Looking back on legendary SNL writer Tom Davis
The taller half of Franken & Davis dies at 59.
My relationship with Saturday Night Live is, first and foremost, one of a superfan (including of the "Superfans" sketch). I have been one for as long as I can remember -- my parents saw to that. I don't have many childhood memories, but I do remember being mesmerized by a combination of live television and VHS tapes of sketches such as "Samurai Delicatessen," "Land Shark," Dan Aykroyd's "Irwin Mainway," and anything Chevy Chase did.
I am secondarily a freelance writer for the program's Weekend Update segment -- a position that I treasure a great deal. Part of being a very small cog in an incredible dynasty like SNL is looking backwards, appreciating those who did it before you (and better), and just hoping to fit in to such an amazing comedy machine. I am a Single A utility infielder on the New York Yankees farm club in Tampa -- but I still have the privilege of wearing the pinstripes in the dugout.
Everyone who's ever been a part of SNL (a real part, unlike me) will describe it as a family, a fraternity, or some hybrid of the two. It is a shared experience that most comedians never get to be in on and that anyone on the outside can never truly understand. This is true about many high-pressure roles or environments, ask any U.S. President or NFL quarterback -- or former SNL writer or cast member.
Long-time improv comedy performer and Saturday Night Live writer Tom Davis was one of the first, one of the best, and definitely one of the most beloved. The comedy world and the writing community lost a great talent on Thursday. Perhaps the bigger tragedy is that by all reported accounts, the world lost a great mind and independent spirit.
Davis first became popular as a member of the comedy duo "Franken & Davis" with long-time friend Al Franken. Davis and Franken met in a Minnesotan prep school where the two made the most out of their cushy gig doing morning announcements at the chapel. They would soon move on the bigger and better things.
Franken & Davis was hired as a tandem to write for Saturday Night Live in 1975 in the very beginnings of what would become an institution now pushing 40 years. Davis was with the program from 1975-1979 and then returned for the 1985-2003 seasons. With regards to the history of the program, Davis was there for what were certainly the formative years, what many would refer to as the "Golden Years," and then again through a period where the show was proclaimed "Dead" and its ultimate resurgence. Some sketches that he was personally responsible and most well known for scribing were "Nick the Lounge Singer" with Bill Murray and "The Continental" with Christopher Walken.
Lauded for his "unique" sense of humor, Davis' biography Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss is an incredibly open and candid reflection on a career filled with lots of laughs, possibly even more drugs, and an amazing number of friendships. The crown jewel of those friendships was most certainly his affection for his former partner Franken, who obviously shared the sentiment commenting on a recent moment with his friend: ‘‘I visited Tom two weeks ago, and though he was deathly ill, we did a lot of laughing,’’ Franken said. ‘‘He was a great friend, a good man, and so funny."
Tom Davis passed away from throat cancer at the way-too-young age of 59. And while I have no real qualifications to intelligently speak on this, do not make the mistake of thinking that he did not live a full life. He may have suffered from Thirty-Nine years of short-term memory loss, but he will not be forgotten.