Live From New York

Everyone has their own season of Saturday Night Live if you watch it now or ever have in the past. Mine was the late 80’s when my best friend used to come over on Saturdays and visit late so we could watch it together. I wasn’t a fan before, but he got me hooked on it and we watched it together every week from about 1986 to 1992.

I grew to love the cast made up of Nora Dunn, Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, A. Whitney Brown, and Kevin Nealon. Later Mike Myers joined the cast in 1989. Chris Farley and David Spade came on in 1990. Followed by Adam Sandler in 1991.

I graduated from high school in 1994 and moved away to college in 1995, so I think I stopped watching it by then. I admit I might watch occasional sketches online or on Facebook if they make the news, but I probably haven’t sat and watched an entire episode in twenty years.

In July of this year, I had the pleasure of getting to host for Chris Kattan when he came to St. Louis on his stand-up tour. Chris joined SNL in 1996 and was on the show until 2003. I admit I wasn’t watching much back then but definitely knew who Chris was from his SNL sketches and movie fame that followed.

Listening to Chris tell stories on stage about his SNL days got me curious about the show again and so I decided to read “Live From New York” by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. It’s a wonderful history of the show that I highly recommend if you are a fan.

At over 700 pages with some photos and cast lists up to 2014, the book was updated for the show’s 40th anniversary a few years ago. It is is composed of interviews with cast members, producers, writers, some NBC execs, and Lorne Michaels the creator and producer.

The book is a mosh of these interviews and takes you through each year of the show as it focuses on highlights, cast members, sketches, ratings, negativity, deaths, and other topics. It’s kind of a history of the show told through many eyes who have witnessed and participated.

I really enjoyed the book, especially when it got to “my years” that I watched. I felt like some parts were repetitive because it seemed like everyone had the same thing to say about a topic and kept going back to it, like about John Belushi or Chris Farley’s death. Lots of what people had to say about Lorne was also repetitive, but it was still all very fascinating to me and fun to read. I wish there had been more pictures and I felt like some interviews from some cast members were a bit short, including Chris Kattan. I  really enjoyed going online and watching some of the scenes and sketches as they were mentioned throughout the book.

It’s kind of interesting to think about the role that SNL has played in our culture. It’s the longest-running sketch comedy show on American television, as well as the longest-running variety show in U.S. history. And think about how popular it becomes during an election year?  Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin got the show some of its highest ratings ever back in 2008, and Fey had actually already left the show in 2006.

I think a show that has that kind of effect on our society and culture as a whole is neat. I wish I’d kept watching it through the years. Looking at the lists of cast members in the back of the book, I knew the majority of them. But there were quite a few that I had never heard of or seen before. Anyway, I’m thinking I might start watching it again to see who will make it big on the show next. And if you’ve enjoyed the show and have any interest, I definitely suggest checking out the book.


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