We know and love them as Debbie Downer, a lascivious Bill Clinton, ultra-perky Sarah Palin, and, of course, one wild and crazy guy. But what is life really like behind the cameras at Saturday Night Live? And what happens to the show's stars once the cameras stop rolling and they have to put away their wacky characters and just be themselves?
For Rachel Dratch, who spent seven years on the show, life after the up all night, every night work schedule of live sketch comedy was decidedly... slow. As she writes in her new memoir, "Girl Walks Into a Bar," she dabbled in hobbies like Spanish lessons and yoga, got a dog, looked for religion, and wondered if she'd ever work again, before walking into a bar (hence the title) and meeting a man who'd change her life. The path to post-SNL contentment was not always so smooth for other former stars, but, as a spate of SNL memoirs proves, most cast members find the show such a transformative experience they can't stop talking (and writing) about it.
"Bossypants" by Tina Fey
One of Saturday Night Live's biggest success stories, Fey began as a writer, then moved in front of the camera to co-anchor Weekend Update before breaking out with her eerily accurate impression of Sarah Palin. She's since gone on to bigger things (30 Rock; movies) but Fey still has deep affection and appreciation for SNL and her former boss, Lorne Michaels. In this memoir she takes on the difference between male and female writers (guess which ones pee in cups) and describes her evolution from bossy drama geek to the actual boss of a TV show.
"God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem" by Darrell Hammond
During his fourteen years on SNL, Hammond resorted to drinking, prescription drugs, cocaine, crack, and cutting himself to manage the anxiety and trauma from his abusive childhood. Once taken out of the show's offices in a straightjacket, he nonetheless managed to clock more appearances than any other performer, impersonating Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Chris Matthews, and Regis Philbin, among others. In this memoir, he discusses his painful childhood, his roots in stand-up, and his life post-addiction and post-SNL.
"Live, From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers, and Guests" by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
Shales and Miller interviewed cast members, guest stars, and crew from more than 25 years of SNL shows to compile this oral history. Starting with producer Lorne Michael's early days in Canada all the way through the Tina Fey/Jimmy Fallon era, the book is part tribute, part True Hollywood Story. In the paperback edition Shales and Miller write that they regret that Chevy Chase comes off so negatively - apparently everyone, in every cast, hated him - and apologize for the absence of Eddie Murphy, the only major cast member who didn't participate.
"Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life" by Steve Martin
Never an official cast member of the show, Martin held the record for host appearances (15) until Alec Baldwin surpassed him in 2011. As a guest on the show, he was one of two 'wild and crazy guys' alongside Dan Aykroyd, and sang an homage to King Tut that was later released as a single. In his memoir, he writes about the loneliness of life on the road as a stand-up comic, and his work on SNL, which, he relays, his father told a newspaper was "the worst thing on television."
"Thirty Nine Years of Short Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There" by Tom Davis
For readers who know little about Saturday Night Live pre-Church Lady and Wayne's World, this memoir by one of the show's original writers, sets the record straight. Davis, who was comedy partners with Al Franken, dishes on Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, and Chris Farley (and, of course, Lorne Michaels,) and reveals the true origins of infamous skits such as The Coneheads.