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After Saturday Night Live finishes shooting each week, the show always puts on a large party for the cast members, crew, writers, host, close friends and family members. By all accounts, the shindigs are some of the most exciting, star-studded events in the industry, but apparently, they don’t even approach some of the craziness that used to happen, particularly involving John Belushi.
Lorne Michaels was at these early parties, and he watched the legendary comedian pull the same trick week after week. After the night started dying down and the host decided he or she wanted to leave, John Belushi would buddy up to them and politely volunteer to keep them company back to their hotel in the NBC limousine. Once they were dropped off, Belushi would then use the limousine for his own purposes the rest of the night, driving around the city and doing God knows what.
Here’s what Lorne Michaels told Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report…
” In the very early days, there was a limo because the host was not making any money. So, we made the decision to make their week in New York a great week for them because they were doing us a favor. At the end of the party, if the host was leaving, John would somehow make his way to the host’s table and find out where they were going… He’d steal the limo. He would drop the host at the Berkshire House and then he would drive around the city in the limo.”
John Belushi lived in the fast lane. He jumped into every Saturday Night Live sketch with a reckless abandon. He partied like there was no tomorrow, and he never worried about taking chances. He just jumped into the deep end in every situation and swam, which is why he’s both beloved and a cautionary tale. He, of course, tragically died from a drug overdose in 1982, less than seven years after SNL turned him into a worldwide sensation.
Given his personality and the way he approached comedy though, everything made sense, at least from Lorne Michaels’ perspective.
“I used to say he lived his life in 3 8-hour shifts, and if you were with him for one of them, you thought, ‘Well, I’m tired. It’s time to go to bed’ and then a whole other group of people had that experience. … Fame and Stardom were what he wanted. He had no ambivalence about it. It was uncomplicated. Like anything else, from Icarus on, if you fly too close, you tend to get burned.”
John Belushi was a force of nature. He came, he saw, he conquered and then he exploded in spectacular fashion. Fortunately, he got more than a few free limo rides along the way. He earned them.