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

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  11,568 Ratings  ·  804 Reviews
Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
Hardcover, 566 pages
Published September 30th 2002 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 18, 2011 Whit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joe Valdez
Oct 12, 2014 Joe Valdez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Journalist James Andrew Miller and television critic Tom Shales compiled the definitive oral history of Saturday Night Live in 2002, a book that was nothing short of a master's program in comedy, writing and stagecraft, as well as the business of TV. Friends with interests in those areas, or who were simply fans of SNL, were lobbied hard by me to read it. Subsequently, and not surprisingly, my copy vanished.

In 2014, in time for the 40th anniversary of the longest running variety series in televi
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
Mar 08, 2014 Lena rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, humor
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
Julie Ehlers
Nov 08, 2014 Julie Ehlers rated it liked it
Shelves: famous-people
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
Jul 15, 2013 Edmole rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 27, 2012 Joshua rated it really liked it
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
Nikki Stafford
Mar 17, 2016 Nikki Stafford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was a teenager, there was a channel that began replaying SNL from the first episode in 1975, and my dad would record it and we would watch it every night. I watched all of the material from the 1970s while also watching the current shows in the late 80s, and it was fascinating to watch how much had changed, and what had stayed the same. Because Lorne Michaels wasn't at the show from 1980-85, he never allows that era to be reshown, so that will always be a hole in my viewing knowledge of ...more
Matt Smith
Do you have what it takes?

The first time I learned about this book was in looking to find out more about the long and storied history of Saturday Night Live after the 40th Anniversary episode. And a history of the show as told by those who lived it? That's exactly the sort of book I was looking for.

My experience with SNL is remarkably limited. I mostly watched the re-runs in high school when they were on cable and really only with the cast I was most familiar with (late 90s and early 2000s). I d
Drew Grauerholz
Jul 11, 2013 Drew Grauerholz rated it liked it
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 ...more
"Horatio was wiping tears of laughter out of his eyes with a waffle." --Paula Pell, describing the "Debbie Downer" sketch she wrote in which nearly every actor broke character and laughed during the performance

"I always said I would love to have done SCTV. There were smarter producers and smarter people involved." --Tim Kazurinsky

"I like it when people leave because that's what makes Saturday Night Live work. If you had the same cast that you had from the '70s, this show wouldn't be around." --J
Aug 13, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
I've been a huge fan of SNL since I was a kid. This book is written in an interesting interview style. Rather than one long interview, it pulls pieces of interviews from MANY people and puts them together in nice little chapters based on subject and time period.

Great read if you're a fan of SNL and love to hear all the details behind the scenes.
The Romance Evangelist
A must read for fans of the show, even if you've already read the previous edition (which I had). Full review to come.
Apr 20, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2015 B rated it really liked it
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 ad
May 17, 2009 W.B. rated it it was amazing
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!!! ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Steven E
Mar 09, 2010 Steven E rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 17, 2015 Jaime rated it it was amazing
Conocí y me hice fan de Saturday Night Live por las (chafísimas) transmisiones en cable por el canal Sony. No es fácil seguir el show así. El horario en que lo transmiten es arbitrario cada semana y le mutilan 30 minutos a cada programa. Para peor, NBC protege los clips en Youtube como si estuviera transmitiendo la receta para fabricar oro. Aún así, desde que lo descubrí hace algunos años, me enganchó. El humor es totalmente gringo (con todas sus implicaciones) y, aunque la temática muchas veces ...more
Nov 16, 2008 furious rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: the SNL completist
on the Sports Guy's "Table" scale, this book was a definite C. [in short, anything/anyone you encounter either A) brings something to the table, B) brings nothing to the table, or C) takes things OFF the table. metaphorically speaking. my scale goes to D), takes things off the table & then smashes the table to splinters, rendering it useless. but i digress.] while it did provide me with *some* new information, some few juicy tidbits, they were overwhelmed during the course of the book by a ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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 ...more
May 31, 2012 bfred rated it liked it
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
Jan 10, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderfully updated and expanded edition of a book previously published in 2002. While there have been a number of other books written about Saturday Night Live over the years, and I admittedly haven't read any of them, it's hard to imagine that any gives a greater glimpse into just what makes SNL tick than this 781-page tome by James A. Miller. The chronological narrative (if you could call it that) from idea conception to the present is told via bite-sized quotes, a format which ...more
Sarah Beth
Jan 28, 2013 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, age-29
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
Brian Cochrane
Aug 05, 2016 Brian Cochrane rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book capturing the creativity, conflicts and personalities that built the long-running sketch comedy show. It's interview journalism at its best.

Every one of the personalities included in this lengthy book offers meaningful insights into what it was like to create, then hone, the show's signature style over 30-plus years.

The narrative smartly encompasses often diametrically opposed memories of individual moments, long-running bits and backstage tussles, with the reader trusted to g
Feb 19, 2013 Cory rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2009 michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Carly Gelsinger
Apr 29, 2013 Carly Gelsinger rated it really liked it
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
Matt Ockmond
Jun 15, 2015 Matt Ockmond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SNL fans, comedy fans
Because of it's length I've put this one off for a while, and then this newer edition included almost 200 new pages about the casts that had been on since it's last publication. I was so pleasantly surprised how exciting and fun it was to read. Given a clearer schedule I would have read it in a week. Even though you think you've heard all the stories there are to tell about them the parts about the first cast were fantastically entertaining, as well as each page that followed. If you're a fan of ...more
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JAMES ANDREW MILLER is an award-winning journalist and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN; Live from New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, which spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list; and Running in Place: Inside the Senate, also a bestseller. He ...more
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