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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  7,498 ratings  ·  589 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published October 7th 2002 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2001)
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Bossypants by Tina FeyLive from New York by Tom ShalesShopgirl by Steve MartinThirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss by Tom DavisBorn Standing Up by Steve Martin
Saturday Night Live
2nd out of 80 books — 47 voters
The Revolution Was Televised by Alan SepinwallThe War for Late Night by Bill  CarterLive from New York by Tom ShalesMary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin ArmstrongDifficult Men by Brett Martin
Books about TV
3rd out of 32 books — 8 voters


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Community Reviews

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Whit
Basically, the first cast all slept around, did drugs because they didn't know any better, and became famous overnight without expecting it. No one understands Lorne. Everyone loves Gilda, Chevy was a pompous jerk, and Jane was just a normal lady with a husband and cat. Later they adopted Bill Murray.

The next cast all expected to get famous, and hardly any of them did. Lorne left the show, and so did the rest of America. Eddie Murphy gets discovered, Joe Piscopo becomes creepily possessive of hi...more
Kerry
Wow, this took me FOREVER to read. It was in my bathroom, so I only read it sporadically, but STILL. I go to the bathroom EVERY DAY.

I think it could have been shorter if it had been edited better. This was only the second "oral history"-stylee book I've read (the other was Gonzo) and it wasn't put together nearly as well. The interstitial writing was so pandering and complimentary that it made me want to barf. And the interviews themselves were very repetitive (newsflash: Lorne Michaels doesn't...more
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...more
Lena
This is an oral history of the iconic comedy show that interviews performers, hosts, writers and producers from the show's first year in 1975 through this book's publication in 2002.

Like many of my generation, I grew up badgering my parents to stay up late enough to be able to watch such characters as Roseanne Rosannadanna and The Blues Brothers, then abandoned the show when creator Lorne Michaels and the original cast left 5 years later. Though I didn't start watching it again regularly until...more
Edmole
This is a verbal history of Saturday Night Live made of a tapestry of insiders talking. The only major figure from SNL history they couldn't get to talk was Eddie Murphy, but everyone else is here. Ten thoughts on the book:

1) Writing about music may be like dancing about architecture but talking about comedy is, for me, really, really interesting. Even if you're only getting one more studied pose from comedians and writers, stuff like this and Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee are almost more fun...more
Drew Grauerholz
So I feel a little guilty for giving this only three stars because I certainly appreciate the amount of work that went into it, but I've got to stick to my guns on this one. To an SNL nerd like me, the oral history method is a perfect match. Competing memories, disagreements and insights make the reading really dynamic and quick, so even though it clocks in at however many pages it's pretty much a breeze. Here's the thing: Shales nails down the early stuff comprehensively, so even if you don't h...more
Joshua
I love this kind of "oral history" approach. Everything told through interviews with the people that lived it. And you're left to weave together the truth and the fiction. SNL is an institution, despite the derision it gets from each new generation of viewers. Taking 90 minutes of television out of the hands of a broadcast media elite in the mid-70s and handing it to what was essentially a bunch of kids to do whatever they want in real time on live television was a huge deal. We take for granted...more
bfred
SNL was one of my earliest TV obsessions (I began watching it with my father in the late 80s, Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman-Dennis Miller era), so my expectations were high when I stumbled across this exhaustive oral history, which was first published in 2003. It's hard to screw up a book comprised almost entirely of as-told-to anecdotes, and TV journalists Tom Shales and James Miller do a pretty comprehensive job of prodding a wide variety of key players for their memories. My complaints are pretty...more
Patti
A good guilty pleasure read, but seriously uneven. Five stars for the section on the 70s (drugs! sex! drama! blues bars! all night parties! crazy people!), four for the early 80s (hot mess! intrigue!), and three for the rest of the book (basically, there were guest stars; Janine Garafalo hated the show and everyone hated her; everyone has daddy issues with Lorne Michaels). This waning excitement is probably a combination of the show itself getting into more of a routine over the years and the fa...more
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...more
W.B.
This is really great dish, especially if you watched this show for any extended period of time in your life. I've fallen away from watching it the past few years, but watched it for decades. So the dish is great. I guess I had this idealized (and erroneous) conception of how the show works. I figured that it was all about camaraderie and friendship and a shared sense of the mission---simply to make people laugh. Okay, and maybe to make them think too. Sometimes. But not too much. But NOOOOO!!! A...more
Mary
This was an engrossing and sometimes infuriating read. SNL is an undeniable force in pop culture, launching career after career and influencing the cultural memes, but I still had a hard time dealing with the self-important tone of the authors and the people they interviewed. The overall impression was that they'd been participating in a cult that still held them and the rest of us in thrall. And Lorne Michaels = Jim Jones.

The book was fun for the bits of insider-y gossip it offered--everybody...more
Sarah Beth
this is the gossipiest book i have ever read. and that's saying a lot, because I read tina brown's biography of Princess Diana.

The beginning is a lot about creating SNL and the not ready for primetime players, which I loved. I have a real thing for Gilda Radner.

The second half, after Lorne Michaels comes back to the show, is just so so gossipy. So gossipy. Not a lot of substance, unless you count backstabbing as substance.

Worth it for the first half, but you can probably quit when you get to th...more
Daniel
I liked this book better than a lot of the other books I read about SNL, because it was presented as an oral history. People painted in a negative light in previous books (Chevy Chase & Jean Doumanian, for example) got to tell their sides of the story (Chase is uncharacteristically humble and expresses regret for some of his past actions, while Doumanian is given more than enough rope to hang herself). Plus, since this is a fairly recent book, it talks about more recent backstage drama, such...more
Cory
I was surprised by how much I really loved this book. It's a written oral history and the form works really well in portraying the story. The interviewees speak so openly and comfortably, I felt like I was sitting in a room with Lorne and Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, listening to them talk to each other about SNL. It was amazing to read through the entire history. When they are talking about the early seasons, they talk about about it so vividly, it feels like these interviews are from the 70s....more
Carly Gelsinger
I know this book has been around forever, but I finally got around to reading it this year. Really long, really juicy. I would only recommend it to other SNL nerds because it is so long and there are a lot of extraneous details included that only the truest SNL fan would appreciate. For me, this book was a total guilty pleasure. I relished every page, sinfully nursing my own lifelong fantasy to be an SNL writer/performer. Like the rest of us who have inflated views of our abilities, I know I'll...more
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 ac...more
Joel
Wow,that Chevy Chase sure is a BoD, huh?
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...more
Beth
Its strange reading this book now, written 10 years ago, and seeing what had become of the cast members interviewed and the direction of the show. In the last chapter when people are wondering and speculating at what they are going to do next you want to yell at the pages and tell them what they end up doing like some sort of ghost from the future (or maybe that's just me). The interviews in this book are amazing, the chronicle of events interesting and its a must read for any fan of the show in...more
Olivia
I picked this book up online for $3.00 and knew that I wanted to read it right away, but when I got it, and saw that's written in small excerpts, in a way, I figured it would be really easy to get through, so I would leave it for a reading slump. Towards the end of January, I needed it.

Boy was I wrong. This book took me 2 weeks to get through, and I finish about 4 books a week. It put me deeper into a slump. I really enjoyed the first 2 chapters about the original cast, because Gilda Radner wil...more
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.
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 experienc

...more
Paul
Not a bad book, just not what I was looking for.

It's a comprehensive history of SNL, but I realized I wasn't too interested in that. What I was looking for was a collection of fun anecdotes from the 90s cast, as that's the era I watched SNL, during my childhood & pre-internet.

You do get a few anecdotes, but they're mostly about Lorne Michaels, and by a writer you've never heard of, and therefore care little about--which a writer actually addresses the readr with, with a story involving Bill...more
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.
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.
James
It's a fairly unreliable book, sort of like a show-business Rashomon. There are two things that seem consistent: Lorne Michaels treats everyone beneath him like children he alternately praises or neglects (Paul Simon, Steve Martin, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney seem to be the only people he considers on his level, as an indicator of who he considers beneath him), and everyone thinks Chevy Chase is a dick except for Chevy Chase.

It's a quick read, and hard to put down, because it isn't written...more
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.
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...more
Stephen Brindza
Ah, the egos, the star-trippers, the burnouts. What would SNL be without it's amazingly talented cast and writers? Not a show soon entering it's 40th season.

Although about 50% longer than one would expect, Live From New York is a fun and fascinating read. When I finished, my first thought was, "I want to read The Chris Farley Show.

Poor Farley, he never realized just how important he was to his colleagues, but you can't let your show-biz cronies come to your rescue indefinitely, not when it's a d...more
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Tom Shales is the Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic of The Washington Post, and a movie reviewer for NPR's Morning Edition. His books include On the Air and Legends, and he has written for many major magazines.
More about Tom Shales...
Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live Legends On the Air! The American film heritage;: Impressions from the American Film Institute archives, Legends: Remembering America's Greatest Stars

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“Keith Richards I remember. There was a horse backstage that week, and I was in my dressing area and I saw Keith Richards go up, hold the horse’s face in his hands, and go, “You’re a fine horse, aren’t you?” I’ll never forget that.” 0 likes
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