Tom Davis, the Emmy-winning longtime writing partner of future senator Al Franken on Saturday Night Live, died Thursday at his Hudson, New York home. He was 59.
The cause was throat and neck cancer, said his wife, Mimi Raleigh.
With Franken and others, he helped create SNL's extraterrestrial family the Coneheads, who claimed that their strangeness was due to having come from France.
Davis and Franken co-wrote the 1983 Rankin-Bass special The Coneheads, which aired on NBC. As well, he voiced Barry Paisner in the animated show. This was originally planned as a series. However, the series never left the launching pad.
He collaborated with Dan Aykroyd and Bonnie and Terry Turner to write the 1993 movie Coneheads. The characters, he wrote in his memoir, were inspired by a trip that Davis and Aykroyd took to Easter Island, famed for its huge stone statues.
The two grew up together, having entertained students with offbeat humor at high school assemblies in Minnesota.
In 1975, Davis, specializing in improvisational comedy, and Franken, who developed humorous sketches, became among the first writers on the NBC series Saturday Night Live. They shared a single salary of $350 a week; each, individidually, was called "the guys."
Aykroyd spoke Thursday of Davis's "massive contribution" to the show, calling him "very disciplined" and capable helping writers gain more tangible results."“There was no frivolous waste of time," he said.
Davis worked with Aykroyd on Aykroyd's impersonation of Julia Child. In one sketch, the TV chef cuts herself and bleeds to death after grabbing a phone to dial 911, only to learn that it's a prop. Her final words are "Bon appétit!"
Davis and Franken were also a comic duo in the early years of Saturday Night Live. In one routine was "The Brain Tumor Comedian," Franken, with a bandaged head, tried to tell jokes, but kept forgetting the punchline.
Davis shared three Emmys for his writing on SNL and a fourth for 1977's The Paul Simon Special.
Born Thomas James Davis was born in Minneapolis on August 13, 1952, he attended the private Blake School. He and Franken's sarcastic announcements of school events at the morning assembly were soon followed by performances at a local comedy club.
Davis went to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California because, he said, he had heard that it offered a foreign study program in India, where he could smoke opium. His ambition was realized.
Following a year's study, Davis returned to Minneapolis to work in improvisational comedy. After Franken graduated from Harvard, the duo met again in Los Angeles to do stand-up. SNL creator Lorne Michaels called them to New York, where he negotiated with the writers' union to offer the two a single job as an apprentice.
Davis worked for SNL from 1975 to 1980, and again from 1986 to 1994. He also produced shows during his second stint.
He and Franken he starred in the 1986 movie film One More Saturday Night. Thought retiring in the mid-1990s, he returned to SNL as late as 2003 as a writer.
Tired of Davis's drug abuse, Franken broke up with him as a duo in 1990. They reconciled a decade later. In his autobiography (written after Franken's election to the United States Senate), Davis wrote" "I love Al as I do my brother, whom I also don't see very much."
Besides his wife and brother Robert, Tom Davis is survived by his mother, Jean Davis.
Re: Tom Davis, co-creator of "Coneheads," dead at 59
[In reply to]
Sad news indeed.
I grew up watching the original Saturday Night Live; I was one of those geeks who actually paid attention to the credits and knew the names of the writers; as such, I was a big fan of Franken & Davis.
Mr. Davis was a true talent: incisive, offbeat, intelligent and sharp. I can't put it any better than the book Saturday Night: Davis was the quieter partner of the Franken & Davis team, but he was hardly the silent partner.