Friday, July 24, 2015

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

Book 21 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from March 11 - 26

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live 
by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
*the newly updated and expanded version published in 2014

Summary (via Goodreads)
Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, a rollickingly updated edition of LIVE FROM NEW YORK with more than 100 pages covering the past decade.

When first published to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, LIVE FROM NEW YORK was immediately proclaimed the best book ever produced on the landmark and legendary late-night show. In their own words, unfiltered and uncensored, a dazzling galaxy of trail-blazing talents recalled three turbulent decades of on-camera antics and off-camera escapades. Now a fourth decade has passed---and bestselling authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have returned to Studio 8H. Over more than 100 pages of new material, they raucously and revealingly take the SNL story up to the present, adding a constellation of iconic new stars, surprises, and controversies.

My Opinion
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'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?

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

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