This often hilarious memoir weaves together the coming-of-age stories of a comedy writer and the television institution he helped spawn. When Saturday Night Live first hit the airwaves, Gerald Ford was president. No one expected it to run for decades; least of all, footloose midwestern hippie and cutup Tom Davis. Perhaps best remembered today as the other half of the Franken & Davis comedy team, Davis won four Emmy Awards during the '70s, but his free-spirited 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss jogs through the honors, lingering instead on his interactions with Lorne Michaels, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Chris Farley.
Writing for Saturday Night Live during the sketch show's legendary early seasons may be Davis's claim to fame, but this captivating memoir is about much more, including his suburban Minneapolis childhood, couch-surfing through his hometown, San Francisco, and New York City during the 1970s, and a life-long friendship with comedian-turned-political commentator-turned (probable) Senator Al Franken. Of course, that doesn't stop Davis from hooking readers at the outset with the true Coneheads origin story, involving Dan Aykroyd, LSD and a trip to Easter Island. Later, Davis recalls poignantly Aykroyd's eulogy at John Belushi's funeral, which began, "I so did not want to have to do this." Davis also speaks reverently of Lorne Michaels, despite their (often hilarious) professional differences. Davis's portrait of Franken, though, is most endearing. Fellow Minneapolisians, Franken and Davis were a comedy team throughout their young careers; Davis recreates their partnership in rich, funny details, bolstered by transcripts of their recent e-mail correspondence. Though it features some lurid and hysterical SNL stories, Davis's memoir is less a backstage expose than a winning coming-of-age story featuring a funny Midwestern kid following his unlikely dream to the top.
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This memoir by first-time author Davis, an Emmy Award-winning writer for Saturday Night Live (SNL), tells of the early days of the show and the nature of the comedy business in the 1970s—drugs, alcohol, and all. Certainly not everyone famous at the time survived to tell about this moment in history, but listeners will be glad that Davis is one who made it. He reads his own work with wonderful expression, giving voice along the way to such luminaries as Timothy Leary, Jerry Garcia, John Belushi, and SNL producer Lorne Michaels. Davis's former comedy partner, Al Franken, writes the foreword. For the many millions of SNL fans. [Audio clip available through www.tantor.com; the Grove hc was recommended as "a welcome addition to the storied history of an iconic show," Xpress Reviews, LJ 3/20/09.—Ed.]—Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX
A disappointing memoir from four-time Emmy winner Davis on his transgressive life and high times as an original writer with Saturday Night Live. Much of this reads like a prototypical countercultural/showbiz autobiography: the upbringing in suburban Minnesota with a conservative father; the Jimi Hendrix concert that changed his life; obligatory drug-fueled hijinks in San Francisco and India; narrow scrapes with the law; friendships with Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia. How could this recounting, a veritable miracle of memory given all the pot, LSD, coke, hashish and heroin consumed along the way, even occur? Davis-now rehabbed after three years in a methadone program in the mid-'90s-poses this question himself, noting what happened after he and fellow SNL writer Michael O'Donoghue snorted heroin on the way to John Belushi's funeral: "My memory of the event is so flawed that it demonstrates how I sublimated this catastrophe." Readers will grasp at anything, no matter how nasty or unspecific, to break the consistent deadpan delivery of these events, such as the author's excoriation of short-lived SNL regulars Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. for behaving "like school bullies with a substitute teacher." Although Davis discusses the highs and lows of his longtime friendship with entertainer-politician Al Franken-from their debut as stand-up comics at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis through their hiring as SNL writers in July 1975-he is oddly silent on why they reconciled after an acrimonious breakup of their partnership in 1990. Twelve years with SNL provided countless stories but little perspective on its manic environment, nor on the creation of his memorable,censor-baiting skits (several are reproduced verbatim). Moreover, while Davis relates how Lorne Michaels forced his 1994 departure from the show, he never analyzes how the "brilliant" producer molded it into a pop-culture institution. For a truly reflective, present-at-the-creation look at the long-running weekend mainstay, turn to Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live (2002).
"Funny, spiky, and twistedly entertaining.... B+." ---Entertainment Weekly