Live From New York Book Excerpt

DICK EBERSOL: Long before anyone else, Albert had signed on to do those short films. They were inordinately important, because if you look at the early shows it's not really until show ten or eleven, with the exception maybe of Candy Bergen, show four, that you see anything roughly akin to what the show evolved into. So Albert's stuff from the beginning was wildly important. And it came from just running into him one day on Sunset Boulevard.

ALBERT BROOKS: I always said one thing to these guys - and they didn't take my advice, and in this case I'm sure it's good they didn't?but I said, "This 'live' stuff, it's absolutely meaningless to me. I grew up on the West Coast. I didn't see anything live. It was always tape-delayed. If Ed Sullivan takes his pants down, I'm not going to see him." To me Johnny Carson was as live as you want to get. If you were bad, you were bad; nobody did it over again. But you did it earlier. You didn't have to stay up until eleven-thirty. So what happens when you stay up until eleven-thirty? Guys like Belushi do nine gallons of coke to make it up that late. I know from being a stand-up, the late show, the midnight show, was the one I hated the most. So my suggestion was, tape a show without stopping tape, do one at four, do one at six-thirty, put the best of those two together, and show me that at eleven-thirty. I'm in California; nothing's live.

DICK EBERSOL: So now we get to early April, and we're summoned back to New York to make a presentation to the then-NBC program board, a fine group that I don't think made it out of that year. And when it's time to make the presentation, a guy whose name is Bob Howard, then president of the network under Schlosser, tells me a few hours before the meeting, "You can't bring Michaels to the meeting because he's not an NBC employee, he's a freelance producer. We want to hear about the show from you." I said, "What?!?!" So here's this presentation, which is largely Lorne's, and they won't let him in the room. Schlosser does sit in on it. I outlined the whole thing and finished and got stunned silence. Nobody says a word. Nothing. Herb finally says to Bill, "What do you think of it?" Bill Rudin was head of research, and he never wanted to have an opinion in his life until he heard the lay of the land, but he then uttered the famous words, "I don't think it'll ever work because the audience for which it's designed will never come home on Saturday night to watch it."

I went back and told Lorne how it had gone, and tried to keep him from being completely in a snit. Two weeks later, Dave Tebet, the network's head of talent, tells me, "You've got to go to Burbank right away. Carson wants to see you." Neither of us - Lorne or me - had a relationship with Johnny. We're both thinking our lives with this whole thing may be over, because this man, not only is he a genius but our show is going to exist only because he doesn't want his repeats airing on the weekend.

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