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Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There

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3.13  ·  Rating Details ·  369 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
39 Years of Short Term Memory Loss is a seriously funny, offbeat and irreverent memoir that chronicles the early days of Saturday Night Live and features some of its greatest personalities—Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd,John Belushi, Bill Murray, Michael O'Donoghue, and Chris Farley. Written by Tom Davis, an original SNL writer and comedy partner of Al Franken, 39 ...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Grove Press (first published August 1st 2004)
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Bossypants by Tina FeyYes Please by Amy PoehlerLive from New York by James Andrew MillerBorn Standing Up by Steve MartinThirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis
Saturday Night Live
5th out of 96 books — 67 voters
True Hollywood Noir by Dina Di MambroStories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob LoweMe by Katharine HepburnNatasha by Suzanne FinstadNever Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda
Celebrity Biography
138th out of 627 books — 215 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jason Koivu
May 13, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Captivating for its often hilarious and, in the very least, entertaining stories about life as a writer for Saturday Night Live in its earlier years.

Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss is an autobiography of sorts, sketching out Tom Davis's life with a patchwork of details. Davis was Al Franken's long-time writing partner. The duo formed up early in their lives, working out bits that garnered them, if not fame and fortune, enough notoriety to attract the attention of SNL's producer Lorn
...more
Alan
Oct 21, 2010 Alan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those who remember the past, perhaps more clearly than Davis
Recommended to Alan by: Fond memories of staying up too late
True story: I was in the midst of reading Tom Davis' memoir when our phone rang... and it was a campaigner from the Midwest PAC trying to raise support for his former partner in comedy, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Al Franken, of all things. I couldn't resist telling her that I was reading this book, though I turned her down anyway, this time. I hope she didn't think those things were related.

I did find this book rambling and choppy, though, more a series of flashbacks told out of order than a co
...more
El_kiablo
Oct 19, 2013 El_kiablo rated it it was ok
For a professional writer - much less an award winning professional writer - I have never read a more amateurish book. The final chapter - which you would think would be some sort of conclusion or catharsis - is literally just a description of random news stories he has pinned to his bathroom walls over the years. This book includes phrases like "the next day I reminded him of the nonincident" and at one point he relates an anecdote which he can't remember if he saw himself or read in an unnamed ...more
Sharneel
Mar 10, 2012 Sharneel rated it it was ok
This is one of the most disjointed books I have ever read. Davis flits around from one memory to another without any relationship to what was related before or the time frame. Perhaps this lack of discipline is a product of the life he has lived, which comes across as largely self-serving and aimless. It reminds me of an elderly person who lives so much in the past that all conversation hinges on the 'good old days.'. Some of the vignettes were entertaining and enlightening in relationship to th ...more
Tom Franklin
Jun 23, 2009 Tom Franklin rated it liked it
An absolute mess of a book. I imagine Tom David getting stoned and dictating most of this into a microcassette recorder and then having someone transcribe it all onto a typed page. The stories/memories are all in a jumble, with no linear timeline in place anywhere in the book. Some events are mentioned twice, lots and lots of names are dropped (most of whom I've never heard of) and some chapters devolve into one-line remembrances that read more like trivia than insights.

It may have been the drug
...more
Davida
Aug 08, 2009 Davida rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Quite uneven, but perhaps that was his intent. This dude sure knew a lot of crazy and interesting famous folks, including Jerry Garcia and Timothy Leary. The book is not so much about SNL but about all of his crazy, mainly drug-induced, adventures. It's interesting what has happened now with Al Franken in light of these early years.

I lost interest in it pretty early on but something kept me reading. I guess I wanted to see who else he knew or had worked with. He didn't really impress me much and
...more
Brian
Aug 26, 2009 Brian rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting but ultimately unsatisfying memoir. There really isn't any narrative, it is all a series of anecdotes. Each chapter is essentially stand-alone. By itself that wouldn't be too much if a problem, but I found the character introductions to be tedious after a while. For instance, I got real tired of reading "Susan Forristal, Lorne's supermodel girlfriend." I wanted to yell back "yes, I remember her from all the previous introductions!". That, and fact that the chapters are not chronol ...more
Emrys
Jun 10, 2009 Emrys rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
What a mess! I had...er.... well, I had mediocre hopes for this book. Davis spent time with a lot of funny people, but unfortunately they don't appear in this book very often. Most of the book is about his girlfriends or his drug use, and even the parts that aren't are frequently interrupted by a memory of a girl or a drug experience. I couldn't finish this one, and I'll stick to Franken's books in the future!
Matt
Mar 15, 2015 Matt rated it liked it
Tom Davis did a lot of drugs.

A good 30-40% of "Thirty-Nine Years" is spent spinning tales about drugs (pot, LSD, heroin--but never, he assures us, with a needle) and the famous people with whom he shared them (Timothy Leary, Jerry Garcia, Belushi et al). In fact, the storytelling isn't unlike hanging out with a friend who's high on whatever -- stories begin and end without warning, and seemingly meaningful events like Belushi's death show up in mid-paragraph while he's recalling one of Lorne Mic
...more
Michael
Dec 15, 2009 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
Do you want to read a book about the early days of SNL? Great! So do I. However, this is not that book. However, if you are looking to read a jumbled, all over the place memoir that mentions SNL in passing, but basically boils down to "I did drugs. I did drugs with famous people" then this is the book you want to read.

I read half and couldn't take it any longer.
Gary
Aug 26, 2010 Gary rated it really liked it

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of drugs.
Sarai
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Writing for Saturday Night Live during the sketch show's legendary early seasons may be Davis's claim to fame, but this captivating memoir is about much more, including his suburban Minneapolis childhood, couch-surfing through his hometown, San Francisco, and New York City during the 1970s, and a life-long friendship with comedian-turned-political commentator-turned (probable) Senator Al Franken. Of course, that doesn't stop Davis from hooking readers at the
...more
Sam
Apr 20, 2010 Sam rated it liked it
It's tough because this was written by a guy who was THERE at SNL alongside Al Franken and the original "Not Ready For Primetime Players." And yet it's kind of a sluggish, stream of consciousness read for the most part. It jumps back and forth, making it kind of confusing. Regardless, it's a great account.

For a book that promises to talk about "the early days of SNL," it skips a LOT of details. Most of the book details the weird and wacky days of Franken & Davis trying to make it in show bus
...more
Katy
Jul 27, 2010 Katy added it
I've read all the SNL memoirs, and of course they're all juicy and entertaining, but Tom Davis writes with a "fuck it" sense of truth that makes you really believe SNL was as he says it was. S

teve Martin, Alan Zweibel, Anne Beatts and many others have attempted this type of memoir regarding the early days of the show. I loved all these books, and respect their authors as honest, but not totally unbiased. Tom Davis has somehow managed to write a book about his part in the creation of the greatest
...more
Douglas
Oct 24, 2013 Douglas rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The vagaries of fate. How does one member of a 22 year old comedy partnership end up with considerably greater success -- a better show business career and best selling author -- while the other member is slowly relegated to the edges of show business. Davis wrote this book three years prior to dying from brain cancer, while his former partner is a well regarded US Senator, so the disparity in career paths has only accelerated.

This book is easy to read and is written in a rather matter of fact s
...more
Eric
I gave it a couple hours. Then I realized it was all going to be about wandering through a drug-addled state with a bunch of like-minded idiots talking about their sexual conquests and days on stage. I honestly didn't set out to listen to this, put it showed up in my library queue as being available after having been on hold. My first inclination had been to just removed it - should have taken my own advice.
Jeff
Sep 21, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
The late Tom Davis offers unique insights into his relationships with Al Franken and others from Saturday Night Live including some backstage stuff, but also his personal friendship with Jerry Garcia and others. He led an interesting life, but the book is not as straight ahead coherent as some other autobiographies and memoirs, so you need to stick with it to get to the good stuff.
Fred
Feb 24, 2015 Fred rated it liked it
Not really much of a book about SNL, IMO. It's far more about Davis growing up, traveling, and the Grateful Dead.

The actual SNL stuff is really ancillary to the rest of the book, and not very interesting. He has some great stories about Danny Ackroyd, John Belushi and some others, but most of those don't actually have to do with SNL, but other places/times.
furious
Jul 19, 2009 furious rated it liked it
Recommends it for: OG SNL superfans, students of comedy, drug enthusiasts
yet another insanely uneven book about/by one of the original SNLers. this baby is all over the board, jumping through time more than scott bakula. each chapter seems to have a theme, but there is very little apparent in the way of rhyme or reason. the tone is very odd, the author employing a style nearly devoid of any emotional attachment to the subject's life, which an exceptionally odd effect given that this is a memoir. Davis seems to be relating the many (often very interesting) tales of hi ...more
Rey Dekker
Feb 23, 2015 Rey Dekker rated it liked it
Mr. Davis could have used a better editor. Jumps chronologically all over the place so sometimes hard to follow. Maybe all those drugs he took/is taking are to blame. Just sayin'...
Some funny and behind the scenes stuff a fan of the show may like and a pretty quick read so why not?
Quinn Lavender
This was a frustrating read for me. I honestly had never heard of Tom Davis, despite having been an SNL fan for many years. I was more interested in the "behind-the-scenes" history of the show that was promised in the books subtitle. Sadly, this is seriously lacking in the book. Really, really, really lacking. In fact the only reason I finished this book was because of the hope of actually getting to a chapter that talked about SNL.

I wasn't interested at all in Davis' many years and types of sub
...more
Jesse Butterworth
Dec 24, 2014 Jesse Butterworth rated it did not like it
Eesh... A total mess of a book. This is like reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book from cover to cover. It makes little to no sense and has no actual time line. What a wasted opportunity from a gifted comedy writer.
Linda Parker
Nov 01, 2015 Linda Parker rated it it was ok
Wish I read the other reviews first. The book bounces around and many of the stories feel random. Disappointing, only a few funny bits or interesting travel stories. Lots of drugs and name dropping equals a dull book.
Scott
Mar 27, 2012 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This often hilarious memoir weaves together the coming-of-age stories of a comedy writer and the television institution he helped spawn. When Saturday Night Live first hit the airwaves, Gerald Ford was president. No one expected it to run for decades; least of all, footloose midwestern hippie and cutup Tom Davis. Perhaps best remembered today as the other half of the Franken & Davis comedy team, Davis won four Emmy Awards during the '70s, but his free-spirited 39 Years of Short-Term Memory L ...more
Denise Junker
I skimmed it. Enough interesting moments jumped out to make it worth the time. But the drug-use (even though not surprised) is enough for me to want to give this a lower rating.

August, 2016.
James Biser
It was interesting to hear these stories about Saturday Night Live from the point of view of one of the creators, Tom Davis.
David Ward
Jan 22, 2016 David Ward rated it liked it
Thirty- Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL From Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis (Grove Press 2009)( Biography). Tom Davis was U.S. Senator Al Franken's comedy partner in the duo "Franken & Davis" on Saturday Night Live back in the 1970's when the show was still funny. He was a notorious Deadhead; he emceed the Grateful Dead New Year's concert that became the DVD “The Closing of Winterland.” Al Franken became a U.S. Senator from Minnesota; Tom Davis was propelled i ...more
Ken
Oct 19, 2010 Ken rated it liked it
This book just goes to show that it may be easier to win an Emmy than write a good book. Not to say "39 Years" didn't have its moments. It clearly did and that's why I waded through the jumbled editing, second-hand recollections, acid trips, and constant praises to the Grateful Dead. There will still enough behind the scenes stories to hold my attention. Tom Davis is not someone I clearly remember from the early SNL days but, based on this memoir, he doesn't clearly remember most of it either. ...more
Doug
Sep 09, 2015 Doug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For fans of the early Saturday Night Live: a rambling account of Davis's partnership with Al Franken, both before and after their SNL work.
Todd Martin
Feb 20, 2011 Todd Martin rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss is a scatter-shot memoir from Davis (of Franken and Davis semi-fame) of his life and days as a writer for Saturday Night Live. There are a few anecdotes of the people who were around SNL at the time (Belushi, Aykroyd and Michaels), but he has surprisingly little to say about the rest of the cast.

You might expect that the autobiography of a comedy writer would be replete with humor, but you'd be wrong. Of course, this is the same guy that wrote Coneheads, so it
...more
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