The comedy industry’s most venerable late night franchise is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary! This Sunday, at the unheard of hour of 8 p.m., Saturday Night Live will commemorate 40 years of Land Sharks, cowbells, and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyers during a primetime anniversary special airing on NBC. The three-hour event will feature a star-studded reunion of former cast members, hosts, and musical guests who will come together to honor, and most likely lampoon, the legendary comedy series. Lucky for us readers, there are a plethora of entertaining books about SNL and by beloved SNL alums to mark the occasion. Live from New York, here are 6 books for people who love Saturday Night Live! [cheerful saxophone interlude]
Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live, by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
Unless you’ve perfected a spot-on imitation of our next president or are in fact actor Jon Hamm, Miller and Shales’s oral history of SNL is the closest you may ever get to studio 8H. This comprehensive anthology features notable SNL alums like Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and Jimmy Fallon, as well as the Canadian enigma himself, Lorne Michaels, providing readers with an uncensored peek behind late night comedy’s most iconic curtain. Any Saturday Night Live literary collection that doesn’t include Live From New York is tantamount to *shudder* fast-forwarding through the sketches to watch the musical guests. And what kind of monster does that?
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
Poehler’s Yes Please is not a book to be read as much as it is an adventure to be experienced. Fiercely intelligent, eminently funny, and about 20 other superlative adverb/adjective combinations of your own choosing, Poehler’s literary odyssey is filled with compelling behind-the-scenes stories from SNL, essential affirmations (“I believe great people do things before they are ready”), and some much appreciated truth-telling about the traditionally romanticized practice of writing: “Writing is a nightmare.”
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Fans of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, humor, laughing, and oxygen will be absolutely enchanted by Fey’s Bossypants. Breezily blending the mordant wit Fey popularized behind the Weekend Update desk with a bit of Liz Lemon aplomb, Bossypants is as close to universally revered as it gets. Fey’s memoir not only topped the New York Times best-seller list, but it also claimed the number one spot on the unofficial yet equally renowned “Books You Could Literally Buy Anyone and They’d Adore It” list.
Saturday Night Live: The Book, by Alison Castle
Described as “part encyclopedia and part behind-the-scenes tour,” Saturday Night Live: The Book celebrates 40 years of the late night staple with over 2,300 images from the SNL archives, an exclusive interview with Lorne Michaels, an illustrated breakdown of the SNL work week, and a complete reference guide to 40 seasons worth of cast members, hosts, and musical guests. Saturday Night Live: The Book is also the perfect way to settle trivia disputes like “Were the Gin Blossoms ever a musical guest on SNL?” when the internet is down. Also, yes, they were.
The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure, by Jack Handey
Handey, whose subversive “Deep Thoughts” vignettes were must-see television during the ’90s, unleashes his unique brand of trenchant humor in this unconventional debut novel. The former SNL scribe’s intoxicating comedic voice, a dazzling combination of intelligence and unpredictability, compresses an encyclopedia’s worth of humor into just 224 short pages. For example: “The chief dragged me back inside. He began pounding my head against the radiator. I know what you’re thinking: a radiator in Honolulu? Look, don’t worry about that right now. The main thing is, I was getting killed.”
Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live, by Jay Mohr
Mohr’s candid exploration of his two-year stint at SNL provides readers with a thorough understanding of the day-to-day minutiae behind the scenes of the legendary show. More than any other entry on this list, Mohr’s forthright personal account is a powerful reminder that a dream job is, by definition, still a job. Grasping for Airtime is replete with the universal annoyances we all contend with at our jobs—quarreling with coworkers, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety—while at the same time adding to the SNL mystique by sharing stories about wrestling with Chris Farley and confronting joke theft. Mohr opens up about his early struggles with panic attacks, while also sharing arcane anecdotes like the fact that future International Man of Mystery Mike Myers didn’t have a dressing room during his first two seasons on the show.
If that just isn’t enough to feed your SNL fandom, you may also enjoy: It’s Always Something, by Gilda Radner; You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman, by Mike Thomas; Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There, by Tom Davis; Girl Walks into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle, by Rachel Dratch; The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, by Sarah Silverman; Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda; and The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts, by Tom Farley Jr.
Will you be watching the SNL anniversary show?