An excerpt from Martin Short’s show biz autobiography, in which he talks about being on the 1984-85 season of “Saturday Night Live” with Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Harry Shearer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Kroeger, Jim Belushi, and Mary Gross:
Chris, Billy, and Harry were a formidable trio, three major comic talents in full bloom. I was simultaneously intimidated and stimulated by their collective presence.
Though the first live show of that season didn’t air until October, a bunch of us newcomers got together two months in advance to write and shoot some pieces. We were keen to make our influence felt, and we pushed for the show to embrace more elements of Spinal Tap and SCTV — from the former, a deadpan cinema verité feel, and from the latter, more pretaped bits and a heavier reliance on prosthetics and makeup. No more Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford while looking and sounding nothing like Gerald Ford. If Harry Shearer was going to play Ronald Reagan, he would spend hours in a makeup chair to look not just a little, but exactly like Ronald Reagan — to visually match the accuracy of Harry’s verbal impersonation.
A bit later, as we were starting to prep for the live shows, I remember going into Harry’s office and saying, “You know what I want to do, Harry? I want to always hold back a piece that I’m writing, keep it in reserve—the kind of piece that you want your friends to respect. So that I can tinker with it, let it ferment.” Harry heard me out and then immediately took to his typewriter, typed out what I had just told him, and said, “Sign this, won’t you? I’m going to put it in my desk, so that when you come in every Tuesday evening without a fucking idea in your head, I’ll be able to ask you how that ‘fermenting’ piece you’re holding back for your friends is coming along.” Harry was all too prescient.