Book Review: Live from New York by Tom Shales

Author: Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
Title: Live from New York : an uncensored history of Saturday night live
Publication Info: Boston : Little, Brown, c2002.
ISBN: 0316781460


25 + plus seasons of the groundbreaking comedy-variety show are revisited through the words of the cast, hosts, writers, and production crew.  This oral history approach has its downside as the authors provide little context to go with the interview quotes.  I was also interested in learning more about the creative process of making the show and its most famous sketches and less interested in the tell-all tales of sex, drugs, and backstabbing.  At least, on the latter note there is just as much mutual admiration among the participants of the show.  Some of the greatest accolades go to performers whose voices are missing from the text due to their early deaths – John Belush, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley and Phil Hartman.  It would have been nice if the authors could have culled some passages from old interviews so that these great performers’ voices could be heard as well.  It was interesting how in their own words that some people came off unpleasantly (Chevy Chase, Nora Dunn, Harry Shearer) and some people were more interesting than I ever imagined (Jane Curtin, Tim Kazurinsky, Victoria Jackson).  Despite its bulk this book is a fun and interesting read, although I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t already a long time fan of the show finding it all too appealing.  I watched the show regularly from about 1982-1994 but found the whole story intriguing and makes me want to go back and watch the old shows.  Even those dreadful 10-minutes to 1 am sketches.

Recommended books: Street Gang : the Complete History of Sesame Street by  Michael Davis
Rating: ***1/2

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