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Tom Davis, Classic ‘Saturday Night Live’ Writer, Dead at 59

Tom Davis
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Tom Davis, best known for his partnership with now-Senator Al Franken, has died from throat and neck cancer. He was 59.

Franken and Davis were hired together for the first season of ‘Saturday Night Live‘ – as the New York Times notes, they had to split a paycheck – and were on the ground floor for the show that reshaped American comedy, and became a launching pad for most of the major comedic talents of the last thirty-plus years. Though Franken and Davis would often close out a show with 12:50 sketches that were very hit and miss, their work as writers led to some of the show’s classic bits and reoccurring characters. From the Coneheads, to Dan Aykroyd‘s Julia Child impression, to Steve Martin‘s Theodoric of York, medieval barber, they had a hand in some of the show’s most indelible sketches.

The duo stayed with ‘SNL’ until 1980, when the show went through a huge turnover, but Davis returned in 1985 when Lorne Michael came back to produce the show where he wrote off and on until 1993. He also came back to ‘SNL’ for the 2002-2003 season.

Though ‘Saturday Night Live’ proved a great launching pad for many writers and actors, Franken and Davis got a shot at stardom with the little scene movie ‘One More Saturday Night,’ and Davis only wrote one movie outside of that: 1993′s ‘Coneheads.’ This seems partly due to Davis’s admitted drug use, which he chronicled in his autobiography “Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL From Someone Who Was There,” where he mentions touring with the Grateful Dead, and his falling out with Al Franken, which happened in 1990, only for the two to reconcile a decade later.

Like a lesser known member of the Mercury Seven or Ringo Starr, Davis may not be the brightest star of the first five seasons of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but his time there make him legendary, and his death is a loss for comedy.

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