“Live From New York” Quotes

I recently finished reading Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. I highly recommend this interview style book to anyone who’s interested in the show and its history. As usual here’s the quotes I found interesting, but if you like it please buy the book.

Jane Curtin: “In order to do that kind of a show or any kind of a comedy show, you have to have arrogance and you have to have adrenaline.” (54)

Lorne Michaels: “We wanted to redefine comedy the way the Beatles redefined what being a pop star was. That required not pandering, and it also required removing neediness, the need to please. It was like, we’re only going to please those people who are like us. The presumption was there were a lot of people like us. And that turned out to be so.” (79)

Alan Zweibel: “The one rule that we had, if there was a rule, was if we make each other laugh we’ll put it on television and hopefully other people will find it funny and tell their friends. So there was a purity about the intent.” (96)

John Landis: “My secretary came in and she said, “Elvis is dead,” and Michael O’Donoghue said, “Good career move.”” (112)

Andrew Smith: “The first group that came through before me didn’t know how big they were going to be, so they were much freer and much more open and thus, I thought, a lot funnier than the subsequent people.” (206)

Pam Norris: “I’ve sort of learned, in the subsequent twenty years I’ve been in show business, that people just aren’t that clever, and sometimes things that look like clever schemes are just people stumbling over their own feet.” (217)

Tim Kazurinsky: “If you have one line it’s harder than if you have a big part. The confidence erodes week by week, and it can just destroy people. And that was a hard thing to watch.” (244)

Barry Blaustein: “Pretty good rule of thumb: If you’re laughing when you’re writing it, it will be funny.” (250)

Bob Tischler: “Larry David came on, and because of who Larry is – and one thing Larry is is always true to himself – he did not compromise.” (287)

Tom Hanks: “It’s horrifying. And yet it’s the most exhilarating thing, like being strapped inside of a huge explosive rocket ship and you’re waiting for the countdown to go and it just might blow you to kingdom come or it might take you to the moon.” (323)

Carol Leifer: “I remember Lorne really clearly in one meeting saying he always hated the funny-name joke, you know, when a character had a funny name, like a punny name. That kind of thing. It’s such an indicator of an amateur.” (327)

Warren Littlefield: “One of the questions you have to ask yourself is, “all right, kill it, but what’s your plan?” And sometimes faced with “what’s your plan,” you look at it in a different light.” (329)

Lisa Kudrow: “There’ve been a couple things that I didn’t get or got fired from where friends of mine who had a little more experience said, “It’s always a blessing when a door closes, because another door is going to open.” And there’s no such thing as your whole career being decided in one night. I just kept believing that iw as being saved by not doing Saturday Night live to do something else.” (386)

James Downey: “I always thought that if comedy is going to confuse anybody, by rights it should be the stupider people. You shouldn’t be punished for knowing more.” (416)

Norm Macdonald: “I wanted to be a writer and performer. I wasn’t a very good writer and I wasn’t a very good performer, but I could be a writer-performer. And the one place I could do that as SNL, because Lorne was always good with letting writers perform if they were funny.” (434)

Lorne Michaels: “I used to say that you get only so many hours that you can be with someone in a lifetime, and you can kind of use it all up in a very intense four or five years or you can spread it over a lifetime. Friendship really needs distance and space.” (438)

Lorne Michaels: “There’s an old Hebrew proverb that if you have six Jews in a town, you have seven synagogues. And I think it’s about the same with writers.” (450)

Steve Higgins: “If you like everything in the show, then that’s not a good show. If you love every single thing, there’s something wrong.” (451)

Norm Macdonald: “I didn’t care about the audience reaction at all. It would have been fine with me if we’d never rehearsed it and I could just do the jokes that I thought were funny, because I have more faith in me and Jim than I did in any audience. I just like doing jokes I like, and if the audience doesn’t like them, then they’re wrong, not me.” (454)

Don Ohlmeyer: “When Saturday night Live is really good, they do care what the audience thinks. And when Saturday Night Live is not really good, they’re kind of doing it for themselves and their pals.” (455)

Chevy Chase: “I’m just suggesting that that’s a quality that lends itself to being successful, as an “Update” guy and as an actor on Saturday Night Live, which is not caring whether people say you’re good or not, only that you have your integrity, and that you think it’s good.” (455)

Norm Macdonald: “I hate applause. I don’t like an audience applauding because to me that’s like a cheap kind of high… And while you can applaud voluntarily, you can’t laugh voluntarily – you have to laugh involuntarily – so I hate when an audience applauds. I don’t want to say things that an audience will agree with, I don’t want to say anything that an audience already thinks.” (456)

Norm Macdonald: “Lorne had alays told me, “in the show, you have to have an exit strategy.” Which is a way to leave the show in exactly the right way to move on in show business.” (462)

Colin Quinn: “Part of being a comedian is the delusion that you should be onstage at all times. Comedians could watch like Robin Williams and Chris Rock go on and the whole audience go crazy, and the whole time I know what they’re thinking – even the youngest new guys: “I should come to work this crowd. I’m telling you, I could kill right now.” That’s how comedians think.” (464)

Chris Kattan: “until you kind of let it all go, and then you just relax and you’re a better performer.” (481)

Jimmy Fallon: “They’re excited not about writing it, but about what the audience’s reaction will be. It’s kind of exciting that way for the writers. Writing itself is tedious. No one ever really enjoys writing until it’s done.” (502)

Mike Shoemaker: “When you’re a producer your job is talking to people and getting them to do things you want them to do and yet having them feel that it’s their choice and that they’re not being forced.” (530)

Gwyneth Paltrow: “My theory is that you kind of stop growing at the age you are when you become famous.” (548)

Darrell Hammond: “I try to improve myself every week. It’s the only hope I have of making it in show business is to improve. I have to be better than I was. That’s the way I look at it, because i’m not a glamour person.” (549)

James Downey: “If the show is bad, everyone knows instantly that it’s bad. But if it starts to get good again, it seems to take like four years for the word to get around.” (552)

Lorne Michaels: “I’d much rather my life be perceived as glamorous or stylish than as one of an enormous amount of work that is unceasing. It’s a choice. Either you try to make it look easy or you emphasize how hard it is. My dad never complained – and I admired that.” (555)

Craig Kellem: “Lorne just figured out what he wanted to do and somehow his willpower outlasted everybody else’s resistance.” (565)

Jon Stewart: “I think the thing that probably srikes me most is, here’s a guy who clearly doesn’t have to work this hard but still does. And you can only attribute that to either he’s insane or he’s still excited about the show, he still enjoys it, he still has a passion for it, and he still wants it to be good.” (575)

If you liked the book, please buy it here.

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