24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2005
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2004
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. However, Mohr seemed to come to the show expecting to be on every week and be at the same level of the regular cast members right off the bat. When this didn't happen, Mohr discusses his series of panic attacks stemming from the frustration of working in a very tense, hectic, insecure environment.
In the end, the only person Mohr has to blame for his frustration with his time on SNL is himself. However, since he was just 23 when he was on the show, it's understandable how such a young person would react to the frustration. Mohr talks about how certain hosts, writers, and cast members basically caused many of his ideas to never see the light of day. It's unfortunate at the time that he didn't realize that nearly ALL new "featured players" on SNL do not begin to see serious airtime until their 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th years. But, as he states himself towards the end of the book, he didn't do the show to "eventually" become a star. Ironically, I bet Will Ferrell didn't come to SNL at *all* to be a star--he probably just joined to showcase his comedic ability and work in a creative environment. And look what happened. That's the difference between Mohr and someone like Ferrell--and that's why their in totally different positions today.
Mohr seems also intent on dissing the easy targets (from David Spade to Crash Test Dummies) and fawning over the "hip" (from Farley to Nirvana). He also amazingly leaves a story that made my jaw drop to the very end of the book--something I had never heard before, but made me think that Lorne Michaels must've really liked Mohr to keep him around for as long as he did.
All in all, this is a great, quick read that all SNL fans, and Mohr fans, would enjoy. As much as I think he comes across smarmy, I think Mohr is funny and I truly hope he finds that one project that takes him to the next level.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2006
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2004
Saturday Night Live is easily one of the most interesting experiments in TV history. And it's had ups and downs. Author Jay Mohr was hired as a featured player and writer for SNL during the decline of the great early 90's show and worked teh 1994-1995 season, which is easily the worst since the '81-'82 season. And his book gives a pretty good picture about why the show goes through a cycle of great to awful so often.
Mohr doesn't waste much time in his book. He starts out by recalling a return visit to SNL to watch from backstage after he left. He's brutally honest about his feelings and about the peple he worked for, and you get the feel for how the book is gonna go right off the bat, as he describes a cordial but somewhat tense conversation he had with Lorne Michaels after Mohr became big in "Jerry Maguire". Mohr doesn't kiss Lorne's ass in the retelling, except to say that without him the show would never work, and that is enough to destiguish him from the sycophantic treatment Michaels recieved in Tom Shales "SNL: An Oral History". Mohr has an axe to grind, with cast members, writers, hosts, and often himself. This honesty keeps his book from being a generic tell all.
Mohr's caustic personality comes through the writing, but he does a terrific job of quickly setting up how SNL comes together each week. It seems like an emmensely frustrating process, and Mohr's descent into Panic-attack hell because of his own misgivings and the backstabbing nature of the process seems like a natural progression. Mohr dishes about everyone-Al Franken is an arogant blowhard, Rob Schneider can be a jerk or your best friend, the Harvard writers are snobs. He also describes how he would steal bits just to get on TV, and when the disasterous 1994-1995 season comes around, he pulls no punches. I won't reveal too much of the fun, because it's great reading about how the wheels fell off.
I never really cared much for Jay Mohr on the show, but his honesty keept me intriguied in his struggle. How many SNL folk are willing to say they didn't think the early, classic years weren't funny? I disagree with him on this, especially considering his rational for it(The skits were repetitive. Yeah, unlike now. Right, Jay), but he SAYS it, right up front, which really solidifies his credentials as an honest broker. In the end, any true SNL fan would love to read this book, because it's a first in it's portrail of how the show REALLY comes together. And you can find out what goes wrong when so many egos come crashing together. If Shales' book kissed Lorne's butt and beat up on Chevy Chase a lot, Mohr's kisses no one's backside and slams everyone.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2004
This is a fantastic read!
Jay Mohr, as we all know, is a comedy god and this book is if anything too short. I wish (and hope) Jay writes a follow up to this book on the rest of career so far... O&A, Action, the movies he made etc.. He must have more stories.
It's written in a very loose conversational style.. You feel like Jay is just sitting down talking to you and man you cannot put it down.
If you are at all interested in SNL, Jay Mohr or panic disorders get this book. It's VERY funny.
The thing that's so disturbing about SNL is how insane the week is before the show. They have this ridiculous self imposed BS deadlines that seem to hamper creativity and increase tension. Maybe that's the way Lorne wants it?
Jay has some GREAT stories about Chris Farley.. Al Franken's temper and the other cast members at the time (like Sandler). There is this great story about him and the whole cast, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger that is all at once scary, tense and funny.
Jay you are the man!.. and this book leaves me wanting more.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2006
I bought this book because I am a big SNL fan and wanted to read more about the backstage stuff as well as just watch the show. I'd barely heard of Jay Mohr, and when he was on SNL I was still in high school in England. Hence I went into the book with an open mind.
Like everyone else says, it is a very quick read, being fairly short and conversational in style. Mohr does indeed come across as being a bit whiney and childish, and there is clearly some lingering bitterness towards the show. To be fair to him, he was unlucky enough to be there at a time when some stellar cast members were present (Farley, Sandler, Spade etc) and it must have been hard for him to find a niche.
The book is refreshingly honest, he tackles most of his problems head-on, even describing candidly how he stole another comic's idea, which could have been career death. He doesn't pull any punches when describing some of his former cast-mates, but at the same time, he treats people well if they deserved it (in his eyes at least, we have no way of seeing this through anyone else's eyes).
This book is a quick read, and not worth the price of the hardback, but is a frank tale of one man's struggles in a unique, high-pressure job where the audience don't want to know what's going on inside you - they just want the jokes. At least he comes across as human.
I recommend it to all SNL fans, even casual ones.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
Jay Mohr is the biggest complainer I have ever encountered. I never been more furious than I was while reading the endless whinefests this book get into. He even freely admits it at points before right back into his tirades against SNL.
The worst part about this book, however, is not that he's very very clear about how he felt during his two years on SNL, it's the total lack of any humility with which he does it. He will go on for pages about how his dressing room was too small and that it was built into an elevator shaft, but then he will tell a story about how Mike Myers didn't even have an office or a dressing room for his first year on the show. "I never got into any sketches," is a common sentence, but then he writes that Farley and Spade and Sandler didn't get into hardly any sketches their first few years either. He thinks he's the bee's knees, but every premise and joke he writes in the book falls flat.
It's hard to feel sorry for or be engaged in by someone who thinks he's funny, but isn't, complains about his job, but doesn't try whatsoever, and who had it better than most of the other cast members when he started out.
The only great thing about this book is the insight into the process of how a show gets made. The creation of a show is wonderfully detailed and for aspiring comedians, it's good research into how hard one must work once you get there.
Not worth it unless your generally interested in hearing Jay Mohr grumble and/or learn how SNL works.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2004
Extremely fast read and it kept me hooked. The inner workings of how SNL functions on a weekly basis are fascinating; however, after a while Mohr's stories felt more like random celebrity name-droppings than meaningful content. Mohr's short two-year stint on the show wasn't nearly enough time for an in-depth perspective on the show's meaning and changing casts. Entertaining nonetheless, and provides some good cocktail party anecdotes.