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USA TODAY

We all know John Belushi, the comedian.

In his very short career spanning approximately a decade, the late actor and musician made us laugh on “Saturday Night Live” and “The National Lampoon Radio Hour” and in the classic comedy classics on the big screen “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”. Showtime’s new documentary, Belushi, premiered on Sunday (9 EST / PST), gives a more detailed picture of the likable but tortured funny man who died in 1982 at the age of 33 from a cocaine and heroin overdose.

“He was quite bright, well-read and really politically motivated as a young man,” his widow Judy Belushi Pisano told USA TODAY. “His early work was very satirical and intelligent. Maybe it got a little lost because House of Animals was such a successful film and his character was so different from that.” But he was a very diverse man. ”

Here’s what we learned about him from the documentary, directed by RJ Cutler (“The War Room”), which includes unprecedented interviews.

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His drug addiction is caused in part by injury

The film examines in depth Belushi’s struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, “in an age where we didn’t realize culturally that the burden of addiction and the tools for addicts to overcome their illness did not exist,” Cutler said. “As he struggled to overcome the addiction, it was stigmatized. It was not something, especially a celebrity, that would come forward and then seek help. So the people in his life did not know where to turn.”

Cocaine was part of his life during the hard days of SNL, which premiered in 1975, but drugs became a real problem for Belushi two years later when he was prescribed painkillers after knee surgery. “It’s a familiar story that costs the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, so now we understand it better,” Cutler said. “But for John it was, you give an addict a painkiller with an open prescription and nothing good will come of it.”

He had a tumultuous relationship with Lorne Michaels, an SNL teammate

Belushi created indelible characters during his four-season tenure on Saturday Night Live, including the warlike Samurai Futaba and the “cheeberger” Pete Dionasopoulos. But his behind-the-scenes relationships were turbulent at times: he was jealous of the casting of Chevy Chase, the show’s star of the Season 1 show, and from the start he faced creator Lorne Michaels.

“The Lorne-John dynamic is fascinating. It was a very powerful, symbiotic relationship,” Cutler said. “There were a lot of conflicts at the core because you have two visionaries who met at the birth of Saturday Night Live. John had to take a step back in the show’s first year while Lorne’s creation came to life. And while “slap, lacquered boyish humor” initially stole the spotlight, Belushi was the “anarchic spirit and innovative force” of the show.

But the actor also subscribes to some sexist ideas about women in comedy. Cast member Jane Curtin and writer Ann Beats recalled how he was disrespectful to women and difficult to work with. He said the women were not funny and refused to appear in sketches written by them.

That said, “he wasn’t the only idiot, and you wouldn’t describe him exactly if you didn’t,” Cutler said. “Judy’s perspective was that he was a fool to a few people, not all of them. And then he paid the price for that. It hurt his friendship with Gilda (Radner), which was unfortunate.”

Carrie Fisher was a grounding force and support system through the fight against addiction

The film highlights the off-screen friendship between Belushi and Carrie Fisher, who appeared in the 1980s “The Blue Brothers” and was briefly engaged to Belushi co-star Dan Ickroyd. The two are linked to their shared experiences with fame and drugs, Belushi Pisano said, and Fisher realized how difficult it was when he sobered up in the 1980s.

“We thought of John’s sobering-up year as a holiday and a triumph, and she saw it as a deep burden,” Cutler told Fisher, who died in 2017 at the age of 60. (She suffered a cardiac arrest and had several drugs in her system, including cocaine.)

Belushi relapsed during the 1981 production of Neighbors, just months before his death. Producer Richard Zanuk recalls in the documentary how the actor sometimes refused to come out of his trailer and was “completely out of it. Once we had two guys standing behind him and holding him off camera. That was the kind he had been in.” ”

Automatic execution

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