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Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live (2002)

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live (2002)
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4 of 5 Votes: 4
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0316781460 (ISBN13: 9780316781466)
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English
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little, brown and company
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Live From New York: An Uncensored His...
Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live (2002)

About book: I have always been impressed with the performers on Saturday Night Live. I could never even imagine performing a live show every week for several months a year, year after year. To then try to always make that show funny, culturally relevant, cool, socially progressive, and a launching pad for some of the best comedic talents of all time is a tall order.Sometimes the show was a huge success, sometimes a miserable failure, and most of the time somewhere middling in between. The running joke about the show is that it was always better with the previous cast. But the truth is that every new cast would re-shape the show in its own image. That reinvention was often needed in order to keep people interested and tuning in. Otherwise the generation gap would show.For instance, I sometimes watch some of the “classic” sketches of the original cast in the late 1970s and don’t get the joke. That could well be because I did not grow up watching the show during that time. All the same it’s amazing to think SNL is the same show that brought us The Blues Brothers, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Hans and Franz, Opera Man, Debbie Downer, The Cheerleaders, etc. The variety of comedy as the generations passed was impressive, if not always overly funny in my humble opinion.As an avid watcher of the show growing up, and watching still as an adult sometimes when I am watching TV on a Saturday night, the book did not really tell me any stories behind the scenes that I had not heard about already. What was interesting to hear were the first person accounts of what had happened and their reactions, given the narrative style of the book. For instance to hear Chevy Chase talk about why he left the show after one season, Dan Ackroyd’s reaction to John Belushi’s death, how some of the sketches were written or why people left the show when they did was fascinating. If I have any complaints they are few. One would be that Eddie Murphy not participating in the book is a huge disappointment. I do not think there is any dispute that he is the biggest star to come out of SNL. In fact one of the things I did learn was how instrumental Murphy was to saving SNL from cancellation in the years following the original cast’s departure. While they discuss it in the book, it has always fascinated me how so few cast members have turned into legitimate movie stars. I’d guess that Murphy, Mike Myers and Will Ferrell are the only cast members to have had legitimate careers in movies. Perhaps more recently Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis will buck the trend as well. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have certainly been successful in a variety of formats, including leading two of my all-time favorite TV shows, 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation.One thing I also could never fully understand, no matter how many times people “fell in love” with her, was the overall devotion to Gilda Radner. Perhaps because I just did not find her sketches that funny (again it might be the generation gap thing as an original cast member) or that I didn’t find her all that attractive, but so many male cast members and writers fawn over Gilda Radner. I just did not quite get it.This is a personal hang up, but I wished someone would have addressed Jimmy Fallon’s constant breaking of character on the show. I found him infuriating in sketches when he was a cast member, and I am amazed we didn’t get one cast member or even Lorne Michaels discussing how frustrating it must have been. I thought he always broke character and started to laugh to cover the fact that his sketches were usually awful. I thought Fallon was funny on the news desk with Fey however and later on in his late night show gigs. Overall I really enjoyed the book and thought it was a fun read. I certainly enjoyed the format of the book even more than I did when I read the ESPN book, having known more of the participants over the years. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s been a fan of SNL.

Saturday Night Live has never been something I stay up for, or really care about at all. The only times I remember sitting down at 11:30pm and watching SNL were on the weekends my brothers and I stayed at my Dad's. It was this special bonding time between a Dad and the kids he doesn't see often. We'd stay up late, cracked out on buttery popcorn and chocolate goodies bought from Costco, and laugh even at the unfunniest of sketches, happy to be up past bedtime and happy to be with each other.In adulthood, I only pop onto Hulu to stream last Saturday's episode if:1. an actor or band I really like was involved2. the internet is exploding from how funny/whacky the episode wasWhy, then, would I even bother with this book? And how did I end up liking it so much?Miller and Shales aren't simply interested in the funniest sketches and the most destructive people which/who have danced across the stage. Rather, they treat this book as a march through eras of comedy and culture, beginning with the drug-infused 70s, and ending on the granola-and-kale early 2000s. They capture the most touching, the most hilarious, and the most cringe-worthy moments, and they allow every person who has walked into 30 Rock to tell their story.The structure is pretty fascinating (and I can't even begin to fathom the amount of editing that went on, whew!). Miller and Shales interviewed everyone they could get their hands on, and had these actors/writers/produces/passerbys tell, in detail, the life of SNL while they were there. Once each story has been collected, they are systematically hacked up and sprinkled throughout the book into bite-sized paragraphs, so that the readers get a chronological story; and get several views on the same event all at once.Really, really ingenious stuff going on here.The authors were able to nab pretty much all of the heavy hitters (save those who had already passed, and Eddie Murphy. Really, Eddie Murphy? You're too good for this shit? Nevermind the show, you know, made you who you are today but whatever, fine, be that way), and, surprisingly enough, were able to get some pretty honest takes on how SNL has evolved, who has been the best (and the worst) to work with, as well as some pretty great behind-the-scenes looks. I laughed out loud, I gasped a bit, and my feelings on some actors will never be the same (I never thought I'd dislike the guy who brought me "Zoolander" and a very good reboot of "Walter Mitty" ... but I sort of want to punch Ben Stiller in the throat after finishing this). The only negative I really have to say is: the final section on Lorne Michaels? Super unnecessary. Super boring. I found myself a little annoyed with the writers that they slapped it in here, and really only skimmed the end, looking for final anecdotes from the voices I liked the most.For anyone who appreciates SNL, or comedy at all for that matter, this book is quite simply a must-read. I was interested in this book solely to hear the voices of Akroyd, Curtain, Murray, Fey, Fallon, and Poehler (comedic icons, in my book), but I walked away having respect for so many more past cast members/writers, and respect for the sketch show that has survived so much, and just keeps truckin'.
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Reviews
Colleen
I'm a big fan of oral memoirs (Talking Irish: An Oral History of Notre Dame Football is a favorite of mine) so I knew I'd like the style of this book. My brothers and I grew up watching SNL and renting every "Best of... " video that we could get our hands on, so I know that I went into this with a more nostalgic view than some people. That being said, I truly enjoyed this book. It was entertaining and I felt like I was sitting at a panel listening to some of the greats talk about their experiences. It does focus a bit more on interpersonal drama than I would like, but I'm still glad I read it and I'll probably read it again.Was anyone else incredibly annoyed when they saw that Michael J Fox was given credit for the Tom Cruise character in the Jeopardy! sketch with Jimmy Fallon as Adam Sandler and Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery? Everyone knows that was Ben Stiller! Fact check much?
michael
this was read solely in the bathroom over several months. dull, repetitive stuff. it was extremely self-congratulatory and basically i wanted it to be a different book. with all these hilarious people being interviewed, you'd think it might be interesting to hear about their tastes in comedy, their writing processes, their favorite moments, but no, this is mostly just about who was taking what or screwing who (literally and figuratively) and who was an asshole and stories about lorne michaels acting aloof and eating popcorn. seems like quite an achievement to make such a lengthy book about SNL devoid of any laughs.
Steven E
Ugh. For a 600-page book of interviews with some of the funniest, charming, egotistical, and most dysfunctional people around, LFNY is appallingly bereft of insight or pleasure.Shales and Miller are waaaay too close to their subjects, and as such treat their heroes/friends like they were delicate flowers. There are, to my mind, only 2 interesting anecdotes beyond the navelgazing. The first involves poor Garret Morris, who apparently freebased so often in his office that the maids were afraid to clean the room, because "that's where the fires always are". The other involves (who else?) John Belushi, who snorted all of Al Franken's hard-earned cocaine, which had cost him two weeks' salary. Good stuff. Otherwise it's mostly worthless. The famous infighting and drug use in the 70s is glossed over, to the point where you could come away from this book with the impression that everyone not only functioned like normal adults, but that they actually sort of liked each other, too. Lorne Michaels is reputedly one of the biggest tyrants to have worked in TV, but nary a word is allowed to besmirch his character here--they don't even allow mention of the Lornettes, his harem who indulges all of his weird quirks. Don't kid yourself, folks. This book isn't history, it's hagiography. Avoid.One last thought: maybe it's because most of these people already sold out, but how is there not a single genuine laugh in the entire read? How the hell does that happen?!
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