by James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales
James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales didn’t invent the oral history, but they sure as hell have perfected it as an art form. If you like oral histories or you like Saturday Night Live, this is a must read. Miller and Shales have now published two fantastic oral histories together: Live From New York & Those Guys Have All the Fun (an oral history of ESPN). Miller recently published his third oral history last August, this time a solo project called Powerhouse, which is an look into Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency. I have yet to read Powerhouse, but you can be sure that it’s on my list to read.
“Vanity is the Death of Comedy.”
“You’re only working with if you count the money at the end of the night. Otherwise you’re working for.”
“It’s a choice: Either you try to make it look easy or you emphasize how hard it is.”
“You can’t tell nobody what they don’t know—not even that they don’t know it.”
“Keith Richards I remember. There was a horse backstage that week, and I was in my dressing area and I saw Keith Richards go up, hold the horse’s face in his hands, and go, “You’re a fine horse, aren’t you?” I’ll never forget that.”
“TRACY MORGAN: You know when I first saw Lorne Michaels? I was working at Yankee Stadium, before I got into show business. It’s where I met my wife fourteen years ago. I used to see Lorne Michaels go in Gate 4 every day. I was selling T-shirts and all that. I was a vendor at Yankee Stadium. Now look where I’m at. It was so ironic that I met Lorne Michaels like that. And now years later, he’s my boss and I’m working on his show. I didn’t know him. I was a kid from the ghetto, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.”
“I’m a good self-starter when it comes to guilt.”
“Meanwhile, NBC brass were consumed with nervousness about the content of the show—about giving ninety minutes of network time a week to Lorne Michaels and his left-wing loonies. On the first show, with sometimes-racy comic George Carlin hosting, the network planned to use a six-second delay so that anything unexpected and obscene could be edited out by an observer from the Department of Standards and Practices (the censor), who would theoretically flip a switch in the control room and bleep the offending material before it went out naked onto the American airwaves. Over the coming months and years, various hosts or musical acts would make NBC executives more nervous than usual, and the notion of making the show not quite precisely literally live kept coming up.”
“It’s easier and more profitable to keep selling outrage than build any bridges.”
Sticky Books are those that you just can’t get out of your head. They stick with you long after you have put the book down and have moved on to something else. These are some of my Sticky Books. I don’t enjoy reviewing books myself. I find I am either full of far too much praise for the book because I know how difficult it can be to write a book, or I am far too negative about a book because, well, I guess I was just in a bad mood. So instead of reviews, I have pulled some of my favorite quotes from each Sticky Book.
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