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.