Live From New York Book Excerpt

ALBERT BROOKS, Filmmaker: Here's how Saturday Night Live came about. I was doing clubs and performing a lot, and Lorne used to come a lot to the shows. I knew that he was a fan. And something was brewing. They decided, I think around September of 1974, that they were, in fact, going to open up eleven-thirty on Saturday. I was first approached in the late fall, early winter of 1974. I was sort of asked by Dick Ebersol if I wanted to have a show - be the permanent host every week. Lorne Michaels was around. I mean, you know, it was both of them. I think I met with Ebersol alone, and Lorne alone, and then both of them together. But that was the first time I heard, "Do you want to host your own show?" And I actually had just done a short film. I wrote this article in1971 for Esquire: "The Famous School for Comedians." PBS had that Great American Dream Machine, which was a show of short films, so I made the "Famous School for Comedians" into like a fake infomercial, and it was hugely successful. The PBS stations ran it during pledge drives, and it just turned out to be a great experience for me. So this is what I wanted to do. But in any case, I knew I didn't want to do television, and I told that to Ebersol and Michaels. And then, you know, a month later, they come back: "This is going to be a big thing. Why don't you do it?" Now, as I did with everything - every time I said no to someone in my life - I always felt compelled to come up with an alternative idea so I didn't sound like an asshole. So I swear to God on my own life, I said to them, "You don't want a permanent host anyway. Every show does that. Why don't you get a different host every week?" And so I really have to tell you, when I said that, they both went, "Oh, okay!" So that was my suggestion. And then nothing else was said. Then November, December, January, I get another call. They had not really done anything. They hadn't proceeded in any one direction. So what was said to me was, "We want you involved." And at that time there were no cast members. There was nothing. I think serious auditions started in the late spring. So I said, "I want to get into the film business. I want to make short films. What if I make a short film for you?" They all liked the idea and they all said yes, but they didn't have a show yet. So, you know, no one had thought far enough ahead to think, "Well, gee, okay, so then this show is going to have at least a short film." Now, in turn for that, what I did for them is that in February or early March, there was a junket at the Sheraton Universal for the affiliates about the new season. You know, you'd walk in and the guy from New Orleans would put a palm tree and a bottle of booze there, and you'd stand in front of it and he'd say, "Welcome to New Orleans, Albert." I was there standing with Lorne, and the day was filled with people asking the same question: "So, what's this new show going to be about, Albert?" And I said, "I'm going to do some short films, but I don't really know anything other than that." Then Lorne said, "Well, we're not sure but, you know, we're going to do cutting-edge comedy." So I am positive that I was the first person brought on. Because I never saw anybody else, and nobody else was ever mentioned.

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