SNL on the Page and Screen

It can come as absolutely no surprise that Funny Guy is inspired by Saturday Night Live. Not in the sense that the characters are based on any specific performers or writers–I’m fighting a losing battle, I realize, but let me repeat: no, Sam is not supposed to be Pete Davidson–but in the sense that SNL has cast a long shadow over my life.

I first discovered the show in the early 1990s while at a sleepover. I was a recent transplant from Montana to Dallas, Texas, and I felt like the shabbiest of country mice. When a friend I was trying to impress insisted that we should stay up and watch it, I was only too happy to oblige. And I found myself tuning in for most of the 90s and early 2000s.

So many of the jokes my husband and I make originated on SNL. I can’t say lover without saying it in Rachel Dratch’s voice. Without fail, if I ask my husband what a dish I’m cooking needs, he’ll respond, “More cowbell.” “Lazy Sunday” gets stuck in my head all the time. If the show has lost a little of its edge over time–where’s today’s “White Like Me” or even “Who wants to eat“?–but we do still get viral moments such as Bowen Yang’s iceberg.

That said, if you want to read about SNL, what should you pick up?

Last year, I perused all or parts of almost two dozen books about the show. I have recommendations, which I’ll break into three categories: histories of the show, cast memoirs, and fictionalizations.

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