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Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests Paperback – October 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SNL fans, beware: this audiobook, while chock full of dishy dirt on everybody from Chevy Chase to Jimmy Fallon, requires a little playing along on the part of the listener. Shales and Miller went to great lengths to compile this work, but unfortunately, for this audio version, the oral history is read by stand-ins masquerading as Bill Murray, Lorne Michaels, Jimmy Fallon and others. So listeners have to imagine that it's really Chevy Chase speaking, not an audiobook reader who sounds nothing like him. A narrator introduces each chapter, helping listeners orient themselves, and then reads each person's name before that person speaks. Hearing the narrator pronounce, "Dan Aykroyd, actor:" and then hearing the voice of a complete stranger (there are no liner notes explaining who's reading which parts) tell of his memories of the show is somewhat disconcerting. The actors' deliveries range from the lackadaisical to the high-strung. Despite the obvious troubles of not having the book's contributors read their own parts, the book's content is terrific, with tons of behind-the-scenes gossip and juicy tales of backstage goings-on.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Given access by Lorne Michaels himself, two journalists with TV connections Miller has produced two TV series, Shales is TV critic for the Washington Post recount this show's 25-year history.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316735655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316735650
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (313 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Karl Miller on September 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book feels like a reunion of old friends, telling their stories at a dinner party that you are fortunate ewnough to overhear.
There is so much history in the years of SNL that there is an anecdote for every fan, but this book recognizes Loren Michaels as being the true genius behind the creation and development of the show. He's not universally loved by the cast (but also not nearly as despised as Chevy Chase, who seems to beeveryone's favorite whipping boy), but his genius is acknowledged by one and all.
A lot of favorite skits and characters are discussed, as well as some legendary battles with censors, advertisers and network executives. The mix of radical comedy with revenue concious TV executives makes for fascinating reading.
The chapters dealing with the deaths of cast members and behind the scene staff members are incredibly poignant, especially Belushi's and Chris Farley's, bit of whom were known to be dancing with trouble.
This book also goes a long way to humanizing Chris Rock, who emerges as one of the most thoughtful and career minded members of all SNL casts. His intelligence shines through in his tales of making it by way of the show.
There is a great story on almost every page of this book, and having grown up with this show, it made the memories all the more pleasant.
This is a great Christmas present for any 30-50 year old who has spent their Saturday night in front of a TV.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By John S. Harris VINE VOICE on November 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The curtain is pulled back on SNL in this book to reveal (not surprisingly) that Lorne Michaels was, is, and always will be the Wizard who always kept SNL ticking. Decades of drug use, debauchery, infighting, sleeping around, desperation, and show-biz chutzpah are related courtesy of first-hand accounts of the writers, stars, agents, TV executives, staff members, and guests of the show.
Not all comments are complimentary, and not all that went on behind the scenes was funny. But it all makes for a fascinating read, despite the fact that a few notable surviving cast members chose not to participate in these oral interviews. "Live From New York" is as much a evolutionary history of the business of television over the past three decades as it is an oral history of the show itself. Perhaps SNL isn't as consistently cutting edge and counter-culture as it was in its earliest years. But nowadays the show IS the pop and showbiz culture it lampooned in the past. It cannot ever really return to its fabled glory days of 1975-1979 because the entire showbusiness landscape has changed so dramatically since then. One must credit Michaels for recognizing that and still plodding ahead with the show for most of the years since the days of The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
Read this book to find the origins of many of the standard conventions and favorite moments of the show: why the band always dresses in tuxedos, the inspiration of Danny Aykroyd's buttcrack-exposing refrigerator repairman, the inhuman writing schedule, etc.
This is better than an "E! True Hollywood Story" any day.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Warlock One on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I can't say I hated the book. I kept coming back to it willingly enough, and finished it relatively quickly. My problems with it come not from the bulk of the material itself (interviews with cast, hosts, producers, directors, and writers, cut into segments organized into some rough similiarities of topic), but from what the writers have done with it.

When you have a book consisting largely of interview snippets, what you have is a cross-section of opinions. Some of those opinions may have a greater amount of concensus behind them than others. Better writers could have done real research to qualify or confirm the statements made by the interview subjects: was Doumanian's budget actually cut from the first years of the show? If so, by as much as she claims? Where did the cuts hit the most? What were the actual box office numbers of Belushi's and Murphy's movies? Have they taken later rentals and tv showings into account in saying who was more successful? Was Nora Dunn as unsuccessful after leaving the show as her resentful colleagues would like to think? (A quick look at imdb.com suggests not...)

Apart from the failure to provide factual context, the writers show their own prejudices in ways that can't help to be annoying and occasionally disturbing. The bridge and introduction segments are full of the usual kind of biography hyperbole better writers avoid. SNL "helped bestow upon the comedy elite the hip-mythic status that rock stars had long enjoyed." "An audience that expected to see fresh new Gildas, Belushis... refused to settle for the paltry replacements that initially dominated Doumanian's cast." "[Belushi's death] told his friends at Saturday Night Live not only that John was mortal, but that they were too.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By --corinne-- on October 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is chockful of juicy gossip and backstage dish with interviews from cover-to-cover of SNL cast, writers, producers, and hosts. Interviews with SNL insiders are offered in a linear fashion from surviving "Not Ready for Prime Time Players", writers, producers, and hosts to current cast members and staff.
This isn't the authors' take on SNL, but the history of Saturday Night Live from people who lived through it.
Tom Shales and James Miller in a smart, smart move chose to have everyone speak for themselves. And how telling it is. : ) The editors keep introductions and explanations to a minimum.
I was surprised about how candid many of the SNL stars and hosts were about themselves and the show.
If you have ever watched Saturday Night Live, you'll enjoy this book. With its insider stories,
you'll find this book hard to tear yourself out of. It's apparent that many stories of SNL players' behavior outside of 30 Rockefeller Center are not in this book, but what's there is more than enough.
So get your hands on this book-- you'll find it definitely lives up to the hype.
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