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Desperate for writers prior to beginning production on his new show Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels decided to hire a young comedy duo fresh out of college called Franken & Davis. He offered the two a combined $350 a week, and they gladly accepted. Five years later, the two had three Emmy Awards and unlimited opportunities ahead. Al Franken eventually became a US Senator, and Tom Davis wrote screenplays, did some production work and built sculptures. In a way, those dissecting career paths were the reasons why they worked so well as a team.
Franken was the slower, analytical one. He saw humorous situations and ideas in his mind. Davis was the brainstormer and the improviser. He took his partner’s scenes and filled them with a stream of laughs. The two first met in Minnesota when they were kids. They obsessed over comedy records and hung out constantly. Determined and focused, Franken went to Harvard after high school. Driven by a desire to try opium, Davis attended University of the Pacific and enrolled in the school’s foreign studies program. Four years later, they reunited in Los Angeles and quickly landed the Saturday Night Live gig, during which time they wrote sketches such as the Coneheads, Irwin Mainway, Theodric of York and Dan Aykroyd’s brilliant Julia Child impersonation.
Davis passed away today at his home in Hudson, New York. He battled throat cancer for the last two years of his life, never losing his trademark wit or biting sense of humor. He was only fifty-nine.
During the course of its run, Saturday Night Live has had scores of writers. Only a select group did more to affect the series than Tom Davis. His legacy is still felt, and his words produced an entire generation of comedy writers. He will be missed. TV Blend’s thoughts go out to his wife.