Tom Davis, Original Saturday Night Live Writer, “De-animates” at 59

Back in 1975, Tom Davis and Al Franken, two Min­neso­ta-born come­di­ans, joined the writ­ing staff of Sat­ur­day Night Live, a new late-night com­e­dy show. Togeth­er, Franken & Davis sketched out some unfor­get­table SNL char­ac­ters — The Cone­heads played by Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine New­man. Nick The Lounge Singer, a char­ac­ter inhab­it­ed won­der­ful­ly by Bill Mur­ray. Julia Child brought to life by Aykroyd again. 37 years lat­er, Sat­ur­day Night Live is still going strong.

The Franken & Davis com­e­dy team broke up in 1990. Time passed. And, in 2009, their lives went in very dif­fer­ent direc­tions. Al Franken was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate. Tom Davis was diag­nosed with throat and neck can­cer — the dis­ease that final­ly took his life yes­ter­day. In recent months, Davis wrote open­ly about his jour­ney with can­cer. In a blog post called The Dark Side of Death, he joked about indulging in med­ical mar­i­jua­na (“These days I get my mar­i­jua­na through air­port secu­ri­ty by hid­ing it in the mor­phine”) and the day he’d “de-ani­mate.” But he also talked mov­ing­ly about the per­spec­tive the dis­ease gave him, writ­ing:

I wake up in the morn­ing, delight­ed to be wak­ing up, read, write, feed the birds, watch sports on TV, accept­ing the fact that in the fore­see­able future I will be a dead per­son. I want to remind you that dead peo­ple are peo­ple too. There are good dead peo­ple and bad dead peo­ple. Some of my best friends are dead peo­ple. Dead peo­ple have fought in every war. We’re all going to try it some­time. For­tu­nate­ly for me, I have always enjoyed mys­tery and soli­tude.

Many peo­ple in my sit­u­a­tion say, “It’s been my worst and best year.” If that sounds like a cliché, you don’t have can­cer. On the plus side, I am grate­ful to have gained real, not just intel­lec­tu­al empa­thy. I was pre­pared to go through life with­out hav­ing suf­fered, and I was doing a good job of it. Now I know what it’s like to starve. And to accept “that over which I have no con­trol,” I had to turn inward. Peo­ple from all over my life are recon­nect­ing with me, and I’ve tried to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for my deeds, good and bad. As my friend Tim­o­thy Leary said in his book, Death by Design, “Even if you’ve been a com­plete slob your whole life, if you can end the last act with panache, that’s what they’ll remem­ber.”

I think I’ve final­ly grown up.

When Davis said that “some of my best friends are dead peo­ple,” he was prob­a­bly think­ing of Tim­o­thy Leary and Jer­ry Gar­cia too. Here, you can watch Davis and the Grate­ful Dead front­man cook a meal togeth­er, and above we bring you Franken & Davis con­duct­ing a Grate­ful Dead triv­ia con­test in 1980. Thanks to Tom for the mem­o­ries and laughs.

via NYTimes

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