Remembering 'Saturday Night Live's' Fallen Greats

by Raphael Chestang 7:42 PM PST, February 13, 2015
Playing Remembering 'Saturday Night Live's' Fallen Greats

Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special airs this Sunday. While most of the show's best will be there, some of the show's greats are no longer living.

ET interviewed John Belushi just four months before he was found unresponsive in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont. The comedian passed away at the age of 33 after taking a lethal combination of cocaine and heroin.

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Belushi was a role model for another fallen SNL great -- Chris Farley. Both honed their improvisational skills at Chicago's Second City. While Belushi was a part of SNL's original cast in 1975, Farley joined the show in 1990 about eight years after Belushi's death.

SNL alum Julia Sweeney spoke fondly about her late friend and cast mate, as she remembered performing their classic Motivational Speaker sketches together. "Phil [Hartman] and I are the parents, and we're barely in the sketch. In fact I think they had to cut around me because I was laughing so hard at Chris Farley, who was only like three feet away from me, so it was just impossible not to laugh."

According to Chris Kattan, cast members confronted Farley about his drug use when he returned to guest host in 1997.

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"There was an intervention that was happening that week and a lot of the other cast members came into town, like [Adam] Sandler and a lot of the writers and they came while the show was rehearsing and stuff," Kattan told ET.

Farley died eight weeks after his hosting stint. He was found in his Chicago home at age 33- the same age as his mentor Belushi.

Phil Hartman's death was perhaps SNL's most shocking. The actor was shot and killed by his wife Brynn in 1998 in a disturbing murder-suicide.

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"I had the most fun of my life here [at SNL]," Hartman told ET in 1996.

"He was the glue of the show," Kevin Nealon told ET. "He kind of held the sketches together. He was so good at what he did."

The world lost Jan Hooks last year at the age of 57, and original cast member Gilda Radner lost a battle with ovarian cancer in 1989 with husband Gene Wilder by her side.

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Radner won an Emmy in 1978 for her work on SNL. While on the show, she inspired an entire generation of comedians (future SNL actresses Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph included) with timeless characters like Emily Litella, Roseanne Roseannadanna and Baba Wawa -- Radner's take on Barbara Walters.

SNL's 40th anniversary celebration airs Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. The anniversary special is expected to include special guests Justin Timberlake, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, Eddie Murphy and more.