When you look at it today, "Live From New York," Tom Shales' and James Miller's seminal oral history of "Saturday Night Live," is clearly missing one thing: the last decade. Fortunately, that will all change on September 9, when a new edition of the book is released with 200 pages devoted to everything that's happened since its 2003 publication.
And at least one former star is sounding off on an area where he thinks the long-running comedy show failed: criticizing the right.
In an excerpt from the new release, published exclusively on "The Hollywood Reporter," Horatio Sanz, cast member from 1998-2006, calls out both Executive Producer Lorne Michaels and (now former) writer Jim Downey as holding the show back from taking on conservative politicians:
I don't think the show itself has ever let its freak flag fly in the last 20 years. Lorne's very concerned with being neutral so he wants to make fun of everyone. … He doesn't want the show to be this liberal bash rag. He may be a little more conservative than he lets on. … And you also have Jim Downey, who's basically the Karl Rove of "SNL." He's always writing the right wing sketches, and honestly I think a lot of times they're out of tune with the audience. … I think Lorne sometimes leans too much on Downey and not enough on guys like Seth. Basically in the last couple of years, it's been Seth going up against Downey to set the show's tone on politics, and I think we could definitely have been harder on the right. They deserved it, and we dropped the ball as far as getting them.
Downey, conversely, points out that being neutral is sometimes the harder choice for a writer:
The biggest risk to doing political comedy is, you always seem to have a choice: Am I going to piss off the audience by trying to get them to laugh when they don't like what I'm saying, or am I going to kiss their ass and get this tremendous wind at my back by sucking up to them? The second way makes me feel like I cheated. I'm sure there are a lot of people in comedy who completely share every f—ing detail, jot and tittle of the Obama administration agenda, and all I can say is: To the extent that you're sincere and that's really the way you feel, then you're a very lucky person because, guess what, you're going to have a very easy career in comedy because audiences will always applaud. They may not laugh, but they'll always give you [a] huge ovation. That's Bill Maher, you know?
Since leaving "SNL," Sanz has appeared in numerous television and film roles and performed regularly with the Upright Citizen's Brigade theater, of which he was a founding member. He also parodied Newt Gingrich multiple times in 2012 in sketches for Funny Or Die.
Downey began writing for "SNL" in 1976 and retired from the show in 2013.
The book excerpt also covers Sarah Palin's famous appearance on the show opposite Tina Fey's impression of the then VP candidate, as well as how Hillary Clinton bailing at the last minute paved the way for Barack Obama's first appearance on the show, possibly giving him a bump at a critical time.
Let us know if you agree with Sanz and think "SNL" could have been more scathing toward the right, and read the full excerpt at "The Hollywood Reporter."
The new edition of "Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live" comes out on September 9.
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