Live from New York by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

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Cannonball Read V: Live from New York by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

By tmoney | Book Reviews | May 14, 2013 | Comments ()


Several months ago on Pajiba, someone wrote about "Saturday Night Live", mentioning Live From New York as a book to read if one was interested in the back story of one of the longest running shows on television. I snapped it up immediately, because as a middle-schooler, it was my life's ambition to be the female Adam Sandler. "Saturday Night Live" looked like the best job ever, a place where the weirdos, the unusuals, and the musicians could all hang out and make people laugh. While I appreciate the new cast, particularly the females, the stars from 1993-2000 will always have a special place in my heart. With those thoughts going in, this book was a pleasure to read.

Live from New York is a comprehensive book that catalogs the various experiences from every single (living) member of the casts (except for Eddie Murphy) from the 1975 original cast to the "new" group of 2010. It's written as a series of memories, like each member sat down and wrote down their memoirs, and that really helped me understand the emotions and thoughts behind their actions. The authors, in fact, sat down with every cast member over several years and combined their stories together. Everyone hates Chevy Chase, the minority cast members were generally ill-used, and being a woman writer in the 70's was a constant struggle. The seventies was also a period of heavy drinking, excess drug use, and the feeling that SNL's "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players" were a family.

That family feeling went through many transitions in the years between John Belushi's death and the most recent incarnation of "Saturday Night Live", and no one comes off perfect or spotless, except for maybe Gilda Radner, whom everyone adored. It's a very humanizing view of the troubled, funny people who have made me laugh for twenty years, and did not reduce my love or interest in the show one bit. The book does slow down in the post-2000 years, but I think that's because the nostalgia for that time period hasn't had time to be cultivated. It is another lengthy book, but because it is in the form of a written documentary, it is easy to put down and pick up again at another date. It's full of colorful anecdotes and fascinating details from the people who truly lived LIVE at one point or another.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of tmoney's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Jen

    I was 5 years old when the show premiered. A 5 year old with insomnia and parents who didn't care what I watched on TV. I saw the premier and was hooked. Some of it didn't make sense to my 5 year old brain, but I understood that it was something different and subversive. And some of it made me laugh. I loved Gilda and Belushi.

    I also read the Pajiba article that mentioned the book, and went right out to get it. This review is spot on. Especially about the book starting to drag when it got to the post 2000 years. I couldn't put my finger on why, but I think the reviewer is correct in that there's not enough time to be nostalgic about it.

    And yes, everyone hated Chevy and loved Gilda. The big surprise for me was the behavior of Nora Dunn (she was a total dick!) and Victoria Jackson (kooky born again Christian.)

  • Big fan of this book. Some of the anecdotes in there -- the drug use at 30 Rock, Murray and Chase coming to blows, Jean Dounamainian's disastrous run -- are amazing. The only thing more impressive than the stories is the number of people who agreed to talk to Miller and Shales. Highly recommended.

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