Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finished (E-Reader) - "Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" - Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

Really liked "Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" - Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.  I was surprised that the book was virtually all quotes from cast members, writers, producers, guests etc.. It took a little time to get into the format, but it was well worth it.  

I had lost touch with the show during the early '80's and picked up again about 5 years later.  It's interesting to see what happened during those years, what well known faces were on the show when I wasn't watching.  I certainly remember the original cast, and many of the later casts, but don't remember Julia Louis-Dreyfus and that period, though, of course, I remember her from Seinfeld - also didn't know Larry David was involved in SNL.

Lorne Michaels comes across, probably as he'd like to, as an odd combination of genius and difficult parent.  

The logistics of the show are amazing - the still-running (at publication time) all nighter writing sessions on Tuesday to meet the read-through on Wednesday is legendary.  It's also nice to see how the long-termers evolved, and how the show became a mechanism for young stars to become stars. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Finished (E-Reader) - "Gasping For Airtime: Two Years In the Trenches of Saturday Night Live" - Jay Mohr

I can't seem to get enough SNL books or stories.  I was 11 in 1975 when SNL went on the air - I remember much of the early shows in '75 and '76 and was an avid watcher into the '80's and picked up again in the late '90's.

I find the entire show fascinating - the late nights, the drive to put on an hour and a half of live TV every week, the topicality of the material, the discovery of new talent - all of it.

Jay Mohr's book shows what it was like for a couple of years in the 1993-1995 years of SNL.  This period is much lighter in the drugs than earlier cohorts, much of the long-timers are older and in a different stage of life.  It is very interesting that the culture of the show remains on a seeming drug-induced schedule  - writing tends to start in earnest at about 8pm for a run-through at 5pm on Wednesday.  Jay's experiences show the frustrations and difficulty of a new body coming into a long-standing show.

Though he is careful not to identify anyone as a cause, and doesn't think he was in any singled out, having sketches removed at the 11th hour, between the early Saturday evening show and the final live performance at 11:30, along with the difficulty in finding unique, humorous sketches to begin with on such an abbreviated timeline, and having both your writing and your acting lives on the line each week, is certainly an ongoing, humbling and frustrating lifestyle.  Jay's learning through these two years, and his fight with a panic disorder make for an interesting 2 year rollercoaster.

Finished (Paper Book) - "Black Like Me" - John Howard Griffin

As an occasional binger on "The Vinyl Cafe", I remember the Morley Book Club story where she refused to share her favourite books with the evil book club group.  One of the books she mentioned was "Black Like Me" - John Howard Griffin.

I had never read this book, but was intrigued.  I really did like it - it seems odd how commonplace segregation was in such a recent period (end of the '50's beginning of the '60's), and the book does a very good job of illustrating how much more difficult, frustrating and demeaning the split policies were - having separate washrooms doesn't sound too terrible, until you add in that there might be a "white" washroom in every building, and only one or two "black" washrooms in an entire town.

This book certainly does set the table for the unrest the U.S. felt in the mid to late '60's.  The world of the south portrayed in Griffin's book certainly sounds light-years away from the world I saw in the '70's - the ideas of equality certainly seemed "normal" and "universal" by my youth - it is shocking what 10 years does.

A very good read.