Book #5: Live From New York

It wasn't my intention to start a 600-page oral history of Saturday Night Live so late in the month. I haven't watched the show in years, and I was never one of those devoted worshipers of the original cast. But seeing it sitting on one of the bargain book shelves for a reasonable price was too good to pass up. I figured I'd get around to it eventually, like the hundreds of other books I've bought over the years and have yet to read.

But once I started reading, I was hooked. As in, "250 pages that first day" hooked. The trick that keeps you coming back page after page is the the fact that the entire book is told through the words of the cast, writers and producers who have been there throughout the show's tenure (two conspicuous absentees were Eddie Murphy and Dennis Miller), and the juice, dirt, and tales of ribaldry are as addictive as any daytime soap opera. Who slept with who, who did what drugs, and who stuck a golf club up their ass and proceeded to lick it (no kidding). The best pieces often came from the many great writers, who provide a functional look at how a live show is put together week after week.

There's no getting around the sheer amount of gossip and backstabbing, but I found as I read through it that I was feeling something I hadn't felt in a long time - the urge to tune back in and see what was going on. I was reminded of some great sketches long forgotten (how classic were the Hartman/Nealon/Lovitz bits where they played Frankenstein, Tarzan, and Tonto, respectively), faces I still can't believe were on the cast (Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downy, jr), and a sense of danger and edge that, while we may think is gone, always seems to creep back in year after year.