Tom Shales and James Miller’s Live From New York is a must-read for any fan of SNL, and for the show’s 40th anniversary, the book has been revised with 200 pages of new material. The Hollywood Reporter published an excerpt today, revealing “some of the behind-the-scenes battles and backstage shenanigans that shaped the political landscape of the past decade.” The whole thing’s pretty interesting (so much crazy Sarah Palin), but here’s my favorite anecdote.
Robert Smigel, writer: It wasn’t until my last season that the network refused to air a “TV Funhouse.” It was a live-action one that was meant to be about racism and profiling, an airline-safety video with multilingual narration, and whenever you heard a different language, they would cut to people of that nationality. First, typical white Americans, then a Latino family, then a Japanese family, all being instructed about seat belts, overhead compartments, etc. Then it cuts to an Arab man, and the narrator says, in Arabic, “During the flight, please do not blow up the airplane. The United States is actually a humanitarian nation that is rooted in the concept of freedom,” and so on…When the standards people freaked, Lorne fought them. Standards pushed back hard. They even got someone at NBC human resources to condemn it. Lorne said, “I have a plan.” Obama was doing a cameo in the cold open. Lorne told me he would show my sketch to Obama. “If Obama thinks it’s OK, they won’t be able to argue it.” I thought it was a brilliant idea, except why would Obama ever give this thing his blessing? What if word got out? “Hey, everybody, that guy over there said it was cool. The one running for president of the country.” But I loved Lorne for caring this much and being willing to go that far to get this thing on TV.
Michaels: Obama said, “It’s funny, but no, I don’t think so.”
The whole world’s falling apart right now, so Obama’s got a lot on his plate, but if he ever wants to take a break and go back to his day job — comedy — I’m sure Smigel’s Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog would love to have him. Either that, or an Ambiguously Gay Duo with the guy from Franklin’s.