of Sandler, Spade, Rock, Farley, Schneider, MacDonald - skip ahead to your Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri and Molly Shannon years...whew! The evolution of this show is so fascinating!

The most touching moments in the book are when the different cast members and writers share their thoughts on those who have passed: Belushi, Radner, Hartman, and Farley. Of those four, Gilda Radner's passing made me teary-eyed. Her friends loved her so much and held her in such high regard, that you can't help but think the sweetheart we saw on the TV screen, was just that when the cameras were off. In regards to Radner's death, I think what really tugs at the heart-strings is, unlike the others, her passing could not be prevented.

The most surprising part of this book, is the amount of time and energy that goes into each hour and a half show. These writers and performers work ungodly hours, and at times you feel drained just reading about how hard they worked.

After you read this, you'll want to start building up your SNL DVD collection starting with Season 1. And you'll watch this show from a completely different perspective than you did before, knowing what goes into putting the show on. You'll have a whole new respect for the art and the artists themselves.

Julianne
Here's three things I learned from reading this book:
1) I am not young enough or dangerous enough to be on SNL. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss dropped out of college to be on the show after her junior year. Eddie Murphy was 18 when he started. So bye bye, dream.
2)At different points in the show's first season, Chevy Chase and John Belushi refused to perform sketches written by women because "women weren't funny." (Keep in mind, these were men who worked with Gilda Radner (Roseanne Roseannadanna), Laraine Here's three things I learned from reading this book:
1) I am not young enough or dangerous enough to be on SNL. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss dropped out of college to be on the show after her junior year. Eddie Murphy was 18 when he started. So bye bye, dream.
2)At different points in the show's first season, Chevy Chase and John Belushi refused to perform sketches written by women because "women weren't funny." (Keep in mind, these were men who worked with Gilda Radner (Roseanne Roseannadanna), Laraine Newman (Connie Conehead), and Jane Curtin (of "Jane, you ignorant slut!" fame, among other things). Not to mention the likes of Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, and Tina Fey (my personal fave) who came through later and helped the show recover after one of its lowest "lows".
3) "It was the '70's" is a get-out-of-jail-free card that can be used to excuse just about anything, and there really isn't a modern-day equivalent that will work to excuse any stupid mistake I make.

I've been a huge fan of SNL for ages. I grew up with my dad talking about how it's never going to be as good as it was in the '70's, but I always found it weird that he kept watching it anyway. I got this book for Christmas, and in spite of the hefty page count I breezed through it. It's so easy to read, partially because it's full of the juicy backstage stories that I love, and partially because those stories are told by the people who lived them-the writers, actors, and producers of SNL. The structure's great, with quick little anecdotes tied together with commentary from the interviewers who put the book together. In the intro, they mentioned that the book had received criticism for seeming to be too reverent of SNL, but I didn't really find that. Even when they talked about good things from the show and iconic moments, they also included plenty about the problems faced by the show.
Reading first-hand accounts about moments, sketches, and people that had taken on an almost-mythological quality in my mind was so interesting because I love the show so much. For people who are content to sit back and just say that the show sucks and it isn't relevant anymore, this book would probably not be very enjoyable. However, this book is great for anyone interested in SNL, television, even history.
Rebecca
Ahh, I have been wanting to read this book forever! I think I took it out of the library once in Pasadena and started reading it, but I don’t know what happened but I never finished it. I remember it being really boring, but whatever. The first part of this book totally was if only because I hardly knew what anyone was talking about. I wasn’t even alive when it happened and the way it was written, it was kind of confusing when people would refer to other people, they would use nicknames and you Ahh, I have been wanting to read this book forever! I think I took it out of the library once in Pasadena and started reading it, but I don’t know what happened but I never finished it. I remember it being really boring, but whatever. The first part of this book totally was if only because I hardly knew what anyone was talking about. I wasn’t even alive when it happened and the way it was written, it was kind of confusing when people would refer to other people, they would use nicknames and you couldn’t be quiet sure who they were talking about. It was interesting though, once I got through the first part. The book made me feel really freakin’ old though. Most of people who work on the show are no older then 30 and probably like half are under 25. Just kill me now. I found an error in the picture part and corrected it with my pencil!! Yay! If you like, SNL, read it, if not, pass it. Whatever. What is your earliest memory of SNL? I know exactly when I started watching it. Fall, 1993, 7th grade. For some reason, that Saturday I stayed up and discovered it. I don’t remember who hosted, but in school that following week my friend Nicole and I and some other people were sitting in math and she said something along the lines of “SASSY” and said it how Phil Hartman had said it in that sketch and I laughed or pointed out that I knew where that was from and she sniped back that I didn’t and I said, yes, it’s from Saturday Night Live. That shut her up really fast. (PS. If you couldn’t tell, we were even that good friends. We just shared friends, but the two of us weren’t, but you know how it rolled back in 7th.) Anyway, from there on in, I am pretty sure I have seen almost ever episode between that time and now (with the great exception of since I have been in NZ because they don’t show it here. Which they really should! A week delayed on C4 at like 7:30p or something. It would be perfect for them and I don’t know why they don’t!) But the best episode ever was one sometime in 1994. For all surface reasons, it should have been just a normal week, but for some reason, my sister and I just love this episode, hosted by Sara Gilbert, music from the Counting Crows. We still have that episode on BETA!!!
Share your SNL memories!

Grade: C+
Tristan
An interesting history of SNL from the beginning to 2002. I struggled with some of the material from prior to 1990 as I'd only seen some of the episodes/sketches the book discussed. Some of the older cast members I had to google. Much of the book was hard to follow unless you were a diehard SNL fan from the beginning of the show. I think most people love SNL from when they were high school. (Or whatever age they were when their parents first started letting them stay up late to watch it.) The hi An interesting history of SNL from the beginning to 2002. I struggled with some of the material from prior to 1990 as I'd only seen some of the episodes/sketches the book discussed. Some of the older cast members I had to google. Much of the book was hard to follow unless you were a diehard SNL fan from the beginning of the show. I think most people love SNL from when they were high school. (Or whatever age they were when their parents first started letting them stay up late to watch it.) The highlight of SNL for me was the late 90's to early 2000s (when I was in high school). The writers spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing the first 5 years of the show. I know lots of people consider that the highlight of SNL, but for me is boring as I've only seen clips from some of it. (I also don't think a lot of it has withstood the test of time. Sure SNL was revolutionary and amazing when it first started, but tv overall has improved dramatically in the last 40 years.) The time period that got the second most attention was the second 5 years, which I understand to be the worst five years of SNL.
The book also lacked structure. It consists almost entirely of statements from SNL cast members, writers, producers and hosts. It is divided into chronological sections of 5 year blocks. Beyond that though there is no real organization. The "writers" really did nothing more than organize the interview answers into the different chapters. Very rarely there would be a half page or so of explanation or backstory. It needed a lot more of this, and a lot less of multiple people saying essentially the same thing.
Chris Farley and Phil Hartman did not get as much discussion as they deserved. Compared to Belushi, Farley and Hartman were barely discussed.
A lot of time was spent discussing the Weekend Update portion of the show. The book ends talking about Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon taking over. Knowing how well the two of them have done since SNL made it very interesting. The book sort of treated them like these new kids who might do okay.
Learning about how SNL works and some inside stories was interesting. Not sure it was worth the 565 page read though. Skip this one unless SNL is your life (in which case you probably read this 13 years ago when it came out.)
Evan Dickens
Live From New York is certainly a book that will hold extensive appeal to fans of Saturday Night Live, and the editors should be commended for their exhaustive work bringing together nearly every living voice of the show's entire history, from the top NBC brass to every star (with the noted exception of Eddie Murphy, who refuses to ever acknowledge his SNL roots in any fashion), all the way to the rookies in the writing room.

However, the magnitude of such a history requires a much tighter editi Live From New York is certainly a book that will hold extensive appeal to fans of Saturday Night Live, and the editors should be commended for their exhaustive work bringing together nearly every living voice of the show's entire history, from the top NBC brass to every star (with the noted exception of Eddie Murphy, who refuses to ever acknowledge his SNL roots in any fashion), all the way to the rookies in the writing room.

However, the magnitude of such a history requires a much tighter editing job than is provided by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. The oral history format, which features minimal author narration and focuses on stitching together pieces of interviews to tell a story, has been done much better than this (I would point to the brilliant The Chris Farley Show as the format's standard-bearer). While often fascinating, Live From New York is also far too long, and often loses its focus, unsure of whether to provide a chronological history, or a more topic-oriented structure, or whether to simply put a microphone in front of famous people and let them riff, unedited. As a result, some topics are discussed multiple times, some topics are brushed over (the rushed discussion of Phil Hartman and Chris Farley's deaths in 1997 is embarrassing, and the breakdown of the 1994-1995 season is still unclear), and amazingly some completely famous SNL lore moments like Martin Lawrence's monologue and Rage Against the Machine's upside down flags are not even referenced once in passing.

The editors are not judicious enough in cutting between voices--and probably should have trimmed their own contributions by about 50-60%--so you'll find yourself skipping ahead and skimming a great deal as a result. You'll learn a lot reading this book, and if you're any type of fan of the show you'll be glad you read it--but you'll frequently wish it was better edited and find yourself still wishing to know a great deal more than this book provides.
Scott


So I have been listening in recent weeks to Tom Shales great book which is an oral history of Saturday Night Live with most
of the players - with only a few exceptioons - telling their side of the stories on everything from the start of the show (beginning with debates over who had the original ideas) to the changes in the levels of drug use in the shows writing rooms over the years to how things are now or at least when the book was written. The show sounds almost like a reality show when descri

So I have been listening in recent weeks to Tom Shales great book which is an oral history of Saturday Night Live with most
of the players - with only a few exceptioons - telling their side of the stories on everything from the start of the show (beginning with debates over who had the original ideas) to the changes in the levels of drug use in the shows writing rooms over the years to how things are now or at least when the book was written. The show sounds almost like a reality show when described this way when you learn about the dysfunctional relationships and people mad at each other and all that.
But it is fascinating and if you watched Saturday Night Level ever - and who didnt watch it for years though many, myself included, rarely watch it these days knowing that if something is good it'll go viral so why bother?.. anyway this book provides
some insights - some hilarious, some cute, some sad - into the characters. Chevy Chase comes off looking like quite a
sexist jerk, Chris Farley as wanting so hard to be like Belushi then even died at Belushi's age and lots of people just
enjoying their time in the limelight. I definitely recommend it.
I'm listening to it on audio which is good in the sense that it gives me time to think about what I've heard as opposed to just reading it all in a hurry and not given time to reflec that you have when you get to, say, work.
The weird part of the audiobook - at least to me - is that while it has like 12 different actors doing voices it does not have any of the people being quoted doing the voices.
So you may have one guy speak for three different actors or writers (though never on the same chapter) but while you may have one quoting Dana Carvey talking about getting his imitations of Bush done and the voice actor doing a slight imitation of dana you dont actually have dana.
It seems an odd choice at least to me.
Christopher Carbone
Maybe the best oral history about how the most prominent fixture in late-night TV works so well. It all started because Johnny Carson wanted Fridays off (and thus, wnated "the Best of Carson" to go on Friday -not Saturday -Night. Thus, a need was created.

Enter Lorne Michaels. And John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase etc.

The book chronicles the 20+ years of SNL from the early days to the lean years (think Tim Kaszerinski) to the boom of John Lovitz to the Conan dynasty where he wrote basically Maybe the best oral history about how the most prominent fixture in late-night TV works so well. It all started because Johnny Carson wanted Fridays off (and thus, wnated "the Best of Carson" to go on Friday -not Saturday -Night. Thus, a need was created.

Enter Lorne Michaels. And John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase etc.

The book chronicles the 20+ years of SNL from the early days to the lean years (think Tim Kaszerinski) to the boom of John Lovitz to the Conan dynasty where he wrote basically everything. A really engrossing book. Almost every meaningful figure in SNL history is included (the only glarring ommission is Eddie Murphy).

What I learned:

-Chevy Chase is a huge jerk;
-Everyone hated Jeneane Gerraffolo (or however she spells her name);
-In the early days, the "old time" actors were usually more a pain in the @ss than really fun to work with;
-After Lorne went on Hiatus, Dick Ebersol basically saved the show (even though the shows he produced were not that great);
-Lorne has a spectacular eye for talent;
-Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks and John Goodman are univresally loved by the cast and crew and that is why they were usually asked back to host many times over;
-Almost to the man, everyone is just very very proud of Conan O'Brien and are very much enthused with his success.

There are down sides to the book (most notably has been that some of the people quoted in the book claim they were misquoted); ther are just some years that are boring; there is nothing at all mentioned about the music acts; and the last section is devoted to everyone saying how much they love Lorne Michaels which was just obnoxious and utterly boring. Still, the good clearly outweights the bad. A must read.
Lindsey
Have you ever heard the rumor that Milton Berle had a big penis? Me either, but according to Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller the rumors are true. And now, I really wish I could see Milton Berle's penis because I'm curious. This book truly is an uncensored history of the show. Shales and Miller compiled stories from almost every cast member, many of the hosts, writers, producers and executives, and even Lorne Michaels, so this Have you ever heard the rumor that Milton Berle had a big penis? Me either, but according to Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller the rumors are true. And now, I really wish I could see Milton Berle's penis because I'm curious. This book truly is an uncensored history of the show. Shales and Miller compiled stories from almost every cast member, many of the hosts, writers, producers and executives, and even Lorne Michaels, so this book is in their own words. There were so many tasty tidbits in this book about the process of getting the show on air, good and bad hosts, good and bad cast members, and how some of our favorite characters and sketches came to be. It was like a walk down my own personal memory lane because my earliest memories of SNL were staying up late as a kid with a babysitter and watching it, then I became the babysitter watching it while I waited for the parents to come home, then I was a college age kid watching it live most weekends, and for the past decade I've been a parent too tired to stay up for the whole show most of the time so I TiVo it and watch it later. But, this show is like a friend that is with you through all the phases of your life and I love it. And I loved this insider look at it. The only person I wish had been included that probably chose not to participate was Jason Sudeikis, but other than that it was a fantastic and comprehensive book and I encourage anyone who loves the show to pick it up. This book was originally released in 2002, but was rereleased last month with new chapters bringing it current to 2014. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read it!
Dave
Loooooooooong interview based format book about the back story and individuals that made Saturday Night Live what it is...a long-running sketch comedy show that consistently rotates its cast for fresh faces or simply rebooting. Certainly there were some interesting stories in there about the devastating toll the deaths of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman had on their colleagues. The reverence that most of the cast had for the show was quite interesting as well. What I c Loooooooooong interview based format book about the back story and individuals that made Saturday Night Live what it is...a long-running sketch comedy show that consistently rotates its cast for fresh faces or simply rebooting. Certainly there were some interesting stories in there about the devastating toll the deaths of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman had on their colleagues. The reverence that most of the cast had for the show was quite interesting as well. What I could have done without is the constant volleying of whines between writers on whether or not they were appreciated enough, the recollection of incessant bickering between them and the cast at times and the lamentations of failed cast members. The drama fell flat for me. My investment in the show has been sporadic, a few semi-loyal years with the Dana Carvey-Jon Lovitz-Phil Hartman cast bridging to the Chris Farley-David Spade-Adam Sandler-Chris Rock years and finally to the Will Ferrell-Jimmy Fallon-Chris Kattan years. That's about it. It's always been an intensely quotable show with a ton of hysterically funny moments. The back story would have probably been better served unread. I didn't need to know the quirks and antipathies of Lorne Michaels for 60+ pages or that Victoria Jackson and Nora Dunn hated each other. What I was left longing for was more of a lineage for some of the show's finest alums. More details about their comedy roots. I don't know, maybe it was in there and it was muddled between the rest of the stuff. It was ok like I said, probably closer to what I was expecting I suppose. Not terrible.
Neil Pierson
Don’t read this book if you are a big fan of Ben Stiller. Or Janeane Garofalo. Or Steven Segal. And if you’re a big fan of all three... seek help.

This is an oral history of Saturday Night Live as told by cast and crew members. The recollections of supercompetitive and needy entertainment types are suspect, especially when many of the individuals are or were chemically dependent. But these lost souls are also witty and earn a living by making people laugh, so their accounts and analyses are (mostly Don’t read this book if you are a big fan of Ben Stiller. Or Janeane Garofalo. Or Steven Segal. And if you’re a big fan of all three... seek help.

This is an oral history of Saturday Night Live as told by cast and crew members. The recollections of supercompetitive and needy entertainment types are suspect, especially when many of the individuals are or were chemically dependent. But these lost souls are also witty and earn a living by making people laugh, so their accounts and analyses are (mostly) entertaining. Especially when they are settling scores.

Drifting like a cloud above the fray is Lorne Michaels, who co-created and has produced the show for most of its long life. If you are a cast member, he is the guy who gave you the one-in-a-million shot at riches and fame. He is also the guy who tossed the greatest idea you ever had into the wastebasket between dress rehearsal and broadcast and never told you why.

If you are a cast member, you are going to have strong feelings about Lorne Michaels.

He employs lack of access and impenetrable ambiguity to keep his charges at a safe distance. He is a childish name dropper.

In public, he theorizes fuzzily about comedy and human relations. In private, he makes thousands of decisions, creative and technical, big and small to shape the weekly show. To cast and writers, this is the stuff of their lives, but he offers no explanations, no regrets.

He’s a Brahmin intoning about the deepest concepts of Hinduism before he heads down to the butcher shop to make some hamburger.
catechism
So there's this book about Shakespeare and pop culture that I have been skimming for a few years now, and early on it talks about some outdoor store having a sale. The advertisements read NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCOUNT TENTS. And the point is -- have you read Richard III? Maybe, maybe not. Do you get the joke? Probably.

And so reading this book, it struck me that in some ways, Saturday Night Live is not so different. A very minor example: I say "more cowbell!" all the time. Have I seen that sk So there's this book about Shakespeare and pop culture that I have been skimming for a few years now, and early on it talks about some outdoor store having a sale. The advertisements read NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCOUNT TENTS. And the point is -- have you read Richard III? Maybe, maybe not. Do you get the joke? Probably.

And so reading this book, it struck me that in some ways, Saturday Night Live is not so different. A very minor example: I say "more cowbell!" all the time. Have I seen that skit? Well, I have now, but yesterday? No. And yet.

I never watched much SNL (meow Reasons meow -- seriously, the piece of SNL history I am most aware of is that time Fear showed up as the musical guest and trashed the studio, which is an absurd statement on multiple levels), but I absorbed so much of it anyway without ever realizing it. The [pop-]cultural impact is fairly stunning if that is the sort of thing you're into, and it definitely IS the sort of thing I'm into. The fact that SNL is so pervasive also made the book pretty easy to follow. I was worried that most of it would be lost on me, and although I did stop reading pretty regularly to look up people or skits, I never felt like I had to do it.

Anyway! I like oral histories and inside jokes and weird subcultures, so I was bound to like this book. I did think it slowed down and got a bit repetitive toward the end, and the last chapter on Lorne didn't really need to be there, but skimming's no problem.
Davie
Fun to read while in NYC. Wish I was reading it while also in front of youtube, instead of on the subway -- the book is full of references to supposedly amaaaazing sketches and occurrences for which reader-familiarity is assumed. Most of the book is about starting the show and the cast of the first few years, and spends increasingly less time as it gets to current day. Never actually gets to current current day. It ends when Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon are doing Update.

It reads like a transcript Fun to read while in NYC. Wish I was reading it while also in front of youtube, instead of on the subway -- the book is full of references to supposedly amaaaazing sketches and occurrences for which reader-familiarity is assumed. Most of the book is about starting the show and the cast of the first few years, and spends increasingly less time as it gets to current day. Never actually gets to current current day. It ends when Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon are doing Update.

It reads like a transcript of spoken interviews, largely unedited. So you have all the ways people hesitate and repeat themselves in everyday speech, which can get annoying to read. Also, many people's opinions overlapped, so basically you hear from a bajillion different people how they all loved Gilda Radner and Chris Farley and hated Chevy Chase and feared Lorne Michaels. This is OK when there is an interesting anecdote that accompanies the opinion, but a lot just comes off as show business hyperbole and fluff.

This book could have been four stars with a better editor and more journalistic chops to the writing. The authors actual prose is probably only 5% of the text. Just write that five people named so-and-so all had such-and-such opinion in common. Don't just quote them each individually in succession saying basically the same thing all in a row.

Bruce Campbell should have written this book. It would have been awesome.
Justin
This book puts Saturday Night Live on a kind of ridiculous pedestal, making it seem like this epic achievement. I haven't watched it in years, largely because I've always found it mostly mediocre. Obviously it's had some highlights, but the ratio of good stuff to bad is pretty low in my opinion. Still, Live From New York is a riveting read, compiling interviews from cast members, producers, directors, Lorne Michaels, writers, and pretty much everyone else who's ever been involved with the show This book puts Saturday Night Live on a kind of ridiculous pedestal, making it seem like this epic achievement. I haven't watched it in years, largely because I've always found it mostly mediocre. Obviously it's had some highlights, but the ratio of good stuff to bad is pretty low in my opinion. Still, Live From New York is a riveting read, compiling interviews from cast members, producers, directors, Lorne Michaels, writers, and pretty much everyone else who's ever been involved with the show over the last 30 years. It's a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a show that has been, if not always good, impressively resilient, and has undoubtedly had huge influence on comedy in general, not to mention churned out major, major stars again and again. This book did make me want to watch (certain parts of) the show again. It's brilliantly edited, has a real arc to it, and also is loaded with all the shit-talk and gossip you'd ever want to read about a hugely successful television enterprise. I recommend it if you just like TV and Hollywood entertainment period; you don't have to give a shit about SNL. You'll find quotes from Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Will Ferrel, and even hosts like Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Simon. It's just a fantastically addictive and entertaining read, too short at 600 pages.
Scott Martin
An interesting and informative read. I had read Those Guys Have All the Fun some time ago, and when I saw this title available, given that it was from the same author, I decided to give it a read. There is quite a fascinating back story with Saturday Night Live. Now going on 40 years on the air, it has gone through so many iterations, highs and lows. I am partial to the original cast and the cast from the late 1980s-early 1990s, so consequently, I found those portions of the book the most intere An interesting and informative read. I had read Those Guys Have All the Fun some time ago, and when I saw this title available, given that it was from the same author, I decided to give it a read. There is quite a fascinating back story with Saturday Night Live. Now going on 40 years on the air, it has gone through so many iterations, highs and lows. I am partial to the original cast and the cast from the late 1980s-early 1990s, so consequently, I found those portions of the book the most interesting. Still, there is something for everyone. It is a long read, but the style of taking snippets of oral accounts and blending them in this work does tend to shorten it. Granted, it probably reads too much like a bio for Lorne Michaels, but given that he created the show and still is the main man, it is not that surprising. There are some juicy gossip tidbits, especially regarding a lot of the backstage politics and the tumultuous days in the early 1980s that will keep most people riveted. Still, to try to account for 40 years of something via oral history...it can eventually drag. I think that your interest in the book will depend on your interest in SNL, particularly if you are partial to a certain time period. If you liked the show at any point, then it is at least worth a read, even if you skim a good bit of the parts you don't care for...
Motez Bishara
Parts of this were a great read, and parts were a chore.

Understandably, a great chunk of this book is dedicated to the formation of SNL in the 70s and the key players from its inception. I agree with some other reviews that there wasn't enough attention given to the 80s/90s era which most readers would probably gravitate to.

There are some terrific stories along the way about Belushi, Farley, and so many others. One fault, referenced by a disclaimer in the intro, is that there was barely any me Parts of this were a great read, and parts were a chore.

Understandably, a great chunk of this book is dedicated to the formation of SNL in the 70s and the key players from its inception. I agree with some other reviews that there wasn't enough attention given to the 80s/90s era which most readers would probably gravitate to.

There are some terrific stories along the way about Belushi, Farley, and so many others. One fault, referenced by a disclaimer in the intro, is that there was barely any mention of the musical acts and all their backstage craziness. Nothing of the Red Hot Chili Peppers shooting up, or Cypress Hill smoking a joint on stage, or the disastrous host Dion Sanders insisting on both hosting and singing (not one mention of Dion...or any of the other sports hosts?). There is a lot about he Sinead O'Connor saga though.

Weirdly, also no mention of Marin Lawrence getting banned from NBC for his lewd opening monologue which renewed the few second delay rule. I was looking forward to hearing about it, but nothing.

And of course, no comments from Eddie Murphy were disappointing.

All in all, a fun read but it could have been shaved by about 150 pages. Too many comments were exactly the same, just told by different voices. Lastly, the extra-long chapter dedicated to Lord Lorne at the end was absolutely painful.
Clifton
I'm almost to the end of this book. It was a present for Christmas and I love it. I grew up on SNL. It was my Saturday night baby sitter for a lot of my childhood. With the exception of a few interjections from the authors the book is pretty much just interview pieces from former cast members, hosts, writers and executives from NBC.

I loved the cast that was on SNL when I started watching. Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, etc. The cast and the sketches of that era probably shaped a lot of w I'm almost to the end of this book. It was a present for Christmas and I love it. I grew up on SNL. It was my Saturday night baby sitter for a lot of my childhood. With the exception of a few interjections from the authors the book is pretty much just interview pieces from former cast members, hosts, writers and executives from NBC.

I loved the cast that was on SNL when I started watching. Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, etc. The cast and the sketches of that era probably shaped a lot of what my humor is today. As I got older I enjoyed the new casts that would come in and do the show. But, until I read this book I really didn't have as much of an appreciation for the early days of the show as I should have. Not just the comedy that the show was putting on the air, but the effort it took to get on.

It is kind of funny to read the end of the book now. It seems to cut off when Tina Fey was the head writer and Jimmy Fallon was still on the show. A few of the cast members from then talk about what the show has done/will do for their careers. Some were right and others were way off.

I was surprised that I've been so interested in the sections about Lorn Michaels. It's pretty impressive that he has been doing this for so long and still somehow makes it all work.

If you’re a fan of SNL do yourself a favor and read this. It's an easy read and pretty fun.
Jake
This book is phenomenal, and you really get swept up in the history of this show, which the authors love to refer to as "an American treasure." In an ideal world, though, the authors would have researched more, as many times they delegate the story-telling to the cast, writers, hosts, and executives without any context or clarification. A perfect example would be when someone discussed the episode in the mid-80s where a light fell as Madonna hosted, and they claimed that Damon Wayans shrieked in This book is phenomenal, and you really get swept up in the history of this show, which the authors love to refer to as "an American treasure." In an ideal world, though, the authors would have researched more, as many times they delegate the story-telling to the cast, writers, hosts, and executives without any context or clarification. A perfect example would be when someone discussed the episode in the mid-80s where a light fell as Madonna hosted, and they claimed that Damon Wayans shrieked in surprise. The cast member who actually screamed was Terry Sweeney.

I know that, as an oral history, there is only so much the authors can do to portray the show outside of the realm of those involved firsthand. That said, there were points where I grew frustrated with their approach. Throughout the text, female cast members and writers mentioned that SNL was a toxic environment and a boys club, from Jane Curtin to Nora Dunn to Janeane Garafolo to even, sometimes, Tina Fey. Almost always, the authors would follow with people discrediting these claims in a hyperbolic fashion. Perhaps worst off was Garafolo, as her cast mates and other writers castigated her as an ingrate who spent most of her time calling the press rather than writing sketches.

Again, I loved this book and worship this show, but there were pieces of this text that really left a bad taste in my mouth.
Peterpeterman
If you like SNL, this is the book you need to read. SNL is actually older than I am, so I don't know about the first cast, or the Eddie Murphy years, but the book and the stories from that time are still fascinating.

I love the way it's written, if follows the timeline of SNL, and it's just quote after quote, story after story, from the cast members, writers, directors, hosts, NBC executives, Lorne himself, it's great. It covers all the major events that happened during the history of the show, a If you like SNL, this is the book you need to read. SNL is actually older than I am, so I don't know about the first cast, or the Eddie Murphy years, but the book and the stories from that time are still fascinating.

I love the way it's written, if follows the timeline of SNL, and it's just quote after quote, story after story, from the cast members, writers, directors, hosts, NBC executives, Lorne himself, it's great. It covers all the major events that happened during the history of the show, and there are a lot of events. What will happen is they come to Chevy Chase leaving, so then there is a quote from Chevy, then Lorne, then Bill Murry, then Chevy, then Chevy's manager, then Lorne, etc. It does such a great job of covering the event that took place.

I was worried that it would stick to just what was happening to the show, and once someone left that was it, but it very much covers the death of the actors years after they had left, and what that was like. It even covers famous skits and how they came about.(I'm gunna need more cowbell)

Quite a few pages, but they fly by. You could also pick this up, read a hundred pages, then come back a month later and pick it back up, and read about the next decade of SNL.

Don't miss out SNL fans, there's nothing as good as this out there.
Give it a go, thank me later.
David Sawyer
First two thirds of the book was great. Lots of stories from cast members and writers about what happened behind the scenes. I also learned a lot of the process behind a Saturday Night Live episode. But by the end of the book, I was frankly getting tired of story after story about guest hosts. "The worst host we ever had was..." That may be due in part to the lack of substantive back story to the most current cast at the time the book was written (Ferrell, O'Teri, Kattan, etc.). That cast had a First two thirds of the book was great. Lots of stories from cast members and writers about what happened behind the scenes. I also learned a lot of the process behind a Saturday Night Live episode. But by the end of the book, I was frankly getting tired of story after story about guest hosts. "The worst host we ever had was..." That may be due in part to the lack of substantive back story to the most current cast at the time the book was written (Ferrell, O'Teri, Kattan, etc.). That cast had a lot of great characters and performers, but they don't really add much to the SNL storyline as far as the history of the show goes. The authors were left with a bunch of disconnected anecdotes that aren't particularly interesting, especially after reading 400 or so pages.

Like the recent ESPN book, the book is written as an oral history: cut and pasted fragments from interview transcripts. The narrator/author only occasionally cuts in to make transitions in the storyline when necessary. Kind of a weird way to read a book, but it's also neat to hear more or less directly from the people involved rather than read an author's digestion of the stories.

If you are a fan of SNL or have been at some point, you'll find something to like in this book.
Josh
Just finished read this book, which is essentially an oral history of SNL. It's interesting and you get a lot of behind the scenes stuff about how the show is put together and how the people and performers work. You see the relationships between the show and the network, the interpersonal relationships on the show, and real honest discussion about the successes anf failures (and the foilbles of the people involved).

It does suffer from a few flaws. First is a matter of organization. or in this ca Just finished read this book, which is essentially an oral history of SNL. It's interesting and you get a lot of behind the scenes stuff about how the show is put together and how the people and performers work. You see the relationships between the show and the network, the interpersonal relationships on the show, and real honest discussion about the successes anf failures (and the foilbles of the people involved).

It does suffer from a few flaws. First is a matter of organization. or in this case, a lack of it. The book proceeds more or less in chronological order, but it's not very well delineated or structured within that very basic framework, and much of the commentary from the principals comes off as a bunch of chopped up interviews where it doesn't always seem like they were asked the same question.

The other major piece is the fact of commentary about the music. There's very little discussion about the musical feature or the house band or many of the acts, which seems like a rather glaring omission, considering how it has been the single lasting fixture for the entire duration of the show.

But it's an interesting read and one that can be picked up and read in bursts without feeling like you've lost the narrative thread, which can be nice.
Michael
A wonderful book that takes you through the history of SNL through a series of quotes and interviews from pretty much everyone involved in the process. It starts in the 1970s and works its way up to the present. Everything from the 70s through the 90s is positively enthralling but the "first edition" of the book comes to an end around the year 2000. At this point everything shifts the present tense and attempts to wrap a bow on the whole thing, which 15 years later is quite out of place and a li A wonderful book that takes you through the history of SNL through a series of quotes and interviews from pretty much everyone involved in the process. It starts in the 1970s and works its way up to the present. Everything from the 70s through the 90s is positively enthralling but the "first edition" of the book comes to an end around the year 2000. At this point everything shifts the present tense and attempts to wrap a bow on the whole thing, which 15 years later is quite out of place and a little jarring.

The next 200 pages or so are written much later and describe the mid 2000s in the same sort of way that the book started and thus it picks up again. It ends with another "present tense" section that feels fresher but I imagine will fail to hold up just as the last one did. The final chapter is a bizarre and overlong collection of quotes about Lorne, which is unnecessary considering we just read 700 pages about him.

All that being said, I really enjoyed the book and found so many of the stories and insights fascinating. I also felt like I learned so much and it renewed my interest and love for SNL.

For any super fan I highly recommend it. Especially worth it for Will Ferrells amazing briefcase story (also told on Marc Maron's WTF).
S.J. Tyson
LIVE FROM NEW YORK was first published to celebrate the 30th annniversary of Saturday Night Live. It was immediately proclaimed the best book ever produced on the landmark and legendary show. In their own uncensored words, an array of talented stars, writers, crew and guests recall three turbulent decades of on-camera antics and off-camera escapades. Now a fourth decade has passed, and authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have returned to Studio 8H. With more than 100 pages of new material LIVE FROM NEW YORK was first published to celebrate the 30th annniversary of Saturday Night Live. It was immediately proclaimed the best book ever produced on the landmark and legendary show. In their own uncensored words, an array of talented stars, writers, crew and guests recall three turbulent decades of on-camera antics and off-camera escapades. Now a fourth decade has passed, and authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have returned to Studio 8H. With more than 100 pages of new material, they take the SNL story up to the present, adding new stars, surprises, and controversies.

The book is long (over 800 pages), but well worth the reading time. Rather than a narrative presentation, the entire book is told in anecdotes provided by those who have contributed to Saturday Night Live over the years, in their words. More time in the book is spent on the original cast and the first five years, which of course is the basis for all that followed. And Lorne Michaels has his own chapter (of course!) A fascinating book that takes you behind the scenes to all the craziness and chaos that somehow resulted in this iconic and legendary show. A must-read for any Saturday Night Live fan, past or present!
Colleen
The bible of show business. Less is more when it comes to sharing my feelings about this show, these people, their stories. I hope Joyce Sloan's suggestion to me that I send in my resume & a letter to 30 Rockefeller Plaza still stands.
As for the book specifically, I loved the cast lists near the index that I constantly referenced and almost memorized. I would have liked the chapters to be a bit shorter so I could get thru them faster, and to be more thematic. Would have liked for "how-to" an The bible of show business. Less is more when it comes to sharing my feelings about this show, these people, their stories. I hope Joyce Sloan's suggestion to me that I send in my resume & a letter to 30 Rockefeller Plaza still stands.
As for the book specifically, I loved the cast lists near the index that I constantly referenced and almost memorized. I would have liked the chapters to be a bit shorter so I could get thru them faster, and to be more thematic. Would have liked for "how-to" and behind the scenes of hosting. Miss-titled sections are broken up every 5 yrs which corresponds to the changing of the guard. I will read any oral history I can of what I'm obsessed with, especially comedy. It's fascinating how every cast or writer interviewed has their individual perception of what they went thru and saw in their time on the job. They are all so different and most times contradictory. Some are sad, some seem truthful, some are cute and laugh out loud. If anyone after reading this doesn't appreciate the legend and work of SNL, you cannot be helped. Every 5 years the world says "SNL isn't as good as it used to be." Well it's not true. I will mourn when Lorne or this show dies. Who knows what will come first.
Ally Thomas
I enjoyed reading LFNY, even though it took almost 3 months. I really like oral history books because you can pick up and put it down at any point. You can read other books and continue with this one in between. The first two chapters fly by and it is really interesting to hear about how the show started, the cast, the fights, the drugs the sex. It is 70s celebrity entertainment that is worth reading about. The book also does a nice job of including multiple opinions and experiences. Jane Curtin I enjoyed reading LFNY, even though it took almost 3 months. I really like oral history books because you can pick up and put it down at any point. You can read other books and continue with this one in between. The first two chapters fly by and it is really interesting to hear about how the show started, the cast, the fights, the drugs the sex. It is 70s celebrity entertainment that is worth reading about. The book also does a nice job of including multiple opinions and experiences. Jane Curtin was dying to go home at the end of the day, while other writers and cast members lived at Rockfeller Center. I think they mentioned that the show was a Boy's Club maybe 600 times throughout and I don't think it was ever intentional. With that opinion it was annoying to listen to talented comedians bitch about not getting a part on the show because of sexism. Overall it was a great read, and I recommend sharing it with friends because there is not much more satisfying than referencing writers from the first five seasons and laughing to your friends about Elliot Wald's opinion of Christopher Guest. Also a good follow up book if you are a Chris Farley fan you should read The Chris Farley Show, because the book doesn't focus enough on Chris Farley's humor and short life.
Jeff Verthein
Understandbly the book dwells upon the first cast from the show. I am the same age as the show. I remember begging my mother to let me stay up in case the Coneheads were on, and we still love to say "Landshark" when we visit ceratin family memebers, but I am not old enough to attach any cultural cache to that era. Lorne Micheals is not a celebriy to me. It comes through loud and clear why the show was (is?) as important as these authors make it out to be, and sex and drugs are naturally juicy to Understandbly the book dwells upon the first cast from the show. I am the same age as the show. I remember begging my mother to let me stay up in case the Coneheads were on, and we still love to say "Landshark" when we visit ceratin family memebers, but I am not old enough to attach any cultural cache to that era. Lorne Micheals is not a celebriy to me. It comes through loud and clear why the show was (is?) as important as these authors make it out to be, and sex and drugs are naturally juicy topics, but for me the cast(s) that addicted me and my group of friend was the late 80's into the early 90's, and I so desperately wished there were more funny anecdotes from those years. More gossip, more reminicing, less determination to document the (e.g.) firing of Nora Dunn or the hiring process of (e.g.) Mike Meyers. In the end, what I found most valuable about this book is that I came to view SNL as a hyper version of the rest of corporate world, and the highs and lows described page after page added insight into the people I've worked with, and management styles, and situations I've gone through. While a cast member may lament that they aged 15 years by working in that pressure cooker for 7, I took many insights away from this juiced version of my own dull world.
Evan Bolick
Definitely essential reading for anybody who loves SNL or is just a fan of the history of television. The book interviews many living cast members, writers, and production team to chronicle the evolution of SNL (alas - no Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., or Ben Stiller interviewed here). It runs from the original cast until the Jimmy Fallon/Maya Rudolph/Tina Fey era.

My only real complaint is that the book spends too much time on the original cast and Eddie Murphy years and gives short shrift to Definitely essential reading for anybody who loves SNL or is just a fan of the history of television. The book interviews many living cast members, writers, and production team to chronicle the evolution of SNL (alas - no Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., or Ben Stiller interviewed here). It runs from the original cast until the Jimmy Fallon/Maya Rudolph/Tina Fey era.

My only real complaint is that the book spends too much time on the original cast and Eddie Murphy years and gives short shrift to the Sandler and Ferrell years (but, of course, that may be a positive depending on what era the reader is a fan of). The focal point through the book is Lorne Michaels, the show's creator and longtime producer (only two others have ever produced the show)

Some interesting trivia discussed at length in the book:

1) How SNL has both advanced the careers of women and minorities... and also managed to be accused of racism/sexism
2) How the show is run (a brutal Tues. to Sat. process)
3) How Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Chris Rock were essentially fired
4) Why everybody hates (and respects) Chevy Chase
Lisa
I'm a big fan of oral histories, and the authors did an incredible job sifting through all the folklore, interviews and chapters of SNL history here. As a big fan of television, this proved to really be one of the most interesting stories out there (one suspected it would be and is proven correct). You forget how tethered to even just a passing knowledge of SNL our lives are, be it through the sketches we've all seen to the impact that people who came from the cast had.

Also, this was an interes I'm a big fan of oral histories, and the authors did an incredible job sifting through all the folklore, interviews and chapters of SNL history here. As a big fan of television, this proved to really be one of the most interesting stories out there (one suspected it would be and is proven correct). You forget how tethered to even just a passing knowledge of SNL our lives are, be it through the sketches we've all seen to the impact that people who came from the cast had.

Also, this was an interesting parallel read to Tina Fey's book, which I hated, but loved her commentary here. To me, she is best when writing comedy or speaking eloquently about the craft. Not about her life. I want to know about these people as artists, not as people, turns out. The rest we can surmise. Also, bonus points to Garrett Morris, whose interviews were hysterically funny.

It isn't often that I put a book down and feel sad about it being over, but the cast, staff and hosts of the show were completely candid and insane and the book fully immerses you inside of their exciting, ridiculous lives. I felt sorry to leave them.
Kaitlin
This is a fun, though large, book about SNL from its beginnings to the early 2000s. I read it in about five months, which is strange for me. I kept it under my bed and read it in snippets. It's largely interviews of cast members, writers, producers and hosts, with short transitional paragraphs written by the author every 10 pages or so.

If I were not such a fan of the show, this would've been boring and pointless. It's also helpful to note that it was published 10 years ago, so people interested This is a fun, though large, book about SNL from its beginnings to the early 2000s. I read it in about five months, which is strange for me. I kept it under my bed and read it in snippets. It's largely interviews of cast members, writers, producers and hosts, with short transitional paragraphs written by the author every 10 pages or so.

If I were not such a fan of the show, this would've been boring and pointless. It's also helpful to note that it was published 10 years ago, so people interested in reading about Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Taran Killam, etc, won't find what they're looking for here.

By the end, I got a tired of how gushy the book was. Though there is some controversy that comes out through the interviews (Chevy Chase is a jerk, some people think Lorne is manipulative, women had trouble getting airtime in the early years), on the whole the message here is that SNL is groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind, generally amazing. And I mean that's the AUTHOR's point of view, not necessarily that of the people who actually work at SNL.

A fun read if you know enough about classic SNL to recognize the names.
Tim Hennessy
There’s a lot of reasons to read this book. If you love, hate, or find yourself baffled by Saturday Night Live’s inconsistent quality this book provides a larger context for the show’s evolution.
What’s to learn?
Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Nora Dunn, Ben Stiller, and Janeane Garofalo stand out as some of the bigger(est) assholes throughout the show’s history. Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers seemed pretty thin skinned whenever they weren’t being spoken or referred to in revered tones.
John Belushi–huge There’s a lot of reasons to read this book. If you love, hate, or find yourself baffled by Saturday Night Live’s inconsistent quality this book provides a larger context for the show’s evolution.
What’s to learn?
Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Nora Dunn, Ben Stiller, and Janeane Garofalo stand out as some of the bigger(est) assholes throughout the show’s history. Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers seemed pretty thin skinned whenever they weren’t being spoken or referred to in revered tones.
John Belushi–huge ego was almost as big as his substance abuse problem.
Al Franken worked on the show off and on for about 20 years and he also happened be to Stuart Smalley. For all I knew his career went from Stuart to loudmouth political talking head and Rush Limbaugh hater. He was actually a loudmouth political minded sketch writer first.
The first five years of the show may have been the best, though it’s argued throughout the book.
The bottom line is that there’s tons of fascinating history behind the SNL and this book is as much an oral history of SNL’s evolution as it is America’s comedy scene.
Joe
Anyone who knows me knows that over the years knows that I've been a big fan of Saturday Night Live. I started watching in 1985 as a young teen and still watch it today.

This book is a collection of interviews of all of the important people who have ever had anything to do with the show. Writers, cast members, producers, network executives, etc. Everyone who was there when they were first putting together this new show to the biggest names who've been on the show (with the notable exception of Anyone who knows me knows that over the years knows that I've been a big fan of Saturday Night Live. I started watching in 1985 as a young teen and still watch it today.

This book is a collection of interviews of all of the important people who have ever had anything to do with the show. Writers, cast members, producers, network executives, etc. Everyone who was there when they were first putting together this new show to the biggest names who've been on the show (with the notable exception of Eddie Murphy) all have something to contribute to this book.

To most people who are fans, they will all say that the initial five years with the original cast are the best years. Likewise, those original years get much more space in the book than some of the later years to come.

From the castmembers fighting, to others in romantic relationships, to the deaths of cast members, everything that was important in the history of this show is covered here.

A very fun and easy read. Would certainly recommend this book to fans of the show.
Brett
when I drove a recycle truck on an Air Force base in NC, every Thursday (sometimes more) the library there would fill one to three entire brown recycling bins full of books. all kinds. paperbacks, science hardcovers, novels. this was one of the reasons I bought a pick up truck: to haul boxes of books home to spare them from being made into pulp downtown. this was one of the books I remember reading, as I accumulated thousands (95% later donated to goodwill)...

anyway, I recall parts of this. trut when I drove a recycle truck on an Air Force base in NC, every Thursday (sometimes more) the library there would fill one to three entire brown recycling bins full of books. all kinds. paperbacks, science hardcovers, novels. this was one of the reasons I bought a pick up truck: to haul boxes of books home to spare them from being made into pulp downtown. this was one of the books I remember reading, as I accumulated thousands (95% later donated to goodwill)...

anyway, I recall parts of this. truth be told, I don't really enjoy SNL. I don't care to see a bunch of mostly nervous people bring nervous on live television. it can trigger a panic attack. the only ones I recall that seemed comfy in their own skin were Farley and Murphy.

highlights between all the yak: bill Murray bellowing "Chevy Chase!? MEDIUM TALENT!" then socking him in the face right before a show.... and a writer or someone similar talking about asking Milton Berle to see his huge dick and one of the cast (radner?) walking in and cowering lol.

its a lot of reading. but interesting in parts.
J. Niimi
Loads and loads of interesting, behind-the-scenes interpersonal stuff (Harry Shearer & Jon Lovitz are impossible prima donnas; Gilda's bulimia; Laraine & Garrett's respective heroin and crack habits; Farley's tragic emulation of Belushi; etc.) Great input from the writers, as well as cast members old and new, production people, guest hosts, etc. Hard to put down! Only big flaw of the book is when the authors interject their own paragraphs here and there, to flesh out the context: their p Loads and loads of interesting, behind-the-scenes interpersonal stuff (Harry Shearer & Jon Lovitz are impossible prima donnas; Gilda's bulimia; Laraine & Garrett's respective heroin and crack habits; Farley's tragic emulation of Belushi; etc.) Great input from the writers, as well as cast members old and new, production people, guest hosts, etc. Hard to put down! Only big flaw of the book is when the authors interject their own paragraphs here and there, to flesh out the context: their purple prose is almost invariably cringe-worthy. (In an oral history, where 95% of the book is transcription, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with solid copy for the other 5%.) Also a bit too Lorne-worshipping, and whiny in the way celeb auto-bios can be. Worth a read for the candid testimony, though, and wacky anecdotes (cf. Chris Farley walking into a read-thru butt-naked, in an imitation of the "It puts the lotion on its skin" guy from Silence of the Lambs, which ends with Farley sticking a golf club up his ass and then licking it.)
Melanie
As a fan of Saturday Night Live, I found this book to be very interesting. It pieces together rumor, fact, and perception. Lorne is still an enigma of sorts, even though he has an entire section dedicated to his persona & relationships with those involved with SNL. It is interesting how the book glosses over some firings, while others it seems to pay heavy attention to (Norm MacDonald). Some of the complaining in the book (and there is a lot of it) initially had me surprised, but in the end As a fan of Saturday Night Live, I found this book to be very interesting. It pieces together rumor, fact, and perception. Lorne is still an enigma of sorts, even though he has an entire section dedicated to his persona & relationships with those involved with SNL. It is interesting how the book glosses over some firings, while others it seems to pay heavy attention to (Norm MacDonald). Some of the complaining in the book (and there is a lot of it) initially had me surprised, but in the end you recognize a pattern. Those complaining were never that great for the show or they were just used the wrong way, or had expectations that were for some reason or another were not met. Personalities play into all this big time, and this book does a good job navigating through all of that. You do really get both sides of the story. Overall, the book paints a positive picture of SNL, and in the end you are left with the feeling, "wait, am I supposed to bow down, salute, or otherwise worship this show and/or Lorne himself?"
Tom Gase
A good book by the writers that also did "Those Guys Have All the Fun" which was on ESPN. This book on Saturday Night Live is written the same way. A couple of writers narrate the book a little, but then it is just a ton of quotes from the actors, writers and creator of Saturday Night Live. I really enjoyed the stuff on the first few seasons with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Larraine Newman and Garrett Morris. The book was okay for the Eddie Murp A good book by the writers that also did "Those Guys Have All the Fun" which was on ESPN. This book on Saturday Night Live is written the same way. A couple of writers narrate the book a little, but then it is just a ton of quotes from the actors, writers and creator of Saturday Night Live. I really enjoyed the stuff on the first few seasons with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Larraine Newman and Garrett Morris. The book was okay for the Eddie Murphy stuff but then got better once again with all the early 90's stories with cast members such as Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Rock etc. Then all the stuff on the cast with Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon was good and informing as well. The only problem with the book for me was it seemed to have overkill at some points. The whole chapter on Lorne Michaels at the end of the book did NOT need to be 45 pages. Maybe 10 or 15 at the most. But overall a great book to read during SNL's 40th reunion.
Danner
A solid, funny, and engrossing read. I'm a bit of a sucker for these "oral history" style books, and this one was no exception. Even if you're not necessarily a hardcore SNL aficionado (which I'm not), there's plenty here to keep the casual fan interested. Reading this book gave me a new appreciation for the show and its writers and performers. I stop just short of giving this five stars only because I found my interest waning a little during last hundred pages or so. This is mostly due to the f A solid, funny, and engrossing read. I'm a bit of a sucker for these "oral history" style books, and this one was no exception. Even if you're not necessarily a hardcore SNL aficionado (which I'm not), there's plenty here to keep the casual fan interested. Reading this book gave me a new appreciation for the show and its writers and performers. I stop just short of giving this five stars only because I found my interest waning a little during last hundred pages or so. This is mostly due to the fact that I was never a huge fan of the Will Ferrell years, and unlike the other weak seasons of the show, there isn't enough backstage dirt from this era to make up for it. However, I must say that I didn't find the final section on Lorne Michaels to be the pandering ass-kissing that other reviewers had me expecting. It's actually fairly even-handed and, I think, an appropriate way to wrap up the book.
Natalia h
If you like the show and want to read something light, you'll love this book. I liked it alright, I think it needs a lot of editing.

The authors let the writers, actors, executives and hosts tell you the story from memory, so we hear from Chevy Chase, Bill Pullman, Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Tom Hanks and many others what it was like to work there, to see amazing people like Belushi and Phil Hartman, to fall for Gilda, to be in a live show.

It starts being super fun because there are drugs and s If you like the show and want to read something light, you'll love this book. I liked it alright, I think it needs a lot of editing.

The authors let the writers, actors, executives and hosts tell you the story from memory, so we hear from Chevy Chase, Bill Pullman, Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Tom Hanks and many others what it was like to work there, to see amazing people like Belushi and Phil Hartman, to fall for Gilda, to be in a live show.

It starts being super fun because there are drugs and sex and funny people involved, but by Chapter 3 I think even the authors got tired of the format or realized this book would be TOO long, and began to tell you less about how performers got into the show (which is the interesting part, really) and focused more on the politics of getting a sketch on the air or how the new cast feels about working in a place that the previous cast had succeded/failed.

The final cast that appears is the Will Ferrel/Tina Fey/Jimmy Fallon one.
Aubree Petty
As a relatively new fan of SNL I was excited to read up on the history of the show. As I was reading, I was googling the names and trying to get some background on those involved considering I was born during the Will Ferrell era (Yikes!). I loved that it was told by the cast and writers, etc. and aside from the obnoxious vocabulary and metaphors Mr. Shales decided to use to break up the interviews... this book was extremely helpful in understanding what makes the show so incredible. I really do As a relatively new fan of SNL I was excited to read up on the history of the show. As I was reading, I was googling the names and trying to get some background on those involved considering I was born during the Will Ferrell era (Yikes!). I loved that it was told by the cast and writers, etc. and aside from the obnoxious vocabulary and metaphors Mr. Shales decided to use to break up the interviews... this book was extremely helpful in understanding what makes the show so incredible. I really do think that Saturday Night Live was and has continued to be a cultural phenomenon. They say what everyone is thinking and puts the art that is comedy, on the forefront of people's minds. I didn't understand comedy as an art form until very recently and I now feel that if everyone understood that, people would be much, much happier. Saturday Night Live continues that mission and I, for one, am extremely grateful.
Pete Buser
Reading this twelve years after its initial publishing is very interesting because so much has happened to SNL since then. One example is reading Will Ferrell's ambitions in his own words and seeing how he's accomplished them. Quite impressive. Or how about former writer/cast member turned US Senator?
I can easily travel down the rabbit hole of oral histories. We are lucky for the propensity of them due to the growth of the Internet. Grantland and Spin publish quite a lot of interesting ones, but Reading this twelve years after its initial publishing is very interesting because so much has happened to SNL since then. One example is reading Will Ferrell's ambitions in his own words and seeing how he's accomplished them. Quite impressive. Or how about former writer/cast member turned US Senator?
I can easily travel down the rabbit hole of oral histories. We are lucky for the propensity of them due to the growth of the Internet. Grantland and Spin publish quite a lot of interesting ones, but this goes above and beyond. Writers, producers, cast members, musicians and hosts all bring stories to the table. And yes, they discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of the inner workings of this comedic institution. A few interviewees even make a point towards the end that I've been wondering about recently - What will happen to the show once Lorne Michaels decides to call it a day? I don't know, but I'll be fascinated to find out.
Tom
More like three-and-a-half stars, the book is more or less exactly what it says on the cover. Written as a series of interviews and oral reflections with little rhyme or reason at times, the author collected the personal recollections of writers, cast members, producers, hosts, network executives, and others to get the history of Saturday Night Live down. Know ahead of time the book does make the thing out to be more than a TV show, along with a good dose of "Lorne Michaels is awesome but distan More like three-and-a-half stars, the book is more or less exactly what it says on the cover. Written as a series of interviews and oral reflections with little rhyme or reason at times, the author collected the personal recollections of writers, cast members, producers, hosts, network executives, and others to get the history of Saturday Night Live down. Know ahead of time the book does make the thing out to be more than a TV show, along with a good dose of "Lorne Michaels is awesome but distant" on a fairly regular basis, though disgruntled former cast members are also included and they did not always hold back. Most of the cast members interviewed are those who are still alive and managed to make a name for themselves with a handful of exceptions, and about all I can say that I seemed to learn is hardly anyone actually likes Chevy Chase. Oh, and Eddie Murphy still doesn't want to talk about whatever happened to him.
Chris Ibert
I read this version 12 years ago when it was first published and I absolutely devoured it in just a few days over a Christmas break. An updated version that includes the past 12 years up to this celebrated 40th season was published last fall. I treated myself to it having given away my original and started re-reading it this past weekend. SNL is such a part of my life since I can remember sleeping over at friends' houses as a 4th grader and trying to sneak into the living room to catch peaks of I read this version 12 years ago when it was first published and I absolutely devoured it in just a few days over a Christmas break. An updated version that includes the past 12 years up to this celebrated 40th season was published last fall. I treated myself to it having given away my original and started re-reading it this past weekend. SNL is such a part of my life since I can remember sleeping over at friends' houses as a 4th grader and trying to sneak into the living room to catch peaks of the episodes. And I would watch all the old ones when they re-ran on Nick at Night when I was a teen. The season that is considered one of the worst ('85-'86) was when we first had a VCR in my home and I taped every single episode and woke up early on Sunday morning to watch it because I adored Anothony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr.! I have so many good memories associated with SNL and reading this book is just a very joyful walk down memory lane for me.
Joe Barlow
A disappointing look at one of television's most innovative shows. Tom Shales has penned a rambling, unfocused book that focuses heavily (and understandably) on the Belushi era of SNL, while almost completely ignoring Andy Kaufman and Garrett Morris. One of the show's most legendary incidents, Sinead O'Connor ripping up a picture of the Pope live on the air, earns no more than a couple of paragraphs, but repetitive tales of Chevy Chase being a complete a**hole to other members of the cast seem t A disappointing look at one of television's most innovative shows. Tom Shales has penned a rambling, unfocused book that focuses heavily (and understandably) on the Belushi era of SNL, while almost completely ignoring Andy Kaufman and Garrett Morris. One of the show's most legendary incidents, Sinead O'Connor ripping up a picture of the Pope live on the air, earns no more than a couple of paragraphs, but repetitive tales of Chevy Chase being a complete a**hole to other members of the cast seem to go on forever. I don't remember bandleader GE Smith, who played such an integral part of the show in the '80s, earning a single mention. Most disappointing is that Shales seems to spend more time attempting to psychoanalyze Lorne Michaels than actually discussing the show itself. Not a horrible read, but not the book I wanted it to be. As far as I'm concerned, the definitive history of SNL has yet to be written.
Brady Kellogg
I've read the original twice, and decided to get the updated edition for SNL 40. It's one of the most detailed accounts of a TV show that one could ever hope to read, and there are a lot of tidbits in this book to keep you occupied and interested throughout. The book does drag in sections, and after the section about the mid-90's cast overhaul, it really starts to drag on, but it picks up again after the original ending of the book(the 2002-2003 season to now). The stuff about the 2008 election I've read the original twice, and decided to get the updated edition for SNL 40. It's one of the most detailed accounts of a TV show that one could ever hope to read, and there are a lot of tidbits in this book to keep you occupied and interested throughout. The book does drag in sections, and after the section about the mid-90's cast overhaul, it really starts to drag on, but it picks up again after the original ending of the book(the 2002-2003 season to now). The stuff about the 2008 election is fantastic and worth the extra price and pages.

Almost every major player from the SNL years is interviewed, with the exception of one(His name rhymes with Deaddie Burphy), which doesn't hurt much, but if you would like to hear his perspective, well, he never talks about SNL, so you're kind of screwed on that one.

Overall, this is about as complete an account as one could get about Saturday Night Live, and it shows.
Kid
Compulsively readable and haphazardly compiled, Live From NY is a hagiography of Saturday Night Live and Lorne Michaels. It's an oral history and it's not completely without voices critical of Daddy Lorne but the overall gist of this thing is that SNL is a cornerstone of American television comedy. That's true I think.

What's kind of ridiculous about this book is the interstitial comments by the editors - they are so cliche-ridden and vapid that you wonder if they were still in high school when Compulsively readable and haphazardly compiled, Live From NY is a hagiography of Saturday Night Live and Lorne Michaels. It's an oral history and it's not completely without voices critical of Daddy Lorne but the overall gist of this thing is that SNL is a cornerstone of American television comedy. That's true I think.

What's kind of ridiculous about this book is the interstitial comments by the editors - they are so cliche-ridden and vapid that you wonder if they were still in high school when this was put together. Whatever - the stories are great.

One thing that's annoying is that the editors do no explication when they decide to butt in and make inane comments about the show. There's a section about Madonna's controversial hosting turn - but no details from anyone about what was controversial about it. Maybe she made fun of gay people. I couldn't find anything online about it.
TrumanCoyote
Probably not as good for someone who hasn't read a bit about the subject beforehand. An oral history of SNL--filled with all sorts of great quotes about people and things; plus they interviewed everybody--even pissed-off people like Laraine (though I guess they weren't lucky enough to get in the court of Murphy the First). A few surprises (Chris Kattan not gay?--hm). Only lame part was the pompous epochal italicized links--the only actual contribution from the writer goobers. Okay, I'm being mea Probably not as good for someone who hasn't read a bit about the subject beforehand. An oral history of SNL--filled with all sorts of great quotes about people and things; plus they interviewed everybody--even pissed-off people like Laraine (though I guess they weren't lucky enough to get in the court of Murphy the First). A few surprises (Chris Kattan not gay?--hm). Only lame part was the pompous epochal italicized links--the only actual contribution from the writer goobers. Okay, I'm being mean--they actually kept the dialogue flowing along very well; even right down to the borderline unconventional final quote ("But enough about Lorne. What about me?"). You definitely get a picture of Michaels as this not-entirely-willing taciturn Godfadda ruling the roost: sitting at his desk eating Chinese food while everyone else is huddled on his floor (but maybe it's the only time he ever gets a chance to eat?--who knows).
Russ
This is a very interesting, hard-to-put-down book that goes inside the offices and studio of Saturday Night Live to give you the stories behind it all. I liked how many different people participated - cast members, writers, hosts, producers, and even Lorne Michaels himself.

Some of the stories are pretty outrageous. It's really amazing what the original cast got away with. It's also nice to hear about just how hard it is to put on the show every week. Not only do the writers and cast members have This is a very interesting, hard-to-put-down book that goes inside the offices and studio of Saturday Night Live to give you the stories behind it all. I liked how many different people participated - cast members, writers, hosts, producers, and even Lorne Michaels himself.

Some of the stories are pretty outrageous. It's really amazing what the original cast got away with. It's also nice to hear about just how hard it is to put on the show every week. Not only do the writers and cast members have to write entirely new sketches each week, but they have to make them as funny as possible!

The one part of the book that I think dragged was the last one, all about Lorne. It really ruined the easygoing flow established by the book's previous chapters. I think these Lorne stories could have been spread out throughout the book instead of collected into one chapter.

This is a must-read if you like, or have ever liked, Saturday Night Live.
Susan
Even if you don’t watch Saturday Night Live (SNL), over forty plus years it’s become a part of the culture, the subject of countless water-cooler conversations and media attention. This oral history of the show is told through the voices of writers, producers, agents, hosts, and performers for an entertaining but serious history, which addresses how SNL got started, internal network politics and the role they’ve played throughout the years, the evolution of “characters” and comedy writing, colla Even if you don’t watch Saturday Night Live (SNL), over forty plus years it’s become a part of the culture, the subject of countless water-cooler conversations and media attention. This oral history of the show is told through the voices of writers, producers, agents, hosts, and performers for an entertaining but serious history, which addresses how SNL got started, internal network politics and the role they’ve played throughout the years, the evolution of “characters” and comedy writing, collaboration, and what it’s like to work on the show. The many, many interviews were cleverly cut to provide multiple perspectives on events, including quotes from Sarah Palin on SNL’s portrayal of her. Because the book covers forty years, a lot of time is spent on staff changes, and cast lists for each season are included as well as many photos. I'm not an SNL watcher but enjoyed this detailed, insiders' view.
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