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Live From New York! (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Live From New York!

Live From New York!


Featuring Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin, John Belushi, Candice Bergen, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Al Franken, Bill Hader, Darrell Hammond, Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Fred Armisen, Al Gore, Rudolph Giuliani, Ralph Nader, Tom Brokaw, Paul Simon, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Bill O’Reilly, Fran Lebowitz, Anne Beatty, John Goodman, Leslie Jones, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andy Samberg, Molly Shannon and Kenan Thompson.

Directed by Bao Nguyen.

Distributed by Abramorama.  82 minutes.  Not Rated.

It’s really hard to condense a series that has had 40 seasons, well over 700 episodes, approximately 50,000 hours of footage and 100s of cast members into an 82 minute long documentary.

Director Bao Nguyen does his best with this well-meaning documentary, but while it is consistently entertaining, it’s really just skimming the surface of the story.  Live From New York comes off more like an hour-and-a-half long tribute special to the show than an in-depth examination of a pop culture touchstone.

Saturday Night Live has had a long and winding road over the years, or as comedienne Amy Poehler puts it in Live From New York!: “SNL, the show that your parents used to have sex to, that you now watch on the computer during the day.”

Live From New York! the movie is more built for the byte-sized YouTube attention span, giving little slivers of some brilliant comedy and music but often leaving the audience wanting for more.

As is I suppose inevitable with a crash course in SNL history like this, some of the biggest names in the show’s history are barely mentioned.  Eddie Murphy is just mentioned in passing, Adam Sandler not at all.  Bill Murray is only shown in a few clips.  The failed all-star cast (which included Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Billy Crystal and Martin Short) after the original cast bolted is barely acknowledged and none of those names are spoken.

Of course late cast members like John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Phil Hartman and Chris Farley are shown in some clips, but their deaths are not mentioned, much less discussed.  Recent breakouts like Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader also are barely there.

Instead, Live From New York tries to trace the show’s timeline in history, which is occasionally well done – the show’s importance in the Bush-Gore election is slightly harrowing and it’s always fun to see Tina Fey’s version of Sarah Palin again.

On the other hand, a long and necessary look at the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and SNL‘s need to bring humor to a shell-shocked city is hijacked by a self-congratulatory Rudy Giuliani yet again using the World Trade Center tragedy as an excuse for his otherwise horrible stint as mayor.  (At one point, he actually refers to a period in NY history as “pre-Giuliani New York.”)

Still, even if Live From New York! occasionally takes on the feel of an E! television special, there is just so much classic comedy and enough smart anecdotes from the people who were there to make the film necessary viewing.  I just wish they had dug a little deeper.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: June 12, 2015.

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