By Muhammad Atef | June 11, 2021

SNL Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

One of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” John Belushi was also the first “Saturday Night Live” alum to die. It’s a sad distinction to hold for a trailblazing talent who broke new ground in sketch comedy.

Belushi came up through the Chicago comedy scene, starting in the West Compass Trio before joining Second City. The “National Lampoon Radio Hour” quickly came calling, where he met some future “SNL” members. He caught the eye of Lorne Michaels, who was looking for dynamic up-and-comers to fill out his brand new late night series on NBC. Belushi joined Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner for the show’s first season, and comedy history was made.

From the beginning, Belushi displayed a talent for bombastic physical humor. His most famous characters included a Greek cafe owner who serves “Cheeseburgers!,” a katana-wielding samurai, Henry Kissinger, Beethoven, and an angry Weekend Update contributor. Oh, and he was also one of the Blues Brothers. (He also appeared in a sadly prescient skit where an older Belushi visits the graves of his former cast mates, called “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”)

Belushi briefly reached movie stardom as well, thanks to major roles in “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers,” an expansion on the musical sketch he performed with Aykroyd. Sadly, his struggles with drug addiction got the best of him. On March 5, 1982, Belushi died at the Chateau Marmont after injecting a deadly mixture of cocaine and heroin, known as a “speedball.” He was only 33 years old.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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