Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live

If you want to know why and how Saturday Night Live came to be…this is the book. It covers the first 10 years of the show but is primarily about the first 5 years and the one terrible year after the classic cast left. It was written by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad and they interviewed practically everyone connected with the show and it is surprising on how objective they are throughout the book.

Working on the show was/is not for the thin-skinned. It was rough and no one was spared…not even the stars at first. The book goes into detail about how the show started a pattern of work that continued through the decades. The troubles the female writers went through trying to do their job. The endless drugs that fueled many of the all-night writing sessions.

The atmosphere could be very sexist, insulting and aggressive. Michael O’Donoghue was the key writer and gave SNL the edge but he could be difficult. When he left the show he was missed. When the original cast, writers, and Lorne Michaels left, Jean Doumanian took over the show for a year. Things didn’t go well, to say the least. The book details the transition then to Dick Ebersol.

The show went from an ensemble show trying new ideas to a star-driven formulaic show under Ebersol. Maybe the show was destined to do that anyway and it would never be the same again.

I’ve read a few books on SNL but as far as the creation and original cast…this is the one to go to.





Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live”

  1. The first ten years would be all I’d care about- I was a regular watcher back then- rarely missed a week. I’ve rarely watched it since. I think it is well past the time to pull the plug on it. Now this book sounds like something worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is worth reading. It was published in 85 or 86…Everyone was still clear in their thoughts than 30 years later. I’ve read others and they were big on fluff memories… This one really gets into it. I believe the new version is updated anyway to a certain time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is one of the reasons I think this one is the one to get…One thing is for sure…if you were insecure about yourself…that was not the place to work.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The original SNL is one of those phenomenons that for now, I just want to remember from watching it. I’m not sure I want to dig into the behind the scenes stuff. If I did, it sounds like this would be the book to read. The setting sounded brutal, by all accounts. Through all of the good and bad years, I’ve stayed at least an occasional SNL watcher until the most recent presidential election, when I finally just gave up on it. It didn’t matter which candidate(s) they were skewering. SNL is just not funny to me anymore. It’s like they don’t even try. There are probably massively talented people in the cast right now, but they don’t stand out, either because of lazy writing or back channel politics. I don’t have the time or patience for it. I used to love their anniversary specials, too. But then they had an awful one and I don’t think they have had another one since. Makes me sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Lorne should end it now…it’s ran it’s course. There were good and bad skits in the first five years…it wasn’t all magic BUT…the thing I respect is they tried different things. It’s like you said…they have stopped trying.
      Also Lorne would go out and try to find musical guests that were odd or on the cusp of making it. Now it’s all about popularity of the artists.
      The first five seasons I really like. Gilda Radner was great. Ackroyd was also a favorite of mine. The women writers had the most difficult time of anyone trying to get things heard but Lorne tried to help a little but it was a lot of machoism going on…if that is a word…

      I think they still write from 9 at night until 6 in the morning…it started because of the drugs…and it has continued.


      1. I hate to see SNL end, because it was once so cool. But if they aren’t going to bring it up to standard, then yes. They can, just change the name to reflect that it’s just a mainstream variety show on autopilot. There will never be another Gilda and Bill giggling at Ackroyd bending over to fix the old Norge, haha.

        I’ve had a lot of fave SNL cast members over the years. My list of favorites is pretty diverse and spans several decades. It’s amazing how long some of them that I once considered ‘new’ have now been gone from the show.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love the Norge bit… I liked the Bass-a-Matic from Ackroyd also… I watched it until the mid-nineties but in the 2000s I only watch once in a while.
        I do wish they would bring it up like you said…
        I did get the first 5 seasons on DVD… I got them for the skits but also for the musical guests like Van Morrison, Grateful Dead and many of the odd ones.


      3. The Bass-o-Matic was too creepy for me. I didn’t like the Bag-o-Glass guy either. But at least they were trying out things.

        I agree about the music guests in the early years. Wow. There were some truly historic performances. Elvis Costello is the first one I think of.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. They did try new things. I read where none of the writers were jealous of Ackroyd because none of them would have ever come up with the things he did…he was way out there.

        I remember Leon Redbone, John Prine, yes and Elvis…I like that one… That was when he stopped playing and did radio radio I believe. He tried to get a variety of guests.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to runsewread Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: