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Saturday Night is the intimate history of the original Saturday Night Live, from its beginnings as an outlaw program produced by an unruly band of renegades from the comedy underground to a TV institution that made stars of John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy.
This is the book that revealed to the world what really happened behind the scenes during the first ten years of this groundbreaking program, from the battles SNL fought with NBC to the battles fought within the show itself. It's all here: The love affairs, betrayals, rivalries, drug problems, overnight successes, and bitter failures, mixed with the creation of some of the most outrageous and original comedy ever. "It reads like a thriller," said the Associated Press, "and may be the best book ever written about television."
John Belushi called Paul Simon a folk-singing wimp, which was a lot nicer than the things he had to say about television. Neither of these opinions charmed Lorne Michaels. To everyone who knew John in New York, there was no doubt he belonged on Saturday Night. He was, they told Lorne, an absolutely electric performer: unbridled, a force of nature almost—but that had a lot to do with his incredible charisma. Lorne didn’t doubt any of this, but he believed from the beginning that John Belushi was trouble.
Their first meeting was anything but auspicious. John came to see Lorne on the 17th floor, wearing his usual T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, a thick beard covering much of his face. He whirled around Lorne’s office loudly proclaiming his contempt for television. “TV sucks!” he yelled several times. He said he’d owned only one TV in his life, a grubby old black-and-white set, and that was covered with spit. He was spouting, Lorne said later, “a batch of rhetoric, rhetoric about guerrilla television and all that stuff, which was not uncommon at that time.”
Lorne told John that wasn’t where he was coming from. He thought there were a lot of good things on television and mentioned some examples. He was also, he told Belushi, not into revolutionizing the medium. There are certain rules you abide by, he said. What was important was the ideas you put across, not saying fuck on the air. Belushi left the office with no commitment and two suggestions from Lorne: Try cutting off the beard and come to the open auditions.