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Ten Minutes with Tom Schiller

"Saturday Night Live" writer for 11 years and documentary film maker



Photo by Jacque Lynn

Tom Schiller grew up in Los Angeles, the son of television writer Bob Schiller, who created “I Love Lucy” and won an Emmy for “All in the Family.” His dream of being a foreign-film director was sidetracked when he was invited to write for a new television show: “Saturday Night Live,” an opportunity that brought him success and a move to the East Coast. Schiller wrote for SNL for 11 years. It’s still going strong, and so is he.

Prior to writing for “Saturday Night Live,” you worked on several documentaries. How did you get that chance? 
I was always trying to get out of going to school, so I got a job as an apprentice to a documentary filmmaker named Robert Snyder, and I was allowed to get school credits for that. I worked on films about Buckminster Fuller, Anaïs Nin, and Willem de Kooning. Then we were assigned to do a film on Henry Miller.

What was that like?
Miller was a great mentor and we became good friends. I wanted to show him from my own point of view, so I made my own film called Henry Miller Asleep and Awake in 1967. It aired on PBS and became a hit. 

How did you segue from documentaries to writing comedy?
I met a Canadian named Lorne Michaels who was an apprentice on one of my father’s sitcoms. He said he had this idea for a late-night TV show. It was a way out of Los Angeles, so I took the chance. 

What was the most satisfying experience doing that show?
It was being able to make my own short films, which appeared on the show. I had all these popular comedic actors at my command. I could write anything I wanted and they didn’t censor me too much. In two weeks I could shoot, edit, and air a film with my name on it that reached a million viewers. That’s a great feeling of exhilaration.

What accounts for the staying power of SNL?
While it wasn’t a new format, it was aimed at my generation. For the first time we had the airwaves to ourselves and we could make fun and talk about smoking pot and being hippies and we had a built-in audience. 

How did you wind up in the northwest corner?
I lived half my life in LA when it was still charming and fun; then I spent the next part of my life in New York. When I met my wife Jacque we found this wonderful house in Cornwall. We’ve had it for 15 years.

How did the two of you meet?
She was working at an advertising agency and I was hired as a consultant. It was kind of love at first sight—one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. 

Speaking of your wife, she is a writer as well. Have you ever collaborated?
We did about 500 television commercials together. She is now writing a children’s book that will be published in 2018.

What do you find appealing about living in Cornwall?
We love to do bizarre things like visiting abandoned amusement parks and checking out ski-resort restaurants. But we have also checked out every eating place within a hundred miles. We are constantly exploring and enjoying our life together. —Joseph Montebello

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March 2017

Regarded as one of the key figures of 19th century literary realism, Henry James’s work is valued for his psychological and moral realism, his masterful creation of character, and his assured...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
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Cost: Free for members; $5 non-members

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
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Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
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The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Telephone: (860) 868-2878
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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
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Cost: $33.

Where:
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82 Main St
Torrington, CT  06790
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Telephone: (860) 489-7180
Contact Name: Warner Theatre
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The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

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The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

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Cost: $13.00pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Telephone: 860-567-8302
Contact Name: Litchfield Community Center
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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

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Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

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WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: “THE CT WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME: CELEBRATING 300 YEARS OF CT’S REMARKABLE WOMEN”  This presentation will introduce you to the Hall, its mission and programs, and give...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-8302
Contact Name: Litchfield Community Center
Website »

More information

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

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Cost: $140.00 pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-8302
Contact Name: Litchfield Community Center
Website »

More information

Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Telephone: 860-868-7586
Website »

More information

Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
White Memorial Conservation Center
80 WHITEHALL ROAD
Litchfield, CT
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Chef Daniel Rosati   MENU: Fresh Pea & Parmigiano Crostini Citrus & Oregano Rubbed Roasted Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Green Herb Sauce Greek Roasted Fingerling...

Cost: $110/Full Participation per person

Where:
The Silo
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: The Silo
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Contact Name: Kim Prange
Website »

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The music organization Crescendo in collaboration with the Norman Rockwell Museum and Berkshire Children's Chorus, present the world premiere of a multimedia work by the Berkshire-based...

Cost: $30 general; $50 premium

Where:
Saint James Place
352 Main St.
Great Barrington, NY  01230
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Sponsor: Crescendo
Telephone: 518-592-1009
Contact Name: Kathy Drake
Website »

More information

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to encourage and showcase work by determined and committed visionaries in their exhibition curated by Zeb Mayer, “Do Not Pass Go: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Telephone: (860) 868-2878
Website »

More information

Chef Daniel Rosati   MENU: Creamy Asparagus Soup with Asiago Cheese Crisps Silky Milk Braised Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Shallot Sauce Tuscan Farro & Sugar Snap Pea...

Cost: $110/Full Participation per person

Where:
The Silo
44 Upland Road
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View map »


Sponsor: The Silo
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Contact Name: kim Prange
Website »

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Enjoy an evening of music with Brooklyn based vocalist, keyboardist, composer Nicole Zuraitis and the Nicole Zuraitis Quartet.  Using world travel experience as inspiration for her sound,...

Cost: $100.00 pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-8302
Contact Name: Litchfield Community Center
Website »

More information

Marcey Hladik is a native of Litchfield who started painting as an adult, taking her first lessons in oil painting from her mother-in-law, Edith Hladik, an accomplished artist and teacher. Since...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

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