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Also Known As: Died:
Born: May 12, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An icon of 1970s TV, Tom Snyder entranced, bemused and infuriated night owls as the idiosyncratic host of the landmark network late, late night talk show "Tomorrow" (NBC, 1973-82). Segueing smoothly from news to entertainment, the lanky, bushy-browed interviewer held court in a starkly intimate setting consisting of a black background and two chairs. Cigarette in hand, Snyder would grill, schmooze or just hang out with guests as varied as John Lennon, Jimmy Hoffa, President Jimmy Carter, James Earl Ray and Charles Manson but his own outsized personality was generally front and center. He would routinely expound upon the mundane details of his own life and laugh explosively at jokes shared with an unseen crew. Egocentric, erratic, perceptive and oddly charming, the Snyder style was immortalized by Dan Aykroyd's dead-on impersonations on "Saturday Night Live".Despite a reputation for rudeness, arrogance and being "difficult", Snyder was once considered a likely replacement for Johnny Carson ("The Tonight Show"), John Chancellor (on "NBC Nightly News") or Tom Brokaw (on "Today"). Some insiders have claimed that the broadcasters tragic flaw was an inability to decide whether he was an entertainer or a...

An icon of 1970s TV, Tom Snyder entranced, bemused and infuriated night owls as the idiosyncratic host of the landmark network late, late night talk show "Tomorrow" (NBC, 1973-82). Segueing smoothly from news to entertainment, the lanky, bushy-browed interviewer held court in a starkly intimate setting consisting of a black background and two chairs. Cigarette in hand, Snyder would grill, schmooze or just hang out with guests as varied as John Lennon, Jimmy Hoffa, President Jimmy Carter, James Earl Ray and Charles Manson but his own outsized personality was generally front and center. He would routinely expound upon the mundane details of his own life and laugh explosively at jokes shared with an unseen crew. Egocentric, erratic, perceptive and oddly charming, the Snyder style was immortalized by Dan Aykroyd's dead-on impersonations on "Saturday Night Live".

Despite a reputation for rudeness, arrogance and being "difficult", Snyder was once considered a likely replacement for Johnny Carson ("The Tonight Show"), John Chancellor (on "NBC Nightly News") or Tom Brokaw (on "Today"). Some insiders have claimed that the broadcasters tragic flaw was an inability to decide whether he was an entertainer or a newsman--categories that no longer seem so dichotomous in contemporary TV. In any event, after a meteoric rise throughout the 70s, Snyder's star crashed and burned in the early 80s. He spent the rest of that decade working in local newscasting and syndicated radio before segueing to cable TV in the early 90s. Snyder made a triumphant return to network TV in 1995 as host of "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" on CBS.

A pre-med student at Marquette University, the Milwaukee native entered broadcasting in 1955 with a part-time job as a roving radio news correspondent for WRIT-AM (now WDCS). He quit college for a job as a radio and TV news anchor in Savannah, GA, which he lost due to a youthful indiscretion. (He belched on the air and blamed it on eating at a neighboring eatery owned by the station manager.) Many jobs followed, including as a TV news reporter in Atlanta and Los Angeles and as news anchor in Philadelphia where, in 1966, he also hosted his first TV talk show, a morning program entitled "Contact". Reportedly this show marked the first flowering of Snyder's witty, acerbic and oddball interviewing style.

Snyder's big break came in 1970 with a move to Los Angeles where he roused the previously somnolent ratings of the evening newscast on KNBC-TV. As the primary anchor, he startled viewers with his booming delivery style and sporadic observations about the stories he was reporting. Snyder's success at KNBC caught the attention of the network brass who were then developing a late, late night talk show to go on at 1 AM after "The Tonight Show". Snyder was selected to host and "Tomorrow" premiered from Los Angeles on October 15, 1973 with the initial topic of group marriage. Leaving his anchor post at KNBC in 1974, Snyder moved with "Tomorrow" (NBC, 1973-82) to NYC where he seemed nearly omnipresent over the next five years. He inaugurated the "NBC News Update" segments; anchored the Sunday edition of "NBC Nightly News"; anchored the early evening edition of local station WNBC-TV's "News Center 4"; and was named "Big Apple Sportscaster of the Year". In 1977, "Tomorrow" moved back to Los Angeles for two years before returning to NYC in 1979. Snyder hosted NBC's ill-fated "Primetime Sunday" news magazine which competed unsuccessfully with CBS's mighty "60 Minutes". He also headlined "The Tom Snyder Celebrity Spotlight" specials for the network.

The situation began to sour in 1980 when NBC president Fred Silverman decided to revamp "Tomorrow". Johnny Carson cut "The Tonight Show" down from 90 minutes to an hour. "Tomorrow" was moved up to 12:30 AM and expanded to 90 minutes. Furthermore, a live studio audience, a band and West Coast co-host Rona Barrett were added. Egos clashed from the first night. Snyder declined to acknowledge the gossip columnist on the air and Barrett refused to go on. The new format failed to gel. When "Tomorrow" was canceled in 1982, Snyder's contract was not renewed. None of his hot prospects of the late 70s had panned out. Carson delayed his retirement; Brokaw won the anchor post on "NBC Evening News"; and Bryant Gumbel became anchor of "Today". Snyder was deemed a has-been.

Snyder next turned up in NYC in September 1982 as anchor of the 11 PM telecast of WABC-TV's "Eyewitness News" but audiences failed to warm to him. He then performed anchoring chores back in Los Angeles at KABC-TV, but his original impact was diminished. Snyder fared well returning to radio, his original broadcast medium, guest hosting on Larry King's Mutual Network program. Still enjoying the sound of his own voice, Snyder settled into a five year stint (1987-1992) as host of his own nationally syndicated radio show for three hours nightly. After ABC canceled the show, Snyder was hired by Andy Friendly, a former "Tomorrow" producer turned programming head of cable TV's CNBC, to headline his own interview show in 1993. "Tom Snyder" revealed its host to be grayer and milder than his earlier incarnation. The cigarette was gone but he remained as quirky as ever. David Letterman, an old fan, decided to hire Snyder for the late night talk show that would follow his new "The Late Show" on CBS. As the host of "The Late Late Show with Snyder" (CBS, 1995-), the veteran broadcaster proved that there was still an audience for unadorned late night talk. His also became a widely-covered comeback story.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Notes

Not to be confused with the animator of the same name who worked on "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist".

"During Mr. Snyder's recent appearance on 'Late Show,' Mr. Letterman reminisced fondly about watching 'Tomorrow' after leaving his weatherman job in Indianapolis each night."

"'I'd come home, turn on the TV, and suddenly NBC has this wonderful new show,' he said to Mr. Snyder. 'It was you sitting low in your chair, darkly lit, smoke rolling out of your nose. The image and feeling of intimacy was overwhelming."--From "Tom Snyder Reconsidered: Everyman at 57" by Andy Meisler, THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 8, 1994.

"By the beginning of 1982, 'Tomorrow' was canceled, and within a year or two what most Americans generally remembered most about Mr. Snyder was the needle-sharp impression of him Dan Aykroyd had been doing for years on 'Saturday Night Live'"

"'I was flattered,' says Mr. Snyder of that impersonation. 'It wasn't a spiteful parody at all. And it was hilarious. What Aykroyd did was very loving. What I did mind was later, when Joe Piscopo did me. Piscopo did me. Piscopo showed me as a failed broadcaster living in a skid row hotel, interviewing the doorman as a guest on my television show. That to me was hurtful, I did better than that.'"--From "Tom Snyder Reconsidered: Everyman at 57" by Andy Meisler, THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 8, 1994.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Marie Edna Snyder. Resided in a California nursing home; died on September 25, 2000 at age 91.

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