44. Live from New York by Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller

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44. Live from New York by Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller

Post  twunny on Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:06 pm

"And Uncensored History of 'Saturday Night Live.' As told by its stars, writers & guests.

Whew. A tome of an oral history. The timeline is from the beginning of the idea for the show (Dick Ebersole says it was his idea, 99% of people agree it was Lorne Michaels') through the 2001-2002 season [Will Ferrell was still on the show]. A lot of "dirt," I suppose about people sleeping with people and people doing drugs and backbiting and fights and temper tantrums. But more than that, it seems to come close to capturing what SNL is, where it came from, and what makes it work.

The oral history format is really the only way I see this book working. Although there have been people present for long stretches (Lorne Michaels, Jim Downey, and Al Franken, notably) no one person could ever have the whole story. Bill Murray has a different perspective from Chevy Chase, or Garrett Morris, or certainly from Jon Lovitz or Tina Fey.

While some of the information was not anything resembling a huge revelation (I've heard all the Belushi stuff before) I did learn a lot. I never would have guessed that Victoria Jackson and Nora Dunn did not get along, or that Joe Piscopo hated Phil Hartman's Sinatra impression. And eve the stuff I had heard before was good to have in there, in context chronologically and told by people in their own words.

However, with all those people, there is bound to be a lot of overlap. And for whatever reason, the overlap was really noticeable. I noticed three people in a row telling the same story or voicing the same opinion. I wasn't crazy about that.

All in all, a great read for a fan of the show. Very thorough. It helped me to connect the dots between the original cast, whom I've only ever seen in reruns, to the cast I grew up with, to the show I was watching every weekend in college. It's hard sometimes to think of it as the same show.

Probably for SNL fans only. But a very good choice for such a person.

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