W.B.'s Reviews > Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

Live from New York by Tom Shales
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's review
May 17, 09

Read in May, 2009

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!!! Apparently, it was about ego dominance and survival. Always. Producer Lorne withholds the love to make all the children strive harder and always feel "you just haven't earned it yet, baby!" It's so funny reading these brief confessions from all these people, many of them geniuses. Because so many of them are still so insecure and angry and resentful. Most seem to remember it the way people recall and describe a bad past marriage. So many feel they were never truly loved or appreciated on the show, or feel they were passed over constantly. But that's the life of a comic, right? A few things are repeated so often you're sure they're true, like that performers were expected to write for the show without getting paid for it. Lorne somehow managed to sneak around the Guild on that one. And everyone hated Janeane Garofalo. Okay, not everyone but almost everyone. She tried to sabotage the show quite often and badmouthed it publicly while she was a cast member. Even Paul Simon takes some digs at Janeane. It's so interesting to learn who ran with whom, who formed cabals, who axed whom, etc. If you're a fan of SNL past or present, it's good stuff. But it's odd. Some of the ones that come across as the most arrogant (like Garofalo or Chris Rock, who is not generous at all in describing some other cast members, and especially other black cast members) are often those who went on to amazing careers. Arrogance was often rewarded in that environment. But then you had the quiet survivors who kept their noses out of everything and refused to play the game, like Molly Shannon. There were some class acts who apparently managed that tightrope walk. I find it all fascinating, really. I would have thought these creative minds would be more interested in talking about the art they created, or things they are proud of having achieved, or even what gave them joy and really made them laugh. But almost all of these comics talk about this period of their lives more as a business. They focus on the business end of things, the money and time allotted. I guess many of them saw this as an opportunity to speak their mind to Lorne or other cast members they were still angry at, without looking like a real shitbag for writing their own tell-all. "Hey, somebody was asking me...and I told the truth!" It's sort of exonerative, right lol? Still, it's a good book. It's not literature, it's just dish. But great dish.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Monica (new)

Monica Did the book include the anecdote where John Belushi asked his secretary to come to his office to take notes and he was sitting behind his desk stark naked?

message 2: by David (new)

David Does it go into Lorne's right-wing cred?

W.B. Monica lol. I'm not sure. All I remember about Belushi is everybody talking about the partying and his death. Mostly his death.

David, I had no idea he was right-wing.

Everybody does call him a starfucker.

He's one of those cold assholes who gets the job done when a cold asshole is needed, apparently.

Or that's the perception.

message 4: by David (last edited May 18, 2009 11:15AM) (new)

David He's a big McCain supporter. That's why Caribou Barbie came on the show.

W.B. Caribou Barbie lol.

That was a frightening photo.

message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen always comes down to $$$, especially for comics, I would think. Good to hear from you, William. HOpe the novel is going well. I enjoyed what I read on your blog a while back. Take care.

message 7: by Monica (new)

Monica We have to make it go viral that Lorne Michaels is a right-winger.

message 8: by David (new)

David It's already viral. It was mentioned numerous times in Greater Blogistan during the course of the campaign.

message 9: by W.B. (last edited May 19, 2009 11:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

W.B. The accounts of stuff Chris Farley did behind the scenes is hilarious and totally scary. No wonder he's dead. He didn't really have a "reality sensor button." It was all performance. He was what he wanted so much to be: The Second Coming of Belushi (he would get so jazzed when he got to wear clothes marked with Belushi's name the ghost had left behind). I wonder if any of these accounts are apocryphal: like that Farley entered one serious party with all the money people present completely naked with his male "appurtenance" tucked between his legs, impersonating that serial killer from Silence of the Lambs. Then he allegedly took a golf club, stuck it up his ass, removed it and began licking it in a "sensuous" manner. He was also a devout Irish Catholic like Molly Shannon, who would see him praying (she did the same) before performances. Nice.

message 10: by David (new)

David Not at all surprising.

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