RIP Tom Davis
SNL writer and one half of the Franken & Davis duo is dead.
Web2Carz Staff Writer
Published: July 20th, 2012
ay 4th 1976 was just another Tuesday in America, but for writers Al Franken and Tom Davis, locked in their cramped office on the 17th floor of famed 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or “30 Rock," it was the beginning of “show week” and an all nighter of frenetic writing to deliver a completed sketch for Saturday Night Live’s “Not Ready For Prime Time Players" read-through that happened every Wednesday afternoon.
They were used to writing on deadline and certainly were no stranger to writers block but amidst a looming deadline when they couldn’t think of anything more to write Davis boldly suggested a drastic measure: take acid.
Tom Davis, who died at 59 yesterday after battling throat cancer, recalled what happened next in a 2009 interview with Journalist David Gans: “At midnight I said, ‘Al, we’ve got to do something.' So, we split it and I took the bigger half."
While it might have been one of the few occasions where Davis psychedelicized his partner (now the junior United States Senator from Minnesota) it was the same absurdist approach Davis ascribed to his work that contributed to SNL’s early subversiveness.
"For me LSD was a positive influence on my life. It removed certain stumbling blocks that I had, and it helped me overcome fear." — Tom Davis
Tom Davis grew up in Minnesota and met Al Franken in high school, where the two forged a strong bond built on a love of subversive humor and rock music, both of which carried over into their professional relationship. Easy to distinguish from one another, Franken, the short one and the gangly Davis, were already a working comedy duo—aptly named Franken and Davis—when Lorne Michaels hired them to round off Saturday Night Live’s fledgling writing staff.
In addition to being a great wit, Davis will be remembered as a passionate fan of the Grateful Dead and a member of the band’s extended family. He was responsible for getting the Dead on SNL twice after he jumped up on Lorne Michaels desk in 1978, supplicating his boss to book the band.
By the end of Davis’ tenure on SNL, he created such memorable esoteric gems as “The Coneheads," “Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber," “Nick The Lounge Singer” and many others.
Though Davis had battled and eventually overcame his addiction to heroin, he maintained a cavalier attitude toward his past drug use. In that same 2009 interview with David Gans, Davis said, “For me LSD was a positive influence on my life. It removed certain stumbling blocks that I had, and it helped me overcome fear; it also told me that happiness is a choice and you can decide to be happy. I have LSD to thank for that."
Right before his death, Davis also mused fondly about former partner Al Frankin, in a moving essay he wrote for the Incident Report Viewing Station entitled, The Dark Side of Death. “We’re planning to write something for him to read once I de-animate, the final Franken and Davis piece. We’ll see. Typically, we would wait until the last minute."