Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Captivating for its often hilarious and, in the very least, entertaining stories about life as a writer for Saturday Night Live in its earlier years.
Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss is an autobiography of sorts, sketching out Tom Davis's life with a patchwork of details. Davis was Al Franken's long-time writing partner. The duo formed up early in their lives, working out bits that garnered them, if not fame and fortune, enough notoriety to attract the attention of SNL's producer Lorne Michaels.
Davis is a natural writer, so the book is interesting enough on its own, but once the stories featuring SNL alumni kick-in...that's when the good shit hits the fun-fan! There are plenty of oddball and incredible tales that many of the principles would no doubt rather weren't published. If you enjoyed the show in the 70s and 80s, this is for you.
Where Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss falters is...well...it's in the title. Davis took a lot of drugs when he was young, not all of which were entirely beneficial, especially in relation to his current state of coherence. The latter half of the book gradually succumbs to his disjointed mind, as the stories flitter from one topic or time period to an entirely different one without the slightest segue or any seeming purpose. Occasionally a story ends for no apparent reason at all. At other times you're left wondering just how reliable Davis' memory is and how skewed the facts may be.
Even with all its failings, if you get through just half of this book you'll have consumed a chunky collection of prime-grade comedy.