Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Live From New York..."

I'm currently 3/8 the way through "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" (audiobook). It's told in the words of the writers, executives, cast, and guests (with the exception of those who had passed away by the time of the publication - Belushi, Radner, Farley, and Hartman).

The omission of Gilda Radner's "voice" is especially poignant for me; she was by far my favorite cast member, and I remember her passing in 1989 as the first celebrity death that I mourned. There weren't a lot of comediennes on television that seemed to be not only respected, but loved, by everyone. Even though I'm fairly certain I was not allowed to stay up to watch SNL when I was younger, I still remember many of her sketches: Judy Miller, Baba Wawa, and of course, Rosanne Rosannadanna:



Probably the best quote so far of the book is this one by Garrett Morris, who is a cast member that I'm not as familiar with, other than being the One Black Guy in the original cast. Turns out that his relationship with SNL is ambiguous at best, as he tried to balance his comedy instincts with his struggle to be taken seriously by the show's writers and executives. It seems that what emerged from this was some semi-funny characters, and a small backlash against Morris from other black comedians. He specifically calls out Eddie Murphy:


So far, the book has been fascinating and surprisingly candid; I'm still in the part describing the early days of the show, and the storytellers do a great job in capturing not only the creative process and daily life (almost everyone involved in the show would spend entire days at Rockefeller Center, writing, rehearsing, etc.), but also just the feeling that the people involved had of being part of something new and innovative. Their mission - to put on a comedy show that had never been done before, and that pushed the boundaries of television - is the constant in this book. It's really nice to remember where this show started, how perilous and exhilarating it was. I wonder how much - if at all - this has changed in the current version of the show.

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