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Gasping for Airtime: Two Years In the Trenches of Saturday Night Live Paperback – July 20, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (July 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401308015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401308018
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twenty-three-year-old actor and stand-up comic Mohr was playing college campuses after a brief stint hosting an MTV game show when he landed every comic's dream job: featured performer and writer on Saturday Night Live. In this stilted but honest memoir, he chronicles his frustrating two seasons on the show, from 1993 to 1995. Few of his sketches aired, and aside from his impressions of Ricki Lake, Christopher Walken and Dick Vitale, he was rarely on camera. (When he was on air, he admits, he often couldn't keep a straight face.) Mohr treats readers to some affectionate, entertaining tales of the late Chris Farley, but his book is less a juicy inside story of the comedy institution than a tale of an immature young man's struggle with a high-stress, erratic workplace: "The schedule for putting together Saturday Night Live was made back in the seventies when everyone was on coke.... Problem was, no one did coke [anymore] and we were expected to keep the same hours." Floundering in the unstructured work environment, Mohr suffered crippling panic attacks, which he treated with alcohol and pot until he finally found real relief with a prescription for Klonopin. Even panic-free, Mohr still felt like the odd man out and chafes at his less than meteoric rise. He serves up mostly superficial dish (watching Nirvana rehearse, shooting hoops with various celebrities) and offers unflattering self-revelations (desperate competitiveness, jealousy and sulking)-resulting in a memoir that will appeal only to die-hard Mohr fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Most know Mohr from his role in Jerry Maguire or from his stand-up comedy. Most will not remember him from his time on Saturday Night Live, a two-year stint during which the 21-year-old served as a writer and secondary cast member. Mohr chronicles those years with the sly wit he's become known for, as well as nostalgia for both the time he had and the kid he was. That's not to say things went well. He barely got any sketches on air, his dressing room was once an elevator shaft, and he suffered panic attacks so severe he thought he would die on camera. But he also met some encouraging people (Mike McKeon) and was able to spend a little time hanging out with various luminaries (Eric Clapton), so even though he moans and whines about what he endured on the show, he ends up describing the experience as glorious. Fans of the show will especially like the snippets about such SNL figures as Chris Farley, Lorne Michaels, and Mike Myers. Good insider dish. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

It's VERY funny.
Amy Moritaka
I never knew that Jay Mohr, the host of NBC's "The Last Comic Standing" was a performer on Saturday Night Live until I read this book.
Steve Nakamoto - Author of Talk Like A Winner - Men Are Like Fish - Dating Rocks - Wall Street Craps
It did take guts to admit to stealing someone else's work, but even that left me a bit cold.
J. Laudermilch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brian Markowski on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's amazing, for how long Saturday Night Live has been on the air, that there have been so few books written on the subject. And as far as I know, Jay Mohr's "Gasping for Airtime" is the only book from an ex-cast member who focuses solely on his own SNL experience.

Causal watchers of Saturday Night Live may not even know that Mohr was a regular on the show for two years. Though never a feature performer, Mohr was responsible for such timely skits as Charles Barkley versus Barney the Dinosaur and Christopher Walken's Psychic Hotline. Unwilling to wait his turn or play the political games that have become associated with the show, Mohr turned to other ventures. His rocky two season at SNL however provide a telling first hand account of how the show operated in the early 90's as Phil Hartman and Mike Meyers moved on and Chris Farley and Adam Sandler moved in. The fact that Mohr never became a big celebrity on the show grounds his tale in honesty, and makes his story even more compelling.

Mohr speaks of run ins with Rob Schneider and Chris Farley, his often chilly meetings with Lorne Michaels, clueless and vain guest hosts as well as his own frustration with his inability to become a star.

There are better tell alls out there and there are better Saturday Night Live book as well, but Mohr brings a relatable underdog tale to these pages. Anybody who's ever had to work under the shadows of others can sympathize with this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
I know Jay Mohr mostly from Last Comic Standing and his bit parts in movies. I think he's really funny and talented, so I thought I'd enjoy his story about his days on SNL. I found the book to be a quick, fun read. I really like that Jay tells the honest story of how SNL operates, warts and all, but doesn't place blame. He acknowledges that he had his own problems (panic attacks) going on during his stint, and that made SNL's wacky schedule and style particularly hard for him. He sometimes sounds bitter about his lack of airtime, but he repeatedly says how grateful he is to have had the job, and he's still in awe over ever getting picked to be there.

I assume Jay had an editor, and maybe he even had a ghostwriter, but I think the book is mostly written in Jay's own words. I get this impression because he sometimes jumps around a lot in terms of time. He'll be telling one story and refer back to a story that happened in a completely different time, so sometimes it can get a little confusing, but it feels like a real person telling a story. Sometimes you get sidetracked when you tell a good story!

This book would be great for any Jay Mohr fans. And Saturday Night Live fans will like the insight into how the show takes shape. Plus, there are funny stories of some SNL greats, like Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and David Spade.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sevile on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The review from Publishers Weekly, while being somewhat on the mark, doesn't give this book enough credit. I enjoyed this book, although I had never heard of Mohr. While few of the author's skits aired, he was having better ideas his second year, and one gets the feeling that if he hadn't been so impatient he would have met success.

What I really liked about the book is its feeling of authenticity. You feel as if you are there, getting the job, suffering the anxiety and witness to the SNL creative process. Also authentic is the portrait the author draws of himself, which is the main thread in the book. With all the defects that the author exhibits, he still comes off as quite likeable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John S. Harris VINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An insider's view of working in the trenches of "Saturday Night Live". This book is not meant to be a tell-all book nor a production diary. Some other reviewers have bemoaned the dearth of juicy gossip tidbits in the text. But Mohr's account is open and honest and rightfully one-sided. "SNL" has long been a fascinating cultural phenomenon, and Mohr gives you a peek behind the curtain. He speaks as a lower-rung writer/performer, and is certainly unjaded by the whirlwind success that other "SNL" alums achieved, mostly because he never achieved it himself.

He fawns over a musical guest or two, and has nothing but loving things to say about Chris Farley, but the rest is basically a week-for-week, show-for-show account of how the show's inhumane production schedule brought out both the best and worst in him (and everybody else).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Caffrey on November 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I remember first seeing Jay Mohr when he was the host of "Lip Service" on MTV in the early 90s. When that was cancelled, he popped up on a TGIF ABC sitcom called "Camp Wilder" that lasted a full-season if I remember correctly. After that was cancelled, I was happy to see that he was a new featured player on SNL. I guess I was happy because it was good to see a young comic actor staying busy and finding work on TV. However, long before I read "Gasping for Airtime," I always thought that Jay Mohr was a comedian/actor who never really made that breakthrough to A-list, even though he had one great opportunity after another. MTV, ABC, SNL, "Jerry Maguire," a string of costarring roles in major motion pictures, FOX's critical hit "Action,"--all great opportunities that didn't last or lead to something bigger. Even his most recent sorta sad, but temporarily very popular, "Last Comic Standing" fizzled out before getting cancelled a few months ago by NBC. With all this in mind, I wasn't surprised to find a very bitter Mohr writing about his brief stint on SNL.

First and foremost, this is a very interesing and quick read. It's essential reading for any big fan of SNL. Reading about how the show works and stories about the best players in the show's history (Meyers, Sandler, Farley, Hartman, etc.) was very entertaining. It's especially interesting considering that Mohr was on the show during one of the most interesting period in SNL's history, when seasoned players like Sandler, Meyers, Hartman, and Farley were on their way out, and it often seemed like the show was creatively suffering perhaps because of the glut of SNL movies that were coming out one after another in the early/mid 90s.
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