Tom Davis, an alum of the earliest Saturday Night Live classes and a neighbor here on Bell’s Pond Road, has died after a struggle of several years with cancer. He had a wicked sense of humor about even that, recommending his illness as a weight loss regimen; after his initial bout, I hardly recognized him in his usual spot at Swoon. Tom held on for so long, and seemed so well-adjusted to his fate, that it feels that much more surprising that the death he anticipated really did overtake him.
He did an installation last year in Maximillian Goldfarb’s revolving window gallery in Hudson's 300 block, consisting of objects he’d salvaged from the Taghkanic Creek. The Creek passes by his somewhat ramshackle house—on whose lawn a gold Grand Marquis has sat most days, like the embodiment of some inside, sardonic but jovial joke. Tom managed to be easygoing even at his most absurdly cynical moments. His text for the installation is required reading:
As an old-school Malthusian liberal, I’ve always believed that the source of all mankind’s problems is overpopulation. I’m finally going to do something about it.
One of the pleasures of living Upstate is getting to know people like Tom as people, at a distance from their fame. We’d shared space at various local bars for a long time before I cottoned to the fact that this guy was the other half of Al Franken’s team, or that he played one of the goofball workers on the train in Trading Places, among many other classic scenes he acted in or scripted.
My last chat with him was at a local sushi place, debating whether it was worse to grow up as a Vikings or a Red Sox fan. I’ll remember in particular Tom’s nasal yet rotund conversational voice, which added that much more wry force to his understated wit. Tom could look up and say “it’s raining,” and it would come out funny.