Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)

Reading Rob Lowe’s book and the story about Tommy Boy made me pull out the oral history Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests. I’ve had this book for years. I think I bought it for somebody’s birthday because I wanted to read it. They either didn’t want it as much as I did or I just took it back – I can’t remember and no takesy-backsy now, sucker. I love oral history and epistolary books written in letter or diary form more than any other styles. This book is huge and one of the reasons I sometimes long for a Kindle or Nook. I do have a Kindle on my phone, but the screen is so small that I’m going to have to get bifocals and reading glasses to add to my already giant glasses.

This book is fantastic, if only because the people interviewed are mostly comedians and not overly concerned with protecting feelings and goodwill. While I don’t want to date Chevy Chase (for so many reasons), I’m so glad that he’s willing to pummel and be pummeled in book form. In SNL history, there are a lot of people referred to as funny, a few lauded as genius, and then Chevy Chase. His fellow cast members really, really didn’t like him. The interviewers caught him at a perfect time, when he was enough older to recognize his part in the ill-will and still egotistical enough to think he was right. He and Bill Murray apparently got into some sort of fight that never quite tipped over into punches and the insult that everyone remembers best (decades after the fight) was Bill calling Chevy a “medium talent.” That kills me.

The early days and first few casts are explored in deep and loving detail, but as the years go by, the cast profiles get shorter and the interviews are mostly about Lorne Michaels. There’s a real sense of invention and experimentation in the early years, and that only makes sense, but as the show grinds on, it because a series of stories about how Lorne rescued whosie-whatsit from stand-up clubs and became their father-/god-figure. The best exceptions to this are the people who absolutely didn’t fit in at SNL, like Janeane Garolfalo and Norm MacDonald. They get to talk a long time about the faults of the show and network and that’s just good reading.

Oh, and did you know there were drugs at Saturday Night Live? Apparently they did some drugs there.

I can’t let any reference to Chevy Chase go by without reminding you guys to watch Community. It’s awesome good television. So is Parks & Recreation, and Amy Poehler is on that one. See, it all circles back to Saturday Night Live in the end. Maybe Lorne Michaels really is some sort of god? Oh, wait, Stuart Saves His Family. [Gilda Radner voice] Never mind. [/Gilda Radner]


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